Galaxy S20 Ultra's high-octane camera has the wow factor
The Galaxy S20 Ultra is Samsung's most advanced phone to date.
But the biggest thing you need to know about is the camera, which is literally huge.
Let me back up and set the stage for a minute.
The Galaxy S20 Ultra here is the biggest, most expensive, and most feature packed of all three new S20 phones.
You've got the standard S20, you've got the S20 Plus.
The biggest differences between all those phones is gonna be the price tag Size of the screen, size of the battery, and the camera is on the back.
Samsung has redesigned the cameras on all three S20 phones, but the S20 Ultra is the only one that has 100X Zoom, Samsung calls it Space Zoom.
AND It 108 megapixel main camera.
There's also a 40 megapixel camera on the front, which is different than the other two phones.
All the rest of the core specs are going to be pretty much the same including Android 10 with Samsung's one UI version two You also gonna have a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor, 5G on all phones although on the S20 it's a little bit different in the States.
They all shoot 8k video and they have an optional 120 hertz screen refresh rate.
Which basically makes everything a lot smoother, like gameplay and animations and scrolling.
We're going to talk about all that later.
But right now I want to get back to the most important part which is the camera.
All you have to do is look at the back of this phone to see that Samsung means business.
Now the main camera can take 108 megapixel photos which is absolutely enormous, but Samsung is using something called pixel bidding, which basically combines nine pixels into one pixel.
So if you take a picture and the default automatic mode you're actually going to get a 12 megapixel camera.
If you do want to take 108 megapixel photo and from now on let's just call it went away because it's easier to say.
If you wanna take one of those who have to go into the actual Camera Settings and select it?
Why do you wanna take photos this big anyway?
The idea is that you go you take your picture and then when you crop into it, so just perfect the shot.
Get a lot more detailed than you would if you just take a normal photo.
So, I tested this out again and again.
I've taken over a hundred photos, and I found something really interesting.
I thought that when I would take this one away photo, I could get really close like the grain of my jeans or robe or like right in the middle of a flower and get like extraordinary detail.
But I found it's a lot better if you don't try to use it as a macro lens.
The sweet spot seems to be taking a photo either in the mid distance or a little bit further out and then cropping into it later.
So it's not something you're going to use every single day for everything that you shoot.
I actually got some really incredible photos shooting in 108 things that I didn't expect For example, I leaned out the side of a taxi window shot this picture of sort of like the statue in San Francisco, and then I wound up cropping all the way into it like really really far.
And I thought it was so beautiful, I wound up using it as my wallpaper, and I love it.
I can't stop staring at it, I'm so proud of myself.
I don't want to get attacked with poop that's close enough for me.
Now let's talk about the other hundred, which was, of course 100 x zoom.
Now Samsung is one of the few companies along with Google and Huawei that's using such extreme zoom on its telephoto lens.
Now the purpose of this isn't necessarily to get an amazing shot from half a mile away and then.
Frame it, it's to get a shot that you wouldn't ordinarily be able to get.
I always think about it as closing a physical distance.
You can't get out into the middle of the ocean, just shoot the cool birds on the rocks.
If you're all the way down on the ground, you can't get all the way up to the top of the building to shoot the statue that's up there or a flag flying or whatever cool thing it is.
When I first started using 100 zoom, I was pretty disappointed with it.
I was really confused like was Samsung just showing off what was the point of it?
Because I don't think that the quality is that good.
Because at that distance, even if I'm holding the phone.
And perfectly still even with a tripod, but then I spent a couple days shooting around in places I really like and I found that I was happy to have those shots even if the quality was questionable.
I think that most of the time you're going to get better photos if you're using for zoom.
10 I zoom, even 30 zoom.
But if your friend is paddleboarding in the middle of the ocean, and you're able to grab that shot and send it to them, you're going to be happier that you have it rather than not having it.
And the last couple days, I've taken an uncomfortable number of selfies, and I think that the quality is really good and I really like that there is an ultra wide angle lens option.
It just makes it a little bit more natural when I've got a buddy in the shot or I'm trying to get more of my scene.
There is one particular shooting mode that I need to call out.
It's called single take.
This is basically a mode where you press and hold on the shutter button for like 10 seconds and it takes a series of photos, up to 10 photos and up to four videos of whatever's happening.
So the idea is that you press one button and you get all of these great photos.
