We take you through the interface and features of Samsung's Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ camera
The Samsung Galaxy S8 camera is pretty incredible, it’s easily one of the best cameras I’ve tested this year and trumps anything from 2016. The really amazing thing about the Galaxy S8 camera is just how easy it is to use to get excellent results in virtually all conditions. It really is just point-and-shoot, and it performs better in low-light than many dual-lens offerings.
But if you want to get the most out of the Galaxy S8 camera, it helps to know where everything is so you can fine tune things just how you like them. Many, if not most, users will be quite content just leaving it on automatic mode and will do very well out of this - better than they would with many other alternative camera phones - but it’s still good to know just what else can be done with the imaging suite.
OK, let’s start by looking at what you’re presented with when you open the camera application on the Samsung Galaxy S8. Take a look at the below image, then consult the key below it to see what the different components are.
Photo/Video Preview & Gallery Shortcut
Front/Rear Camera Toggle Switch
Filters, Effects & Other Overlays
Beauty Mode/Skin Tone Slider
Video Record Mode Button
As a general rule, anything which highlights in yellow on the interface means it’s active. This applies to things like Automatic modes for the Flash and HDR, which will have an “A” next to them in Automatic mode, but won’t show yellow unless the phone detects the conditions are right to activate them for that shot.
On a similar note, if you select these features to be permanently on (rather than in Auto mode or switched off) they will show yellow constantly regardless.
Features which are switched permanently off will have a diagonal line through them.
Interface Gesture Control
There are also several interface gestures designed to allow you to quickly access some of the menus and features with the swipe of a finger.
A swipe from the left side of the screen will bring up a Quick Settings Menu, including toggles for; Auto Mode, Pro Mode, Panoramic Capture Mode, Selective Focus, Slow Motion Mode, Hyperlapse Mode, Food Mode, and Virtual Shot. We’ll break these down in more detail later in the article.
A swipe from the right side of the screen will bring up the Filters, Effects & Overlays section, which includes two menus with selections of pre-designated colour and lighting features (for example, “Cosy”, “Forest”, “Nostalgia”, and “Greyscale”), a scrollable section of text overlays, and a scrollable section of graphics overlays designed for selfies.
Tapping anywhere on the screen brings up a focus point icon showing this is the focal point of the photo you are about to capture. To the right a brightness slider will appear; tap and drag the bulb to adjust the brightness.
Hold press anywhere on the screen to lock in Autofocus Lock (will appear in yellow text).
A swipe up from the bottom of the screen takes you into the front-facing Selfie camera. Swiping up or down again takes you back to the main camera.
Tapping the Shutter Button will take a photo.
Press and hold the Shutter Button to snap a continuous multi-shot stream.
Pinching on the viewfinder acts as a zoom.
The Settings Menu
Now we’ll have a look at what’s inside the full Settings Menu to see what other useful things can be tweaked.
The menu is broken down into sections for the primary rear camera, front camera, and universal settings under “Common”.
For the rear camera:
“Picture size” allows you to select from several aspect ratios and megapixel ratings. The maximum and default setting is 4:3 at 12MP. You can also choose to toggle whether the phone saves files as BOTH compressed JPEG and RAW file formats, however, this only applies when using “Pro” Mode and doesn’t work with burst shot.
“Video size” allows you to choose the resolution for recording videos, from UltraHD (3840x2160p) down to VGA (640x480p). Some modes don’t support certain resolutions and features.
“Tracking AF” (Autofocus) allows you to toggle on or off the feature which enables you to lock on and track a subject as the focal point in your photos and videos.
“Shape correction” when toggled on will automatically correct picture distortion.
“Timer” lets you choose a timer for capture on the primary camera from 2 seconds up to 10 seconds. Off by default.
For the front camera:
“Picture size” is independent of the primary camera setting, but operates in the same way. The maximum setting is 4:3 at 8MP.
“Video size” is once again independent of the primary camera setting. Here the maximum resolution is QHD.
