Samsung is arguably the world’s best smartphone maker next to Apple. The newest Samsung flagship, the Galaxy S8 which is available at Verizon, comes packed with all of the high-end stats that make it a worthy competitor to the iPhone 8. But beyond the basics that make the S8 comparable to the iPhone, there are a few features that it doesn’t get enough credit for. These features appeal mainly to video makers. But they’re also so seamlessly built into the phone that they might make you want to make videos, even if you haven’t before.
*Note: all images and videos in this post were created with the Galaxy S8. See a full gallery of images created with the S8 here. Also, since this is a post about making videos, I created a video version which you can find here or embedded at the bottom of this post.
Can’t see the video above? Click here.
Smartphones Over DSLRs?!
I’ll be the first to admit skepticism when it comes to ditching a DSLR or mirrorless camera in favor of a smartphone. But then again, I very rarely get the latest and greatest smartphone on the market. The first and only iPhone I’ve used was the iPhone 3Gs, and I’ve been using a 2015 Moto X Pure until recently. This is all to say that if I seem in awe of smartphone camera features, it’s because I truly am. I’ve been a little behind the times.
I was given the chance to test the Samsung Galaxy S8 on Verizon. Last year, I tried out the Moto Z Force Droid. If you recall, I was quite impressed with the still photo quality of that smartphone camera. But its features weren’t quite enough to replace my Sony a6300 travel camera, so I didn’t keep the Moto Z. This time around, I spent a whole month shooting with the Samsung Galaxy S8 and ended up buying my very own version of it afterward. What was so great about the Galaxy S8? Let me explain.
I should also disclose that I was offered a free month-long trial of the Galaxy S8 and did not receive any other compensation. My current Galaxy S8 was bought and paid for in full with my own funds.
Recording Video with the Galaxy S8
Ever since I was a teenager, I wanted to make movies. But one thing led to another, and still imagery became my personal hobby, and then my profession. I still have a strong desire to create video and it wasn’t until I had the Galaxy S8 in my hands that I really started to do so.
First of all, the image quality for both stills and photos on the S8 is stellar. The still photos are 12 megapixels in size, which is fine for most casual use. Video can be recorded at Full HD or even up to 4K, and the quality is pretty darn good. But these are all stats that you can read about anywhere. What isn’t talked about so much are several other video-friendly features that are packed into the Galaxy S8.
Hidden Video Features of the Galaxy S8
The more I used the Galaxy S8, the more I kept stumbling upon video features that I never knew existed. Google searches wouldn’t turn up much information on them, and the phone manual didn’t mention them either. So I thought a blog post was in order.
1. Adds short motion videos to still photos.
Have you ever taken a still photo and wished that you had taken some video instead? The Galaxy S8 comes with a cool feature called Motion Photo that automatically records a few seconds of video along with your still photos. Use it for adding context to your photos or giving yourself a few seconds of extra footage for your feature film. Either way, it’s a cool feature. You have to enable it, but once you do, you can set it and forget it.
2. Turns your panorama photos into videos.
The ability to shoot panoramic photos has been on smartphones for a long time. However, the problem remains that most people don’t know how to optimize the resulting panoramic image. It’s always a long, awkward size that rarely fills a screen and is never done visual justice unless it’s printed. Samsung came up with a great option for panoramas via a feature called Motion Panorama. Basically, it records your movement as you take a panorama photo and allows you to play it back and save it as a video. It’s another great way to add footage to a film you’re making.
Check out the sample still photo above and the resulting video that Motion Panorama created below. Note that the video version isn’t the steadiest since it was shot handheld. So it’s important to take care in the way that you capture your panoramic shot since the entire motion is recorded on the video file.
3. Built-in Image Stabilization
Most video cameras require bulky gimbals or stabilizing rigs to help you get steady footage. Thankfully, the S8 has built-in image stabilization that you can enable to automatically smooth out some of your movements. It won’t give you the same quality as using a gimbal or stabilizer would. And you can’t film any videos in 4K with image stabilization turned on. But it’s a low-cost way to help you record some decent vlog footage when you’re moving about.
4. Comes with an intuitive Movie Maker App
One of the biggest hurdles to making videos is finding a simple video editor. Samsung gives you a boost by suggesting its own Movie Maker app. You have to download it separately, but it’s completely free of charge. The app is very straightforward and gives you basic video editing tools. Movie Maker also helps you easily stitch bits of video together into a movie. After trying out some other movie making apps, I have to say that Movie Maker was the most intuitive and easiest to use.
I’d link you to the Movie Maker app, but it seems to be exclusive to Samsung phones, at least from what I can find.
Things I Wish Were Better on the Galaxy S8
Move the fingerprint unlock sensor
Right now, the fingerprint unlock sensor is located right next to the S8’s rear-facing camera and built-in flash. All of these surfaces feel the same and it’s hard to figure out exactly where the fingerprint sensor is.
Ability to control camera’s aperture/f-stop
While the S8 has both an Auto and Pro (Manual) mode for shooting photo and video, the Pro mode is missing the ability to control aperture. You can shift the values of shutter speed, ISO, and exposure, but not aperture. If you’re taking a still photo, this can be somewhat helped by using the Galaxy S8’s Selective Focus mode to create a bokeh effect. But it would still be ideal to manually adjust aperture.
Remove the Bixby button (or assign another function to it)
Bixby is Samsung’s answer to Siri and Google Assistant, and it’s a little late to the party. While it’s completely up to you whether to use Bixby or not, it’s not an option to have a Bixby button on your S8. Right below your volume control buttons, there’s an extra button whose sole purpose to turn Bixby on. Samsung recently allowed users to deactivate this button, but you can’t assign it to do other things. So for many, it is a useless button.
The Samsung Galaxy S8 is an impressive smartphone with a wide range of photo and video capabilities. It isn’t perfect but will meet the needs of the average phone user and in some cases, even professional image makers. Have you used the Galaxy S8? Or do you use smartphones at all for taking photo or video? Let me know your experiences in the comments below!
Can’t see the video above? Click here.