Samsung Galaxy S9 vs. Google Pixel 2 camera test

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The Pixel 2 and a Galaxy S9 any have a singular back camera. We tested them both for 6 weeks and compared a photos and videos from each.


Josh Miller/CNET

It’s a pale Tuesday afternoon in San Francisco and I’m outward dodging raindrops to support a design of a Ferry Building time tower. we snap a print with a Google Pixel 2 and afterwards — a few soppy moments after — one with a Samsung Galaxy S9.

A discerning demeanour during a Pixel 2’s print shows a detail, contrariety and glorious energetic operation I’ve come to design from that phone. When we perspective a Galaxy S9 picture, it’s crisp, splendid and has rebate design sound in a shadows and clouds. And man, oh male does that Galaxy S9 shade unequivocally make a print pop.

This rainy-day unfolding was mystic of my altogether camera knowledge with a Pixel 2 and Galaxy S9. Both single-rear camera phones emanate illusory photos. The Pixel 2 leans heavily on AI and HDR to do so, while a Galaxy S9 uses estimate and a one-of-a-kind twin aperture.

There’s no TKO leader in this camera comparison. Instead, we come divided with an appreciation of a opposite approaches any phone takes. It’s a bit like comparing a two-seat automobile sports automobile with a wholly optioned SUV. Both are fun to expostulate though designed to accomplish opposite things.

Galaxy S9 and Pixel 2 camera specs

Photos

In bland situations underneath good splendid lighting both cameras excel. But any phone has a opposite goal. The Galaxy S9 is all about brightness. When we perspective Galaxy S9 cinema on a pleasing display, photos demeanour well-exposed; however, off of a phone — like on my mechanism — those same cinema demeanour overexposed. In reality, if we have a Galaxy S9, you’ll mostly expected perspective your photos on a phone.

On a other hand, Google is all about pulling a energetic operation and contrariety of a Pixel 2 photos. In many situations, this is welcome. But infrequently it unequivocally underexposes a print in sequence to strengthen highlights from floating out.

Take a demeanour during a cinema next that we took off some carrots during a farmers market.

The design from a Pixel 2 looks darker though keeps a highlights on a carrots underneath control. The Galaxy S9 print looks brighter.

The Pixel 2’s white change skews cinema toward a green/blue stain (great for landscapes) while cinema from a Galaxy S9 are warmer with a slight magenta stain (great for skin tones). In a cinema of a Transamerica Pyramid above, a Pixel 2 nails a building’s colors, while a Galaxy S9 creates them demeanour artificially warm.

Variable orifice thrives in low light

The Pixel 2, like scarcely any other phone, has a bound orifice so it controls bearing by adjusting a camera sensor’s light attraction (ISO) and by changing a shiver speed (how prolonged a sensor is unprotected to light). The Galaxy S9 has a third approach to control exposure: Aperture.

It can change between twin apertures: f/2.4 and f/1.5. Check out this story for a some-more in-depth reason on how Samsung’s non-static orifice works.

While there’s been a lot of hullabaloo about non-static aperture, something that is ignored is that during f/1.5, a Galaxy S9 has a widest orifice ever seen on a phone. It has a ability to accumulate a absurd volume of light, that in spin means rebate sound (those becloud grainy bits) and rebate faith on sound rebate — some phones’ sound rebate can make your photos demeanour like a courtroom sketch.

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By default, a Galaxy S9’s orifice is f/2.4, that ensures pointy images with rebate lens exaggeration around a edges. A lens’ sharpest mark is a middle, while a edges tend to be a softest. At a narrower orifice like f/2.4, a orifice blades form a ring restraint a outdoor corner of a lens.

When it’s dark, a Galaxy S9 opens automatically to a wider orifice f/1.5 to let in some-more light. Dual orifice on a phone is kind of like carrying your cake and eating it, too.

The Pixel 2’s f/1.8 bound orifice can’t adjust to opposite situations.

Above are cinema of a building in Nob Hill before sunrise. The print from a Pixel 2 has a garland of sound in a clouds and in a hardness of a building. The Galaxy S9 shot, is giveaway of noise. It’s conspicuous saying a print this purify taken with a phone camera.

Does this meant a Galaxy S9 is a low-light king? Yes. And no. While a images no doubt demeanour brighter and have rebate sound than any phone I’ve tested, a Pixel 2 rubbed high-contrast low-light situations better.

Take a demeanour during a cinema above taken inside a Zeitgeist bar in a Mission. You can’t see any sound in a Galaxy S9, though a highlights are blown on a menu house and there’s suit fuzz from people moving. This shot had a prolonged shiver speed, that is peculiar since a orifice is so wide.

In a Pixel 2 print we can indeed review what’s on a menu since of a approach a phone stacks mixed photos to urge energetic range.

Indoor lighting: Dark though not too dark

In medium-light situations like indoors, a Galaxy S9 yielded improved results, while a Pixel 2 tended to underexpose photos.

Above are twin photos of a cappuccino we took inside Four Barrel Coffee. The Galaxy S9 nails a exposure. Look during all a textures it prisoner from a woodgrain of a list to a small froth in a cappuccino foam. In box you’re wondering, a Galaxy S9 kept a orifice during f/2.4 instead of opening a lens far-reaching open.

The Pixel 2 stable a highlights in a froth though underexposed a print to do so.

Portrait mode

Both phones offer mural mode, that separates a chairman in a forehead while artistically blurring a background. It’s suggestive of a photos taken with a DSLR and a discerning lens.

The mode on a Galaxy S9 is called “Selective Focus” and opposite from a “Live Focus” chronicle found on a Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 8. Live Focus uses a twin back cameras to take mural photos. Selective Focus uses a singular back camera.

