Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Review

January 5, 2018 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s flagship smartphone. It features a dual-camera setup, offering two different focal lengths. It’s an update to the controversial Note 7, which you may recall as being notorious for its exploding battery problem - Samsung is of course promising this problem has been completely fixed for the Note 8.

One of the cameras has a 12 megapixel sensor, with a wide angle f/1.7 lens, while the other, also 12 megapixel sensor, has a 2x optical zoom lens with an f/2.4 aperture. An additional function of having two lenses is “Live Focus”, which allows you to create the popular shallow depth of field effect which is common amongst many current smartphones.

Other specifications which may be of interest to photographers include a 6.3-inch, 16 megapixel screen, a micro SD card slot which allows you to expand the Note 8’s internal memory, raw format shooting, 4K video recording and a front-facing 8 megapixel f/1.7 camera.

We have been loaned the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 by Vodafone for the purposes of this review, which offers the device on a number of different packages. The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 retails for around £869 / $900.

Ease of Use

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is one of the largest phones currently on the market, but as it’s quite narrow, it manages to stay just on the right side of ridiculously large. The design itself is also pretty classy, with a sleek finish and curved edges. Still, you’ll probably find two hands come in very handy when using the camera - especially if you want to change any settings. You’ll also probably find you need both hands when typing messages and so on.

There are a few different ways to unlock the phone. You can draw a pattern or enter a PIN on the home screen, use the fingerprint scanner on the back of the phone, or set up the phone to recognise your face and unlock it that way. Sometimes, unfortunately, the phone seems unable to recognise my face if I’m wearing my glasses - just something to be wary of. The fingerprint scanner is dangerously close to the camera lenses, so you might want to try and be careful not to touch the lenses when unlocking the phone.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

You don’t actually have to unlock the phone to access the camera. A double tap of the power button on the right hand side of the phone will automatically launch it, or you can swipe up from the bottom right hand corner of the screen from the lock screen. Note that if you launch the camera in either of these ways that you won’t be able to look at any older pictures until you unlock the phone.

The native camera app is very well featured. By default it will open in the fully automatic configuration, leaving you to concentrate on composition. You can tap around the screen to set the autofocus point and change the metering point to adjust exposure. You can switch between the two different lenses (wide angle and telephoto) by tapping 1x and 2x - which you’ll see either on the bottom of the screen or the right hand side, depending on how you’re holding the phone. If you would like to take more control, you can switch to a Pro mode, which is accessed by swiping left from the main camera screen. You’ll now see that you’re able to adjust parameters such as shutter speed and ISO - as is common for mobile phones, it’s not possible to set your own aperture value.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Other shooting modes are also available if you swipe left from the main screen. As well as Auto and Pro, there’s Panorama, Slow Motion (video), Hyperlapse (time-lapse), Food mode, and Virtual Shot. It’s also possible to download extra modes, such as Sports Shot and Rear-cam selfie.

Along the top of the screen you’ll see a few different options. The cog icon gives you access to various advanced settings, including changing the picture size, video resolution, timer and so on. If you tap the image size option, you’ll be able to switch on raw format shooting - which will give you a raw format version of each JPEG, but only if you’re shooting in “Pro” mode. The other options you’ll see at the top of the screen change depending on the shooting mode you’re in. So, for example, in Pro mode, you can change AF area and metering, but these options will not be displayed when shooting in Auto.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

In both modes, you’ll have the option to switch the flash on and off, or turn to “full view”. The latter is primarily aimed at those capturing shots to use with Instagram Stories or Snapchat, as it’ll make use of the 18:9 aspect ratio of the Note 8’s screen, rather than whatever aspect ratio you’ve already been shooting in.

