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Samsung Galaxy S8 camera and video modes explained and reviewed

We’ve tested and reviewed the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8 Plus’ special camera modes, including Bixby Vision and the funky AR face masks, to see which are worth your time. We’ve also checked out Samsung’s bonus video modes, for getting some time lapse or slow motion footage on the go.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus sport the same 12-megapixel rear camera, which is really rather brilliant at capturing your everyday life. In fact, it’s one of the best mobile cameras found on any smartphone in 2017. And we should know, we’ve tested a few.

Most users will simply need to keep the S8 on full auto mode, to capture everything that they need. However, Samsung has also thrown in a bunch of bonus camera features and modes to get more arty results, including some fun AR stickers and face masks. Read on for more on Samsung’s special features and head over to our in-depth S8 camera review for more on picture and video quality.

Check out our in-depth Galaxy S8 tips and tricks guide for more on Samsung’s flagship phone, as well as our full review.

How do I access the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus bonus camera modes?

With the Galaxy S8 camera app open, simply flick your finger right across the screen. This will open up the different camera and video modes: Pro, Panorama, Selective Focus, Slow Motion, Hyperlapse, Food and Virtual Shot.

Alternatively, if you flick left across the screen, you’ll bring up the filters, stickers and AR faces menu. This allows you to add funky effects to your shots, including changing faces to slightly terrifying cartoon images. More on this later.

Best Samsung Galaxy S8 camera modes

Here’s our round-up of Samsung’s best camera modes, used to capture funky photos and other unusual still images.

Galaxy S8 Pro camera mode

In the Galaxy S8’s Pro camera mode, you get full control over five main camera features. You can manually adjust the shutter speed, ISO and exposure levels, which directly affect the amount of light sucked in for your photo. In addition you can change the colour tone and white balance, which can also majorly alter the final look of your shot.

More experienced photographers will appreciate having the option to tweak and fiddle these settings, to produce more artistic shots. Of course, the majority of S8 and S8 Plus users will likely leave this camera mode well alone. That’s because Samsung’s phones have such a brilliant and dependable auto mode, producing sharp and attractive shots almost every time.

Galaxy S8 Panorama camera mode

The Galaxy S8 can of course capture 360-degree panorama scenes. All you need to do is spin in a slow circle (in either direction) while keeping your hand steady.

As usual you’ll get some bizarre warping and tearing if other people are moving close by, but the S8 does an admirable job of keeping this to a minimum. And if you’re shooting still landscapes, Samsung’s flagship phone can stitch together the resulting images perfectly and seamlessly. Click the above image to see a bigger version.

Galaxy S8 Selective Focus camera mode

Selective Focus is a camera mode which Samsung’s Galaxy flagship phones have boasted since the good ol’ days of the Galaxy S5. With this mode selected, the Galaxy S8 essentially takes a bunch of photos in quick succession. The lens switches between near and far focus as it goes, so you can change the final focus of your photo after it’s been taken.

This feature works as expected, giving you a choice of near, far or pan (universal) focus when it’s done. You can change this up at any time once the photo’s taken and save all three final effects as individual snaps. Handy for macro shots.

Galaxy S8 Virtual Shot camera mode

Virtual Shot is another existing Samsung camera mode making a return from previous Galaxy phones including the Galaxy S7. With this mode selected, you simply walk a full 360-degrees around your subject while keeping your camera trained on them. This captures footage from every possible angle, so you can then virtually check them out from any direction.

Don’t even bother trying with pets and kids. Your subject needs to be stationary or it’s a big, fat fail.

Galaxy S8 Food camera mode

At first we struggled to see what difference the Food mode actually made when snapping our dinner. After a few attempts, we realised that it sometimes blurs out the non-foodie bits (e.g. cutlery and any crap encrusted on your table surface). Mostly pointless.

Galaxy S8 camera stickers and AR face masks

Flick left from the main camera screen and you’ll have the option to add stickers and other cartoony bits to your photos (in either standard or selfie mode). The stickers are standard fare and mostly superfluous, although the presence of a ‘marry me’ one scares us. Do people actually propose via selfie these days? And more pertinent, do they ever get a ‘yes’ reply?

More hilarious are the AR masks, which adds a cartoon visage on top of your own ugly mug. This works really well and always with hilarious (slash horrifying) results.

You also have a bunch of typical filters you can apply, if you’re still into all that gubbins.

What is Bixby Vision?

This is Samsung’s AI mode, which is supposed to intelligently analyse whatever is in front of the camera and then offer up various options. You can call it up at any time from the main camera app simply by tapping the Bixby Vision icon. This looks like an eyeball and is pushed away in the corner.

Open the mode and then aim the S8’s lens at a product, and Bixby Vision offers up shopping links and a price. In our testing this seemed to work quite well for food, but not so well for other items such as accessories and gadgets. You can also copy or translate text (again, a hit and miss affair) and do an online search for information.

Bixby Vision, like all camera AIs that we’ve played with, can be brilliant and can also be utterly awful. We’re sure it will improve with time, but the question is: will anyone actually use it?

Best Samsung Galaxy S8 video modes

As well as capturing home movies at up to 4K Ultra HD resolution, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus can shoot some rather funky video footage using that rear camera. There’s no built-in support for live streaming to the likes of Facebook any more, but then that’s easily accomplished through Facebook’s own app.

Here’s what you do get.

Galaxy S8 Slow Motion video mode

The Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus have the ability to shoot slow-mo video at 720p resolution. The hardware does technically support Full HD, but this option isn’t available at launch.

Galaxy S8 Hyperlapse video mode

If you’d rather greatly speed things up rather than slow them down, the S8 also offers a ‘hyperlapse’ video mode. This captures timelapse footage at 1920×1080 resolution, which looks particularly impressive if you can keep the camera steady.

Read next: Samsung Galaxy S8 camera review

You can pre-order the Samsung Galaxy S8 from O2 right now from £55 per month, to claim a free speaker worth £120.