The Pixel 2 constructed mural mode photos that were comprehensive stunners. The Galaxy S9 took mural shots that were somewhat some-more natural-looking and softer on details. Many times, these shots had unsuitable blurring. For example, a right shoulder was blurred, though a left one was in focus.

When we showed mural mode shots to people who were a subjects, they elite a ones from a Pixel 2 observant a improved fact and sharpness prisoner in a face.

Digital zoom

Both a Pixel 2 and a Galaxy S9 are singular back camera phones and rest wholly on digital wizz to get closer to your subject. The Galaxy S9 Plus has a second telephoto camera that gives we a choice of 2x visual zoom.

Above are photos of Coit Tower that we took with any phone zoomed in all a way. Neither print looks that amazing, though a Pixel 2 shot looks improved to my eyes. It unequivocally straddles a line between looking like a print and looking like a painting. The Galaxy S9 design is ridiculously oversharpened.

The Pixel 2 perceived a software refurbish in Feb that uses Google AI to urge digitally zoomed photos.

Video

When it comes to video, design peculiarity from a Pixel 2 is good, though we unequivocally like a punchy jam-packed demeanour a Galaxy S9 captures. There’s usually a bit some-more tone and sum don’t get mislaid in a shadows like they do on a Pixel 2.

Video fortitude and frames per second

Be certain to take a demeanour during a trustworthy video to see a garland of comparisons including delayed motion, super-slow mo, stabilization and selfie videos.

The Galaxy S9 has digital design stabilization for video and it’s graceful good. The Pixel 2 uses “fusion stabilization” — a multiple of both visual and digital — and it is still a best found on any phone. Footage filmed with a Pixel 2 looks like it’s on a gimbal.

I should note that a non-static orifice on a Galaxy S9 works for videos, too. You can even use Pro mode to change a orifice to f/1.5 for a somewhat shallower abyss of field.

Slow suit vs. Super Slow-Mo

Super Slow-Mo on a Galaxy S9 is bonkers pleasing — generally when noticed on a S9’s display. It films 960 frames per second (fps) during 720p resolution. In other words, it’s not sharp,  but is approach some-more thespian than “normal” delayed mo. The Pixel 2 doesn’t offer anything like this.

Super Slow-Mo mode works good for actions that are ridiculously discerning like: Striking a match, a balloon popping or someone jumping into a pool. When we press record in Super Slow-Mo mode, it annals during 30 fps and picks moments to record during 960 fps. It competence sound involved, though after we try it a few times, it will positively make sense.

The Galaxy S9 has a nifty automobile constraint trigger to establish when to record those 0.2-second moments. we got good formula with a automobile trigger, though we should note that a reviewer did not and recommends manually triggering Super Slow-Mo capture.

As cold as Super Slow-Mo is, a genuine slow-mo lead is buried. The Galaxy S9 offers a “regular” Slow Motion mode that annals footage in 1,080p during 240 fps. This is a initial for any Samsung phone and improved matched for capturing longer clips. The aloft fortitude creates footage demeanour positively great. Slow Motion can be enabled in a settings of a Galaxy S9 camera app.

Pixel 2 can film slow-motion videos during 240 fps in 720p or 120 fps in 1,080p resolution. When it comes to slow-motion video, we wish a high support rate and high resolution. And that’s because during a Galaxy S9’s 240 fps in 1,080p slow-motion video looks improved than a Pixel 2. You get both thespian transformation and a crook image.

Check out a “Wes Anderson-inspired” slow-motion shave we posted to Twitter below. It was shot with a Galaxy S9 during 240 fps in 1,080p.

Selfies

Both phones take mural mode selfies. we posted photos we took with any phone unlabeled to Instagram and asked people to collect a shot they preferred.

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Two mural selfies. The tip (#1) was taken with a Pixel 2. The bottom (#2) with a Galaxy S9.


Patrick Holland/CNET

Overwhelmingly, a Pixel 2 mural selfie was a winner. Friends cited a photo’s clarity and sharpness as a categorical reason for their choice. Friends who favourite a Galaxy S9 selfie mural pronounced that a softer demeanour was some-more flattering.

I have to agree. we positively adore mural mode selfies from a Pixel 2.

Camera app features

The biggest differences between a phones are a camera app’s user interface. The Pixel 2’s camera app is simple. Features like Portrait Mode and Slow Motion are accessed around a menu; however, a phone foregoes a local time relapse mode. we realize, we can download an app that accomplishes this, though I’d adore to see how a Pixel 2 renders a time-lapse done from a pleasing minute photos.

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The Galaxy S9 camera interface has a ton of options, that can be a small strenuous when you’re perplexing to navigate quickly.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Galaxy S9’s camera app has so many modes that it could be featured on an part of Hoarders. Luckily, we can conduct that ones are active around a settings.

The many absolute mode on a S9 is Pro mode, that lets we save cinema as RAW files and gives we discerning entrance to countless controls: focus, aperture, shiver speed, ISO, white change and light metering — a final being a many useful. When a Galaxy S9 is in Auto mode it uses usually a core of a support to establish exposure. In pro mode, we can switch to pattern metering, that uses several tools of a support to get a scold bearing so we don’t finish adult with a print that’s too splendid or too dark.

The best camera

So that one is a best camera? Honestly, this is a terrible question. I’d be happy to have possibly phone in my pocket. But some-more mostly than not, we grabbed a Pixel 2 over a Galaxy S9 to take a discerning photo. we am smitten with a energetic operation that a Pixel 2 offers and a elementary interface minimizes fumbling to get a settings we need. If usually a Pixel 2 had that Galaxy S9 display!

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