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Samsung Galaxy S9 vs Galaxy S8: How much better is the new camera?

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is here, and you may be wondering whether or not you should dump that old S8. Let us help you decide! 

Published onMarch 29, 2018

Samsung Galaxy S9 (right), Galaxy S8 (left)

Looking to dump the Samsung Galaxy S8 for a newer Galaxy S9? You have probably already heard that the improvements are not as substantial as one might hope. Even our own Joshua Vergara tells us the upgrade might not be worthy for many of you. It’s a tough decision, as we are always struggling between saving money and having the shiniest, newest tech. If one thing were to push you over the edge, however, it’d be the camera, as that is typically the biggest differentiator between the S9 and its predecessor (as well as all competition).

After spending some time with the Galaxy S9, we have had enough time to put it up against its main competitors, and of course, we could not forget about the Galaxy S8. How much better is Samsung’s new camera one year down the track?

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On paper, the Galaxy S9 Plus should beat the S8 Plus by a landslide, thanks to its improved performance and new features. These include dual aperture, dual cameras, improved slow-mo and multi-frame processing, among other upgrades. But of course, we know theory doesn’t always correlate well with practice, so we are putting the Galaxy S9 (plus version, to be specific) against the Samsung Galaxy S8 in a direct shootout.

We have captured a plethora of identical images with both phones and will be grading these in the following categories: color, detail, landscape, HDR, panorama, portrait and selfies. Shall we get started?


While the Samsung Galaxy S8 seems to show more vibrant and saturated colors, that isn’t always a good thing. The Galaxy S9 Plus portrays more accurate colors and data is better kept as we move into the background. It is a better overall image, with more detail and nice contrast.

Once again, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus shows a slight improvement here, reproducing more popping hues that make this bowl look even more delicious. We can even catch more detail in the texture of the fish and other items in the mixture.

Grading this image was extremely hard, because photographing actual light is no easy task. To be honest, these images are very close in terms of quality, but I will give the Samsung Galaxy S8 the edge here. I happen to like its slightly darker exposure, which seems to make the light pop out a tiny bit more. The difference is very hard to grasp, though.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus easily takes this round. Just take a look at the difference in detail in the scarf, the road and the trees in the background.

Once again, the difference here is minute, even when zoomed in, but the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus does manage to catch a tiny bit more detail. It is especially noticeable when you zoom in near the door, where you can better notice the texture of the wood and bricks. One can even recognize the change in colors between bricks.

Take cameras into a dark room and you will see their true capabilities.Edgar Cervantes

Take cameras into a dark room and you will see their true capabilities. In this picture, I feel like the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus over-softened the image and made it warmer than it should. The Samsung Galaxy S8 displays more accurate colors and manages to get plenty of details from the meat and fries in the front.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


Now we are starting to see the difference in camera quality. It’s an obvious one. Even if the Samsung Galaxy S8 captured more vibrant colors and a higher contrast image, that doesn’t exactly make it a better shooter. Parts of the sky are completely blown out and details in the over-exposed buildings seem to disappear.

On the other hand, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus takes a more balanced photo, with plenty of details to be had both in the background and foreground.


HDR can be tricky. Traditionally, it is done by taking multiple images at different exposure levels. The photos are then combined to get the most details out of every part of the image. This makes it possible to more evenly expose a shot with different levels of light in a single frame. It darkens the overly lit areas, while bringing out the darker ones.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is the clear winner here, thanks to its multi-frame processing. It has more details in the clouds, foliage and shadows. The Samsung Galaxy S8 did a pretty good job exposing under the tree, but couldn’t handle the background light, which resulted in a completely white cloud with no detail.

Aside from doing a better job with the white balance, the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus shot also catches more details from the trees under the bridge. Both phones did amazingly here, though. The Galaxy S9 Plus wins only by a little.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


It looks very artificial and doesn't cut in the right places.Edgar Cervantes

If you care about portrait mode, you will like the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. This is because the Galaxy S8 doesn’t actually have the tech for true portrait mode, which requires a couple cameras. Instead, the older device imitates it using a software feature named selective focus. It is clearly not as good, as you can see in the image above. It looks very artificial and doesn’t cut in the right places, just look under my arm to see what I mean.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus


The Samsung Galaxy S8 had to have at least one win, right? This is it! I do feel like the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus had a hard time measuring light here, over-exposing Josh’s face. On the other hand, the Galaxy S8’s front-facing camera manages to catch details from his face better. I like how you can better see details like the freckles, light mustache and even the eyebrows.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Is the upgrade worth it?

As reviewers, this question is always a hard one to answer. There are many factors to consider. Are you happy with your current phone? How much do you value the new specs/features? Do you have the extra money to spare?

One thing I will tell you is that, while the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus camera is superior (arguably the best of its kind), the difference is not astounding. The Samsung Galaxy S8 is a perfectly capable camera phone, and it will take amazing images. You will only notice the differences if you have both phones to compare and begin nitpicking on them.

While the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus camera is superior, the difference is not astoundingEdgar Cervantes

Mechanical aperture control is amazing, but the evidence has shown us it doesn’t perform miracles either. As I have said before, Samsung has become a pioneer with the introduction of “dual aperture”; that is to their credit. They have shown us this is possible to do on a smartphone, and now we are hoping for future devices to improve upon the Galaxy S9 and bring in more aperture options. Only then will it really make a substantial difference to have true mechanical aperture control.

As for the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus camera… sure, it is better. Better enough to push you over the fence? I wouldn’t say so. However, if you have something lesser than the Galaxy S8, upgrade away, because as you can see in the images above, it’s great. But if you can hold out just one more year, the Galaxy S10 camera should be something really special.

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