Update: We’ve added more Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra photo samples today, as we continue to review the camera and its mind-blowing 100x telephoto lens. See the updated findings below.
We don’t have to tell you that the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra camera is incredible – the 50 photos we’re including in this camera deep dive speak for themselves.
We tested the S20 Ultra 100x telephoto lens, which Samsung calls ‘Space Zoom’, and have updated this page with photo samples from shooting on a tripod as well as while handheld; most importantly, we put the phone’s photos side-by-side with those shot by top competitors (the likes of Apple, Google, OnePlus).
As you can tell, we’re taking our Galaxy S20 Ultra camera very seriously:
The photo comparison gallery is below, however, if you have specific requests for a comparison or shot scenario, ask us about it on Twitter. We’ll try to update this ongoing S20 Ultra camera review with answers. Yes, we’ll include the S20 and S20 Plus as comparisons when we get those phones in for review, too.
We’re showing the results of the following S20 Ultra camera modes:
- 100x ‘Space Zoom’ telephoto lens with a tripod + rival phone comparisons
- 100x ‘Space Zoom’ at night when shadows creep in
- 108MP photos and 40MP selfies – does it really make a difference?
- Live Focus portrait mode and all of its fun filters
- The upgraded selfie camera and automatic group selfie UI (this is poised to be the best selfie camera we’ve ever tested)
- Ultra-wide photos (and how they compare to normal wide photos)
- Handheld 100x ‘Space Zoom’ telephoto attempts
Now onto the Galaxy S20 Ultra photo comparison gallery below.
So how’s that Galaxy S20 100x ‘Space Zoom’?
What’s it like in ‘Space Zoom’? That’s the No. 1 question we had when we first did our Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra unboxing and fired up the camera. In a few words: impressive, but not always useable at the maximum 100x times zoom level.
Samsung’s folded lens, similar to the Huawei P30 Pro‘s periscope lens, sits sideways inside the smartphone to give it extra room and uses a mirror to turn 90 degrees and take shots out of the back of the phone. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be getting to extreme zoom levels with a thin smartphone.
Using a tripod for this first test, here are the results, starting with 1x (no zoom) and going to 2x, 10x, 30x and 100x, then back down to 0.5x for the ultra-wide.
Edit: We went back and re-did our testing to include both day and night to see what happens when more shadows creep in. The night photos are now on page 2.
S20 Ultra photo gallery
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 12MP main camera – 1x (no zoom)
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 12MP main camera – 2x zoom
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 12MP main camera – 4x zoom
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 12MP main camera – 10x zoom
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 12MP main camera – 30x zoom
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 12MP main camera – 100x zoom (max zoom)
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 12MP ultra-wide camera – 0.5x zoom
The S20 Ultra camera at 100x isn’t something you’d post to Instagram – it’s almost a stylized hand-drawn version of what New York City’s Grand Central Terminal clock looks like. But this is close to what 10x digital zoom looks like on Samsung’s competitors.
Essentially, Samsung’s camera is making 10x optical hybrid zoom fairly useable when that’s the maximum digital zoom on many of its rivals (and its own previous cameras). Even 4x and 30x (which are preset zoom levels on the camera UI) are usable in the right scenarios (read: good lighting conditions and with a steady hand or tripod), while the 100x zoom feels like a neat tech demo and similar to the quality of 10x digital zoom on other phones cameras.
Besides the S20 Ultra, here’s what we’ve included
Looking at the Galaxy S20 Ultra camera’s photos is helpful, but examining them alone isn’t good enough for our testing. So we’ve included several of Samsung’s rivals and two of last year’s Samsung phones in many of the scenarios.
Here’s what we’ve included and why:
- Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra: because… otherwise this is pointless, right?
- iPhone 11 Pro Max: the S20 Ultra’s chief competitor from Apple
- Google Pixel 4: one of the best camera phones in our book
- Samsung Galaxy S10: how much has the S20 Ultra improved things?
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10: some people are deciding between the S20 Ultra and Note 10 (and have emailed us, so this is for you)
- OnePlus 7 Pro: a flagship at a mid-range price, now 1/3 cheaper vs S20 Ultra
- Google Pixel 3a: a phone that’s $1,000 cheaper than the S20 Ultra