Galaxy Note 9 Cameras

The new Galaxy Note uses a camera system hardware which is virtually identical to the Galaxy S9+. This means that it is easily in the top 3 mobile cameras on the market, competing in various aspects with the Huawei P20 Pro and the Google Pixel 2 XL.

Camera overview

To give this camera an extra edge, Samsung has introduced the Scene Optimizer, which is an Artificial Intelligence (AI) driven camera app. The concept is not new, and it has also been introduced by competitors such as Huawei, and more recently LG.

The basic principle is similar, but there are slight variations from vendor to vendor. The common denominator is that an AI will find a dominant theme in the photo, and map it to a known “type of scene.” It could be “sunset,” “Animals,” “food,” “people” and other types of photos that have very specific styles and desired outcomes.

[Pullquote text=”The same great camera as the S9+, but AI-driven for an extra kick” align=””center]

Once recognized, specific settings that have a higher probability to improve the photo outcome will be set in place. What is not common among vendors is how pronounced the processing is. So far, Samsung seems to have listened to the public’s initial AI camera feedback and made their AI image processing relatively mild — not overdoing it, even less so than LG did with the G7 ThinQ.

It is hard to predict which style customers will like the most, but eventually, we think that cameras will adapt to the tastes of their users. But for now, it’s not the case.

Flaws Detection is also a new software feature of the Camera. It works by analyzing photos and alerting the user if it detects issues such as people closing their eyes, dirty lens, out of focus photos, or other undesirable images.

If it works as proposed, it could be a nice tool because if you don’t use a preview (and most people don’t), it can be tricky to see any of these based on the thumbnail.

Image quality

Daylight photos

The Galaxy Note 9 performs extremely well in daylight photography. It offers a natural style of photos that does not over-process. In our estimation, some competitors increase the color saturation by approximately 30%. This is a matter of preferences, but this is often the default style that people like as it mostly reproduces what they see. If they want to they can add more effects later.

For very detailed scenes and in good lighting, higher megapixel cameras might have a small advantage with small details. However, in our Sony XPERIA XZ2, we found that noise could also be higher. It is not clear cut and Megapixel should never be automatically seen as higher quality.

HDR Photography

In our tests, we found the Galaxy Note 9 software produced sightly better results than the S9+ and the Huawei P20. This is probably due to tweaks in the software, and although it is subtle, any improvements on the camera is greatly important given how much we use them. The details of the tree is well-preserved and the photo looks very much like how our eyes experienced it.

Bokeh Photography

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Bokeh or Portrait mode photos tries to blur the out of focus areas top make the subject “pop”. In our test, we often tweak the blur effect higher than usual to challenge the cameras and reveal weaknesses. The Galaxy Note 9 performs quite well, and offers agreeable photos with mostly, but not completely, bug-free edges.

Since the blur is performed by software, it is difficult for the Camera app to exactly distinguish the subject from the background. As such, you might sometimes see places that should be blurred but aren’t, or the opposite. To be fair, the Huawei P20 Pro had the exact same edges issue, which probably has to do with the resolution of the Bokeh depth map. However the P20 Pro’s blur quality is higher.

Technical analysis of the rear camera system

In the Galaxy Note 9, the camera aperture of f/1.5 is excellent, and the sensor size of 22.932 mm2 would be considered large (for a smartphone), but not enormous (~40 mm2).

12 Megapixel has long been an excellent tradeoff between daylight and low light performance. On a sunny day, Megapixel count could be a good metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, a nature photo with a higher megapixel count could show finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP, differences in details can be noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and/or high-PPI display.

In dark scenes situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) does not matter as much. Keep in mind that the physical size of each sensor pixel is critical. With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller. Each obtains less light information, and in dark conditions, it is better for the overall photo quality to gather more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite. It is a balance that needs to be struck.

The presence of an Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) module on the primary and secondary cameras augments the odds of taking sharp images in daylight and brighter images in dim lighting

OIS helps to achieve better image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting tiny hand-shaking motion. This is of particular importance in zoom situations.

OIS makes it possible to leave the shutter open longer to capture more light (more prolonged exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are absolutely different, with digital stabilization suitable to help video recording smoothness

This handset supports Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS), which is specifically designed to stabilize video recording from excess motion induced by hand-holding, walking, running. Road vibrations or drone flight turbulence could also be offset by this technique. EIS does NOT help with still photography and is not meant to replace OIS. Certain video formats such as extreme resolutions or frame-rates may not be compatible with this device EIS capabilities.

The auto-focus of the Galaxy Note 9 camera is based on Dual Pixel Phase Detection technology.Dual-Pixel AF sensing is an awesome type of Phase Detection hardware. It has all the Phase-Detect advantages in terms of speed and efficiency but has better auto-focus sampling points. This is made possible by splitting sensing pixel (sensels) into two small sub-pixels.

By comparing what they “see” from a slightly different point of view, it is possible to know if the image at that pixel is focused (in-phase) or not (out of phase). You can read our detailed Dual-Pixel AF article if you want to know more. Dual-Pixel AF is currently the best and fastest way to perform autofocus on handsets. It was originally integrated on certain high-end DSLR cameras.

Filed in Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about Editorspick, Galaxy Note 9, Samsung, Samsung Reviews and Smartphone Reviews.

514 PPI
~$999 - Amazon
12 MP
F1.5 Aperture F-Stop
201 g
4000 mAh
Wireless Charging
Launched in
Snapdragon 845 + MicroSDXC
Storage (GB)
64, 128, 512
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