DxOMark, an independent camera reviewer, has become the go-to place where consumers and OEMs alike hope for good camera scores on major new smartphones. The Google Pixel 2 has topped the charts since Oct. 2017, when the score no doubt helped pull the phone out from its troubled launch, but it has just been dethroned by the Samsung Galaxy S9+, which received the highest DxOMark score yet.
The Galaxy S9+ received an overall score of 99 points, one point better than the Pixel 2, and two better than Apple's iPhone X. The cumulative score is made up by a variety of subscores awarded from various DxOMark tests, which means the end result isn't out of 100. Just to be clear, DxOMark is not saying the S9 is near-perfect with a score of 99.
The Overall score is not a weighted sum of the sub-scores. It is a proprietary and confidential mapping of sub-scores into a combined score. The Overall score is also not capped at 100. That just happens to be where some of the best devices are currently.
With the Galaxy S9+, the emphasis was on its excellent photo abilities. According to DxOMark's checklist, the S9+'s photo perks are:
- Noise is very well-controlled in all conditions
- Fairly good detail in outdoor and indoor shooting conditions
- Quite fast and accurate autofocus
- Bright and vivid colors in most situations
- Excellent resolution when zooming up to 4x magnification
As good as this news is for Samsung, it isn't necessarily a crushing defeat. The Galaxy S9+ only beat out the Pixel 2 by one point, so if you have the latest Google phone, don't feel you need to trade it in just yet. The same goes for any iPhone owners, or anyone who has purchased a phone that tops DxOMark's list — this isn't the end-all-be-all for camera greatness, just one measure.
In fact, DxOMark muses that the Galaxy S9+ falls short in some areas. While not a dealbreaker, they saw video quality to be lacking when compared to the new Galaxy's photo capabilities. While bright and vivid colors are excellent, and exposure and auto-focus good, DxOMark claims the S9+ struggles more with fine video details, resulting in additional artifacts, as well as with stabilization.
DxOMark still asserts the Galaxy S9+ is one of the best smartphones for shooting video that they've tested. However, the Pixel 2 actually beats the S9 in video scores by five points, the same margin the S9+ beats the Pixel 2 when it comes to photos. It's a prime example of how close these margins really are.
However, it's worth noting the S9+ camera does offer features that the Pixel 2 and others do not, such as 960 FPS Super Slow-Mo and a dual-aperture camera. The scores might be close, but the S9+ is still one year newer than most phones on the list.
And if you're wondering about the Samsung Galaxy S9's camera, the smaller version of the S9+, then it should be a pretty good shooter too. The only thing different about the S9 and S9+ rear cameras is the fact that the S9+ has a telephoto secondary lens that attributed to its optical zoom and bokeh scores, which aren't that impressive. While it stomped the Pixel 2's zoom and bokeh scores, it only surpassed the iPhone X's zoom score.
So, is the Galaxy S9+ the true king of the smartphone camera? Maybe. We'll need more reviewers and testers to give us a bigger picture here. Even then, the debate will undoubtedly never end — the Pixel 2 might have been 2017's photo king according to DxOMark, but that didn't stop fans of the iPhone, Note 8, or V30 from fiercely defending their beloved tech.