I was not convinced at first, because I think that the composition of a lot of these photos is less precise than what I would actually want when I'm taking a photo plus you have to be premeditated about using single take.
So you've got to switch over to that mode and then prepare and then take Take her shot, but what I realized is that it's actually pretty useful if you've got one opportunity to capture the moment, capture something cool.
All right, I'm ready.
For example, I ordered this fancy drink at the bar.
I knew it was going to create a lot of smoke, a lot of drama, didn't wanna miss my moment.
I used single take and I got photos and videos I actually like and I actually wanna share.
So single take like a 100x zoom and 108 Is not a feature that I think I'm going to use every day but knowing it's in my arsenal I will at least reach for it when the time is right.
I can say the exact same thing for 8k video.
That is a feature that is on all of the Galaxy S20 phones and I used it.
I was really excited at first because like wow AK videos super high resolution.
But I think that there are a few problems with it.
So first of all, it shoots at a lower frame rate at 24 frames per second.
Usually video is pretty good at 30 or at 60.
So that's not so great.
But one thing that's kind of nice is that you can zoom in when you're editing the video.
It's very easy to trend.
Now another problem with AK video is, great, you're creating it, but what are you gonna do with it now?
Online platforms don't really support it yet they're starting out.
AK TVs are expensive and there just aren't that many of them.
So you're creating this content for what.
And most of the time you're gonna have to drop the resolution down to share it anyway.
So for example, I was at the aquarium shooting these amazing creatures, and if I wanted to share the video on Twitter, I'd have to drop it down all the way to 1080p, but at the end of the day, the usefulness [UNKNOWN] AK on a phone like this is going to be cropping in and retaining that detail.
So camera quality overall really really good.
This is an excellent camera.
We're gonna wrap it all up at the end but let me tell you about a few more important features first.
We also have to talk about battery life because that's a really important part of this phone.
It is the largest battery of all the Galaxy S20 devices and actually larger than most phone batteries out there.
5000 milliamp hours and that's supposed to take you from early morning to the wee hours.
And it did for me with one caveat and that's refresh rate.
So when you take the phone out of the box, it's got a default screen refresh rate of 60 hertz, but you can also go into the settings and change that 220 hertz and that makes everything so much smoother scrolling.
And it's really beautiful but in my experience and has sucked down the battery.
So, my advice to you is if you wanna retain that really great battery life, just turn it on when you need it like for playing games, and then turn it off again.
I wanna talk for a little bit about what it's like to actually use this stuff.
Device, it has this big beautiful 6.9 inch screen and that's of course really great for viewing.
It was just really enjoyable.
It's really easy to read articles, to look at pictures, to edit them, and that's a real joy.
I don't love holding the phone and I don't love using it.
It is really heavy.
It is 7.7 ounces.
It feels like a brick But it also just feels thick and heavy in my hands.
I also have to admit I'm disappointed about the colours.
There are only two colours for the US 20 Ultra, you've got this cosmic grey, which I think looks just really muddy and kind of like putty.
It's just not very appealing or attractive.
We also have black.
I would get the black but I would also get a case for it because in addition to covering up what ever color there is.
It's also going to make the camera module flash with the rest of the case.
So its going to protect that area.
Performance nice and snappy on here with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor You also have two storage options, 128 gigabytes and there is a 512 gigabyte version for $1600.
There is micro sd storage up to 1 terabyte so basically go out buy a storage card, and you will have more room for all those 8k videos and all of those 108 photos.
Now headphone jack on here, of course USB C charging.
Wireless power share and wireless charging.
There's also a 25 watt fast charger that comes in the box.
I charge up this whole thing from zero to full in about an hour.
Think about the Galaxy S20 Ultra has amazing capabilities that are at the top of the class.
Yes, Samsung is positioning the ultra for creators for photographers and for people who want a really big battery and a really big beautiful screen.
I do think that with this device Samsung is pushing the envelope and it's trying to create some space between it and the iPhone.
Do you think that ordinary people should get this phone over maybe the Galaxy S20 or even another device that's out there?
No, I don't.
I think this is really specialised.
Get it if you want to, but if you're just looking for a very good phone to take you down Day to day.
I think you're probably going to want to wait for the S20.
Thanks for watching.
Let me know in the comments what you think about the photo quality on the S20 Ultra.
Don't forget to subscribe and make sure you check out my full review on cnet.com
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