At the bottom of the screen, you’ll see the option to switch “Live Focus” on. This mode makes use of both the lenses to create a shallow depth of field effect. You need to move the camera at least 1.2 metres away from your subject for it to work, and there are some other caveats - such as you can’t have too much light in the shot either. Once you’ve taken the shot, you can adjust the amount of background blur when you’re looking at the shot in playback too, lessening or adding the amount depending your tastes.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Camera Mode

In order to take a picture, you have a couple of options. There’s a virtual shutter release button found at the bottom of the screen (or to the right if you’re shooting in landscape format). Alternatively, you can use the volume up or down physical button on the left hand side of the camera. You can hold the phone so that these buttons are positioned on the top right hand corner of the device, making it a little more akin to shooting with a “normal” camera. If you want to record video, there’s a dedicated virtual video record button just next to the standard shutter button. As soon as you press this, video will start to record - this is a bit frustrating as it means you can’t frame up your video first. You can change video resolution from the settings menu, with resolutions up to 4K available.

Image Quality

In bright light, images produced by the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 are fantastic. Colours are very vivid - arguably straying into over saturation but producing a very pleasing result none-the-less. Detail is also well resolved, producing images which give a good overall impression of high detail. If you examine images at 100%, it’s possible to see a little image smoothing even at low ISOs, but certainly no more than we’d expect from a small sensor.

Thanks to a wide aperture lens (f/1.7), the Note 8 also copes pretty well in low light situations, helping you to keep the ISO as low as possible. Visible image smoothing is more obvious from ISO 400, but if you’re mainly sharing online or producing very small prints, it’s certainly acceptable. ISO 800 is available, too, but if you can keep to shooting below this, it’s certainly preferable.

The Note 8’s second camera is very useful in situations where you want to get closer to the subject. It’s not quite such a good performer in low light, thanks to it having a narrower aperture, but in bright light it performs very well. The “Live Photo” effect which utilises the second lens is also pretty reasonable - you can see some strange artefacts if you examine closely, but on the whole, the shallow depth of field effect is quite natural.

The Note 8 does a very good job of accurately assessing the scene to produce balanced exposures, but you may find exposures benefit from tapping around the screen to meter from different parts of it. Automatic white balance copes well with a variety of different lighting conditions, producing shots which are on the whole accurate in colour.


The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 has 5 manually-selectable ISO sensitivity settings available at full resolution, ranging between ISO 50 and ISO 800.


ISO 50 (100% Crop)

ISO 50 (100% Crop)

iso50.jpg iso50raw.jpg

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso100raw.jpg

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso200.jpg iso200raw.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso400raw.jpg

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso800.jpg iso800raw.jpg

Focal Range

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8’s fixed focal length lens is equivalent to 28mm in 35mm camera terms. The telephoto lens also gives you a 2x optical zoom.



the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is able to focus as close as 5cm from a subject. We found this claim to be accurate, though autofocussing does occasionally struggle to lock on at this kind of range.




The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 uses an LED flash, and as usual for this technology, it gives a much weaker flash burst than a standard xenon camera flash. Shooting a white surface from a distance of 1.5 metres reveals the flash is unable to properly light the scene and there’s significant vignetting.

Flash Off


Flash On


Flash Selfie



Flash Wide Off

Flash Wide On

flash_wide_off.jpg flash_wide_on.jpg
Flash Tele Off

Flash Tele On

flash_tele_off.jpg flash_tele_on.jpg


Thanks to optical image stabilisation and a wide f/1.7 maximum aperture, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 performs well at night. This image was taken with a shutter speed of 10 seconds at the camera’s minimum ISO 50 sensitivity, and though there’s some noise and detail smoothing, the result is still comparable to what a typical compact camera would produce.



Live Focus

Live Focus mode allows the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 to capture the background and the subject separately, so you can adjust the focus as you need.

Live Photo


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample RAW Images

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Samsung RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative).

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 17 second movie is 102Mb in size.

Product Images

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8
Samsung Galaxy Note 8


There’s lots of fantastic smartphones currently on the market, many of which offer something which is appealing to those with an interest in photography. 

The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a good example of doing a lot of things right. The dual lens set up gives you the flexibility to get closer to the subject when you need to, while the shallow depth of field effect it helps to produce is also reasonably natural. A lot of current phones are offering this - in my opinion, it is best utilised right now on the Google Pixel 2 (which impressively does it with only one lens), but the Note 8 does a pretty decent job - and you can use that extra lens by itself too. 

Images are lovely and vibrant, showing a fantastic dynamic range, while also capturing a decent amount of detail. The camera copes well in low light, particularly if you stick to using the wider aperture wide-angle lens. 

