As with stills, video footage has generally good exposure accuracy, with quick adaption to changing light conditions.
iPhone XS Max vs. Galaxy Note 9 camera comparison
We also liked the good detail and low noise levels, although some luminance and chroma noise are visible in low-light scenes. With a total photo score of , the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 is one of the best-performing smartphones for stills, nudging its way into second place by one point over the HTC U12 Plus, but behind the class-leading Huawei P20 Pro. We calculate the overall Photo score from sub-scores in tests that examine different aspects of its performance under different lighting conditions.
The Note 9 achieves a very high score for this category and is particularly strong when capturing images in high-contrast situations, where it captures a lot of detail in both highlight and shadow areas. Exposure is usually on target; however, there were occasionally inconsistent results between consecutive shots.
iPhone XS Max vs. Galaxy Note 9 camera comparison - CNET
Still, overall dynamic range in bright light is excellent. The subject is slightly underexposed and the majority of bright areas in the background are clipped, with a lot of highlight details lost. It handles difficult backlit scenes better and has good dynamic range, but it can be inconsistent, sometimes letting shadows block and losing details in the brightest areas of the image. The camera is also capable of maintaining good dynamic range in low light.
In our test scene, you can see that the Note 9 preserves noticeably more highlight detail than its stablemate Galaxy S9. There is more highlight clipping than in the Huawei P20 Pro, but on the plus side, the Samsung reveals more shadow detail and produces an overall brighter exposure. Under indoor conditions using artificial light sources, exposure was accurate, and only slightly less so in low light down to 5 lux. At 1 lux, exposures were below the target exposure but still very usable.
The Note 9 achieves another high score, this time for color accuracy. In most outdoor and indoor lighting conditions, the Note 9 delivers bright and vivid colors with both generally accurate white balance and good color rendition. Some slight color shading is noticeable under low-light conditions, but the effect is very well-controlled and pretty much a non-issue when shooting outdoors in bright light. It is relatively fast and accurate in operation — indeed, it has fewer inaccuracies and is capable of delivering more detailed images than the Galaxy S9 Plus — but we noticed a slight delay in all our tested light conditions.
As you can see in the graph shown below, the Galaxy Note 9 is consistently accurate, but has a slight but similarly consistent delay in autofocus operation. As with other Samsung models, the Galaxy Note 9 is capable of rendering textures nicely but puts a lot of focus on noise reduction, which can result in some smoothening of fine details. The latter becomes most obvious in very low-light conditions at and below 20 lux as noise reduction increases.
Nevertheless, the Note 9 is capable of retaining good levels of detail, even if it is sometimes below that of the P20 Pro. As mentioned above, noise is very well-controlled on the Samsung, with the result that images are very clean in most light conditions. As you can see in the 20 lux crops below, there is very little visible noise on the skin tones in the Note 9 image. Artifacts are reasonably well-controlled in general, and as with most high-end devices, require some close examination to see them in your images.
To Infinity-O and beyond
Some strong haloing ringing is noticeable on some high contrast edges and the lens exhibits some loss of sharpness in the corners. Without additional lighting, the single LED unit on the Galaxy Note 9 produces slightly underexposed images, but fall-off in the corners is relatively low. With additional tungsten lighting, the exposure is closer to the target and white balance is accurate. However, there are some white balance inconsistencies between shots, and some color quantization is noticeable with skin tones. The Galaxy Note 9 is one of the better smartphones for zooming in on detail, thanks to an eclectic mix of quality hardware and good processing.
Its secondary telephoto camera lets the Note 9 capture very high levels of detail in outdoor scenes at medium range. You can see comparable levels of detail among the Note 9 and its rivals in the samples below of our lab test scene, shot at 2x magnification. When it's perfectly aligned, the camera will automatically take the shot. If you have shaky hands or take a lot of one-handed shots, that's a good thing. Bright Night low-light mode: Samsung says this automatically applied feature will make low-light photos crisper. Unlike the Pixel 3's astounding Night Sight mode, this is built-in, not something you have to tap to turn on.
I didn't get a demo, but my colleagues in London did, briefly. I look forward to seeing it in action. The Galaxy S10 phones support super steady video that's designed for action shots, like skateboarding, basketball games and so on. In-screen fingerprint reader: The first phones to use Qualcomm's ultrasonic fingerprint sensor , this technique uses sound waves to unlock the phone. It completely replaces iris scanning as a biometric unlock option. Unfortunately, I couldn't use my own finger during the briefing, but this is something I'll test extensively soon.
Ultrasonic sensors are supposed to be harder to trick than optical sensors, the other technology used in fingerprint unlocking. Strangely, Samsung quietly withheld its trademark iris scanning from the S10 phones. While there's still Google 's built-in face unlock, it isn't secure enough for mobile payments.
It's a noteworthy change, since iris scanning has been a point of pride since the Galaxy S7. Samsung could very well be waiting for Google to fold secure face unlocking into Android , a rumored move for Android Q. One UI over Android Pie: With it, Samsung embraces a more simplified look and feel with bigger icons that are designed to be easier to use one-handed. Note that you'll still need to reach to the top for the notifications tray. Bixby Routines: Opt in to the all-new Bixby Routines to set up profiles for say, driving, work, night or home.
For example, a nighttime mode can save battery by turning off Wi-Fi and background apps you don't need when you sleep. In some cases the switch would happen automatically, for example, when the phone recognizes via Bluetooth that you're in your car. The software learns your patterns for work and home, but you can manually add your own Routines.
Faster app launch: This is another form of AI that can learn what you like and adapt its behavior. It will work out which apps you typically use at certain times of day, and preload those in the background so they load faster. Later in the day, it'll shut down those apps you typically stop using by lunchtime, for example, or bedtime. Think of it as a cycle that anticipates your needs by opening and closing apps before you do it yourself.
For gamers: The S10 phones are optimized to use the Unity gaming engine and Dolby Atmos for tuning sounds. The S10 Plus has a vapor chamber cooling system to dissipate heat during intense gameplay. Not every market gets every color sorry, no yellow for the US. Then, there's 5G. While it initially won't be a massive seller thanks in part to the expense , every phone maker and carrier will fight to gain a foothold in 5G as the first networks light up in the coming months, promising exponentially faster download speeds with virtually no lag connecting to the network.
Samsung itself is planning multiple phones for carriers all over the world. Samsung's foldable phone also makes its debut.
Again, high prices and limited runs are expected to make foldable phones from Samsung and other brands a cross between a beta product for developers, a status symbol for bleeding-edge adopters, and a good old-fashioned spectacle for everyone else. All eyes will be on it, which means that phones like the Galaxy S10 Plus and even the S10 5G could look ho-hum by comparison. Together, the Galaxy S10E, S10 and Galaxy S10 Plus will shoulder the heavy burden of fending off competitors and holding people's interest until 5G and foldable phones become much more vital to the mainstream.
New Galaxy S10 phones bring it: Everything Samsung showed at Unpacked: We're adding all the photos from the event along with all the new hardware. Be respectful, keep it civil and stay on topic. We delete comments that violate our policy , which we encourage you to read.
iPhone XS Max flexes its dynamic range
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Samsung Galaxy Note 9 camera review
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