When Samsung announced the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ at Mobile World Congress, the company was fairly short when talking about the camera. We got the specs, but there was no mention of anything unique having been developed to bolster the imaging performance of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8+. There are people who are disappointed by the fact that Samsung didn’t “innovate” with the camera, and then there is a group that believes that the excellent results of the Galaxy S7’s cameras were good enough for Samsung to not worry about pushing the envelope further. Up until yesterday, we couldn’t conclusively say that Samsung had used the exact same components from its Galaxy S7 lineup in the new flagships, however, we now have image samples that help us gauge the quality of the two.
Before we dive into the camera comparison, let’s take a minute to talk about the build and design of the two phones. The front is notably different, and you can quickly distinguish which phone is the S8+ and which the S7 edge, all thanks to the minimal bezel on the former. Turn the phones over to their side and you won’t be at fault if you can’t tell the two apart. If you didn’t know which of the two phones is thicker, it’s almost impossible to tell the two apart. The chassis/ metal frame design is the same for two phones and we’re not disappointed. The tapered curves of the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge are really elegant and the S8+ following the same design language shows that Samsung chose to “not fix something that wasn’t broken,”
Flip the two phones over to the back and you once again notice a few things being different. Before we even get to the area where the camera module sits, we noticed that the Samsung Galaxy S8+ has a criss-cross textured underneath its glass back, so add a little character to it. On the Gold version of the phone, it can often be caught creating a slight colour sheen, though we didn’t notice the same with the Blue variant that we ended up trying out. Honestly, whether you like this or not will come down to a personal preference, but it si different from the Galaxy S7 edge’s completely smooth, textureless back. Moving on up, you notice that the camera module now sits flush with the body. The flash and the heart-rate sensor have moved over to the other side of the camera and a fingerprint sensor can be found on camera right. There’s a lot of debate about the placement of the fingerprint sensor, but I personally felt that it wasn’t that hard to reach, given that I grip the phone the way it’s comfortable for me.
Now let’s look at how the two cameras compare. The resolution on the primary camera is still 12 megapixels. It still has the Dual-Pixel AF sensor and right from the beginning, it was evident that the S8+’s autofocus was faster than that of the S7 Edge. What also becomes clear is that the photos from the Samsung Galaxy S8+ have their highlights and shadows a lot better balanced than the S7 edge. This could be attributed to the fact that the S8+ is shooting in HDR mode by default, which allows it to create better images. The HDR mode on the S7 edge (even on the latest OS update) isn’t nearly as effective. A quick look at our studio shots reveals that in google light, the S8+ is shooting some phenomenal images. The sharpness across the frame is impressive, as is the dynamic range and the resolution reproduction. Details in the fibres are good and it doesn’t look like there’s a lot of JPG compression being applied. In comparison to the S7 edge, the results are definitely better, given that the S8+ retains detail better and the HDR mode helps shoot images with more dynamic range. You can see our preliminary samples of the primary camera below. On the left (top for mobile readers) are Samsung Galaxy S8+ images and on the right (bottom for mobile readers) are the Galaxy S7 edge samples.
Interestingly, both the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge topped their ISO out at ISO 1250.
The Secondary/ front camera on the Galaxy S8 Plus has been bumped up 8 megapixels, along with getting the capabilities of autofocus. As far as imaging goes, this is probably the most visible upgrade to the new flagship’s photo-capabilities. We fired up the camera and immediately noticed that something was amiss. For some reason, Samsung has greatly reduced the field of view on the front camera. Bottomline, this isn’t the wide angle selfie camera we’re all used to seeing. The advantage would theoretically be better distortion control, but the disadvantage is that now you can’t take group selfies by default. Samsung bundles a selfie panorama mode in the software, which you might end up using a lot more. For solo selfies, its not that bad, but you’re definitely going to have a harder time fitting an entire monument in the background while you take a selfie on your next heritage trip. However, the photos from the front facing camera of the new flagship are noticeably better than those coming from the S7 edge. There is better flare control (if you’re shooting with a light source pointing towards the camera), with lesser distortion. There’s one sample you can refer to at the bottom.
Overall, the camera modules on the S8+ are producing images that are better than the previous generation flagship. However, is the performance bump enough to justify the price tag? We will put the camera through a thorough test once we have the review unit, but till then, these few samples are promising of the S8’s camera performance.