Another thing which is also great about the Note 8 is that it offers both advanced shooting options via the Pro mode and the ability to shoot in raw format. Although the camera performs very well in Auto mode, having the option to tweak settings is great - and not something you get on every phone (a particular case in point being the iPhone X). 

This phone is one of the largest currently on the market, and while the huge screen is great for viewing your photos and videos, it can be a little unwieldy to use - especially one handed. Trying to tap the 2x zoom button when holding the phone in just one hand can be quite tricky - you get used to holding it in a certain way, but it’s certainly not the most comfortable experience. 

At the time of writing, the Note 8 retails for around £869 for the 64GB version. You can also purchase it as part of a contract deal, for various prices. That puts it towards the top end of pricing for smartphones, but it’s significantly cheaper than an iPhone X. 

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is a great option for those who are interested in both a dual lens setup plus the ability to take a good degree of manual control. It also looks sleek and stylish, with a huge screen which really makes your images pop. 

Oh - and the phone hasn’t exploded so far either... 

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.

Apple iPhone X

The Apple iPhone X is the most anticipated smartphone of 2017, but can its photographic capabilities really satisfy the keen photographer? Read our in-depth Apple iPhone X review to find out...

Google Pixel 2

According to DXO, the Google Pixel 2 offers the best image quality of any smartphone currently on the market, but is it really the best option for photographers? Read our in-depth Google Pixel 2 review to find out...

Huawei Mate 10 Pro

The Mate 10 Pro is the latest flagship phone from the Chinese manufacturer Huawei, and as with a lot of new smartphones these days, it promises a lot for the keen photographer, not least Leica-branded f/1.6 lenses and dual colour / monochrome image sensors. Read our in-depth Huawei Mate 10 Pro review for photographers now...

Huawei P10 Lite

The Huawei P10 Lite is a new budget smartphone with a 12 megapixel sensor, fast-charging battery and a 5.2-inch Full HD display. Read our Huawei P10 Lite review now...

Huawei P10 Plus

The new Huawei P10 Plus smartphone has once again been co-developed with Leica, this time around focusing on delivering "stunning artistic portrait shots in the Leica image style". Is this the best smartphone for photographers? Find out by reading our in-depth Huawei P10 Plus review...

Kodak Ektra

The new Kodak Ektra is billed as the perfect smartphone for keen photographers, from enthusiasts to experts, but does it offer enough to replace the smartphone that's currently in your pocket? Find out by reading our Kodak Ektra review...

Sony Xperia XZ

The Sony Xperia XZ is a new photography-focused premium smartphone, featuring a 23-megapixel primary camera with a 1/2.3"-type Exmor RS imaging chip. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia XZ review now...

Sony Xperia XZ1

The Sony Xperia XZ1 is a new flagship smartphone that's a little more affordable than the other flagships out there. For photographers, it offers a 19 megapixel Exmor RS sensor, f/2 25mm Sony G branded lens, 4K video recording, and a manual shooting mode. Read our Sony Xperia XZ review now to find out more about Sony's latest handset...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 from around the web. »

The Note 8 has the best big display on a smartphone and acts as Samsung's big phone comeback story, making up for last year's Note 7 recall. It has an expansive 6.3-inch ‘Infinity Display,’ faster 6GB of RAM performance and two outstanding rear cameras, which add up to one of the most expensive phones ever. Just don’t expect record-breaking battery life from its predictably average-sized battery that plays it safe. It’s the best really big phone you can buy, if you can handle the enormous size and equally huge price.
Read the full review » »

Some thought the Note 8 might never happen. After the successful launch and subsequent disastrous recall and discontinuation of the Note 7, which still gets namechecked on some airlines as a banned object, you’d have forgiven Samsung for dropping the Note name and starting again.
Read the full review » »

The Galaxy Note 8 is now on sale in select markets, including the US. After testing it from San Francisco to Los Angeles and up to Lake Tahoe, I can confidently say that the Galaxy Note 8 is without a doubt Samsung's best, most feature-packed phone.
Read the full review »



  • CPU Speed
    2.3GHz, 1.7GHz
  • CPU Type


  • Size (Main_Display)
    160.5mm (6.3" full rectangle) / 158.5mm (6.2" rounded corners)
  • Resolution (Main Display)
    2960 x 1440 (Quad HD+)
  • Technology (Main Display)
    dual edge Super AMOLED
  • Color Depth (Main Display)
  • S Pen Support

*Galaxy note8 Measured diagonally, the screen size is 6.3" in the full rectangle and 6.2" with accounting for the rounded corners.


