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REVIEW SAMSUNG S9 has great camera just like other phones

Issued: 2018-03-08

This combo shows photos of a sunset along the Hudson River, taken in New York with a view of New Jersey, on Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Starting at the top left and going clockwise, the phones used are Google’s Pixel 2 XL, Apple’s iPhone X and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 and Galaxy S9. All top-end phones take decent photos, even in challenging low-light conditions, though there are some color variations. (AP Photo/Nick Jesdanun)

NEW YORK (AP) — Samsung says its new Galaxy S9 phone features a "reimagined" camera, and it is indeed pretty darned good. But you might not want to shell out $720 or more for one just yet unless your current phone is already close to death.

That's because other high-end phone cameras — nowadays, one of the major differentiators between phones — are also pretty darned good. If your phone is recent, it probably already has a decent camera. Technology has improved to the point that it's really hard to tell the difference between them.

In many of our test shots, the S9 outperformed the best of its rivals — Apple's iPhone X, Google's Pixel 2 XL and Samsung's own Galaxy Note 8. But usually there was little obvious difference beyond color variation, which comes down to personal preference. In a few cases, the S9 performed worse than all three.

The phone comes out March 16 with a starting price of $720 through Samsung and T-Mobile and nearly $800 through other major U.S. carriers. Here's a look at what the S9 offers.



In a first for a major smartphone, the S9 camera has an adjustable aperture, or lens opening, to let in more or less light. Low-light shots are also improved with software tricks that automatically take 12 shots in quick succession and blend the best of each.

I found better detail in many S9 shots compared with images from rival phones. The evening sky tends to be darker, with less distortion. A statue of Abraham Lincoln doesn't look as grainy. Many S9 shots also have better contrast between dark and light areas.

But these differences are typically so subtle that you need to magnify images for closer inspection. What's more likely to affect picture quality is the steadiness of your hands.



The most distinctive feature in Samsung's new camera is super-slow-mo video. People appear frozen as they jump. Waterfalls seem at peace as drops trickle down. The feature offers a fresh perspective on that time-honored prank of having fake snakes pop out of a can — not so scary when the snakes float in thin air.

It's a gimmick, but loads of fun.

The camera can process only a fifth of a second of video at a time — stretched into six seconds when viewing — so auto detection is key to capturing the right moment. It's fun to see people jump up at this speed, but less so when the super-slow-mo part doesn't kick in until they're almost back on the ground. There's a lot of trial and error involved.


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