Samsung Galaxy S8 review

Biometric issues aside, the Galaxy S8 is a brilliant phone

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  • Camera spec not upgraded
  • Images still look superb
  • Some snaps a touch overexposed

The camera on the Samsung Galaxy S8 is, once again, one of the best around. Its main strength is being able to just capture the image you want, taking in sharpness, light and color to make something appear just the way you saw it.

The 12MP camera on the rear and the (upgraded) 8MP sensor on the front are both brilliant in low light as well – often taking snaps that are better than we've seen in real life. 

There's a small amount of noise, but while very little else has been improved in terms of spec from the Galaxy S7 to the S8, the ability to cope well in low light is better than before.

Overall, though, what we like about the camera is that Samsung has thought through the interface. It took a gamble in not sticking a dual-lens sensor on the back of the S8, which is the new fashionable thing to do in terms of smartphone cameras, and instead made it easy to take a photo.

You can double-tap the power button to instantly be into the camera app (or swipe from the lock screen) and you're less than a second away from the shutter firing. It might take a few attempts to learn the rhythm, but once you've got it there's very little lag between grabbing your phone from your pocket and the photo being saved.

The interface on the camera is all very swipe-friendly, which will please those wanting to use the phone with one hand. Swipe from the left to display the modes you can use (and thankfully you're not overloaded with too many); swipe from the right you've got filters than you can customize.

Swipe down to access the selfie camera, hold and swipe the shutter button to zoom into your subject. The Galaxy S8 isn't brilliant at full zoom – we have seen sharper – but if you just want to get a little closer to your subject and don't want to lose the framing the zoom will do just fine.

There are also some cute little stickers and augmented reality masks you can pop over yourself (in the front-facing camera) or your friends (when the S8 recognizes them in shots from the rear camera).

This is clearly a play from Samsung to stop people heading out to Snapchat to do the same thing, but given that Snapchat isn't really a direct rival to the South Korean brand it's interesting to see this feature being given such a strong place to live in the camera interface.

However, it is something that will delight children and is fun to play around with, so it's hard to criticize its presence too much.

It is easy to criticize Bixby Vision being here though – it's just useless in general. While it would be cool to have the phone recognize and store everything, Bixby right now just comes along as a set of annoying green dots that plague your camera viewfinder until you turn the feature off (which you can do easily).

But then when you're in the gallery, you'll still get a green dot in the middle of the photo you're trying to look at as Samsung tries to entice you to recognize the image through Bixby and Pinterest, or give you information on a landmark.

This is definitely not something people want to do, and until Bixby starts doing something useful it's a hindrance.

Back to the camera itself though, and it's worth repeating that you'll very rarely be dissatisfied with the images you'll take, even quickly. The color reproduction seems a touch more muted and natural than in years gone by, but not by much, and the sharpness on offer is great.

The only real criticism is that the quality of the shots look better on the phone than on a computer screen. Our main issue is with the exposure: check out the camera samples at the bottom of this page and you'll see that in bright light the Galaxy S8 has a tendency to slightly overexpose images.

It seems that Samsung has been so busy trying to get great low-light shots (which it has managed admirably) that some of the day-to-day snaps suffer terribly from light bleeding in.

On the whole the quality is good, but you will get the odd picture that makes you wince with the amount of light flooding in – especially with bright scenes.

One feature we do really like is in the Pro Mode of the camera, where you can manually set the focal length of the image and the S8 will create green highlights to help you confirm that something is in focus.

It's not a big thing, but it's a perfect example of how Samsung is making sure that its camera app is as intuitive as possible. 

From the speed of launching it to the clearly well-thought-out gestures to get you around the key parts of the snapper, there's very little to dislike about the S8 camera, and it's certainly enough to keep us going until we get the revamp Samsung will clearly need to bring in the Galaxy S9.

Camera samples

We've also had more of a play with the zoom and manual modes, trying out some of the low-light capabilities here to see the full range of power.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.