  • Rear Camera - Resolution
    12.0 MP + 12.0 MP
  • Rear Camera - F Number
    F1.7 , F2.4
  • Rear Camera - Auto Focus
  • Rear Camera - OIS
  • Rear Camera - Zoom
    Optical Zoom at 2x , Digital Zoom up to 10x
  • Front Camera - Resolution
    8.0 MP
  • Front Camera - F Number
  • Front Camera - Auto Focus
  • Rear Camera - Flash
  • Video Recording Resolution
    UHD 4K (3840 x 2160)@30fps


  • RAM_Size (GB)
  • ROM Size (GB)
    64 GB
  • Available Memory (GB)
    51.2 GB
  • External Memory Support
    MicroSD (Up to 256GB)


  • Number of SIM
  • SIM size
    Nano-SIM (4FF)
  • SIM Slot Type
    SIM 1 + MicroSD
  • Infra
  • 2G GSM
    GSM850, GSM900, DCS1800, PCS1900
  • 3G UMTS
    B1(2100), B2(1900), B4(AWS), B5(850), B8(900)
    B34(2010), B39(1880)
  • 4G FDD LTE
    B1(2100), B2(1900), B3(1800), B4(AWS), B5(850), B7(2600), B8(900), B12(700), B13(700), B17(700), B18(800), B19(800), B20(800), B25(1900), B26(850), B28(700), B32(1500), B66(AWS-3)
  • 4G TDD LTE
    B38(2600), B39(1900), B40(2300), B41(2500)


  • ANT+
  • USB Interface
    USB Type-C
  • USB Version
    USB 3.1 Gen 1
  • Location Technology
    GPS, Glonass, Beidou, Galileo
  • Earjack
    3.5mm Stereo
  • MHL
  • Wi-Fi
    802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4G+5GHz, VHT80 MU-MIMO,1024-QAM
  • Wi-Fi Direct
  • Bluetooth Version
    Bluetooth v5.0 (LE up to 2 Mbps)
  • NFC
  • PC Sync.
    Smart Switch (PC version)


  • Android

General Information

  • Color
    Midnight Black, Maple Gold
  • Form Factor
    Touchscreen Bar


  • Accelerometer, Barometer, Fingerprint Sensor, Gyro Sensor, Geomagnetic Sensor, Hall Sensor, HR Sensor, Iris Sensor, RGB Light Sensor, Pressure Sensor, Proximity Sensor

Physical specification

  • Dimension (HxWxD, mm)
    162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6
  • Weight (g)


  • Internet Usage Time(3G) (Hours)
    Up to 12
  • Internet Usage Time(LTE) (Hours)
    Up to 13
  • Internet Usage Time(Wi-Fi) (Hours)
    Up to 14
  • Video Playback Time (Hours)
    Up to 16
  • Standard Battery Capacity (mAh)
  • Removable
  • Audio Playback Time (Hours)
    Up to 47
  • Audio Playback Time (Hours, Always On Display Off)
    Up to 74
  • Talk Time (3G WCDMA) (Hours)
    Up to 22

Audio and Video

  • Video Playing Format
    MP4, M4V, 3GP, 3G2, WMV, ASF, AVI, FLV, MKV, WEBM
  • Video Playing Resolution
    UHD 4K (3840 x 2160)@120fps
  • Audio Playing Format

Services and Applications

  • Gear Support
    Gear Circle (Manager Support), Gear Fit, Gear Fit2, Gear1, Gear2, Gear2 Neo, Gear S, Gear S2, Gear S3, Gear IconX, Gear VR with Controller, Gear 360, Gear 360 (2017)
  • Samsung DeX Support
  • Mobile TV

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