“Save pictures as previewed” is a toggle which allows you to prevent the selfie photo from flipping.
“Shooting methods” offers a choice of how selfies are captured on the front camera. Your options are “Tap Screen”, “Show Palm”, and “Tap heart rate sensor”.
“Timer” - again as with the primary camera, the selfie camera’s timer can be set independently. Off by default.
“Common” or Universal Features:
“Motion Photo” captures a short video before and after each photo is captured. Can be toggled on or off.
“Video stabilisation” allows the phone’s built-in stabilisation features to operate. Only works in certain capture modes.
“Grid lines” allows you to toggle a guidance grid on or off
“Location tags” toggled on or off to allow a photo or video to store location data of where the content was captured.
“Review pictures” when toggled will automatically take you to see a full-screen preview of the images immediately after capture.
“Quick launch” when toggled a double-tap of the power key will launch the camera application.
“Voice control” when toggled allows you to control the camera with you voice using keywords.
“Floating Camera button” - this is an interesting one; you can toggle this on to add a second camera shutter key to the interface which can be dragged and moved around, essentially meaning you can put a shutter key in whichever position you find most comfortable, convenient and accessible for how you use the camera. See the extra shutter key in the below image on the left-hand side of the screen.
“Volume key function” allows you to assign whether the volume rocker is used for image capture, video capture, zoom control, or plain old system volume while in the camera interface.
Again, these are accessed by swiping from the left of the screen in the main viewfinder and then tapping the corresponding icon.
“Auto”: The standard capture mode
“Panorama”: Allows you to capture sweeping panoramic vistas, big rooms, or larger, open outside areas. You activate the capture with the shutter button and then gently sweep from either right-to-left, or left-to-right. You can complete a full rotation and it will capture automatically, or you can capture as much as you want in a rotation and then terminate at that point by pressing the shutter button again.
“Selective Focus”: This mode allows you to capture spatial data in a photo with a set focal point. The focal point when you capture must be less than 50cm from the camera.
“Slow motion”: Does what it says on the tin; slow motion capture mode.
“Hyperlapse”: I’ll let Samsung’s own words speak on this one; “Hyperlapse is a feature that allows you to create your own time-lapse video. It records at various frame rates which automatically adjust to what you’re recording.”
“Food”: Food mode is designed to make your food look really nice for photo sharing; it essentially enhances colour and contrast and uses built-in blur and Bokeh-like effects to make everything fancy.
“Virtual shot”: Very impressive, works like Panorama but on a 360-degree rotation around an object. Captures as an interactive picture format which you can use to rotate around the object by dragging on the screen with your finger.
Pretty much every quality camera UI worth its salt these days has a Pro mode in order to allow proper photography buffs to tweak and tune every little aspect of every shot, and the Galaxy S8 is no exception.
The Pro Mode has settings for the ISO, focus, autofocus, white balance, colour, aperture, metering and autofocus area.
Chances are if you’re a proper photography guru you don’t need much guidance in how to use these features, and if you’re not, well, a detailed explanation of Pro level photography is, I’m afraid, well outside the scope of this article!
The built-in camera component of the Bixby AI assistant is Bixby Vision, which allows Bixby to “read” a photo and offer up a number of contextual options.
Take a photo of a plant, for example, and Bixby Vision can be prompted to show the results of a related Google Image search; this can indicate what species of plant it might be.
An image of a book, DVD, or other product, meanwhile, can be used to take you shopping online for said object; useful if you’re looking at something in a store but wondering if you can get it cheaper elsewhere, for instance. You can also translate or copy text from the image.
To use Bixby Vision you simply tap the eye icon in the camera UI and focus the green area on the object you wish to “scan”, it works rather a lot like QR code scanners and their ilk.
Once it has and idea of what the item is, a selection of contextual menus will appear on the right-hand side of the display, allowing you to navigate them at your leisure, conveniently embedded within the app; meaning you can scroll through product listings without being bumped immediately into your browser.