Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra camera review: 108MP and 100X zoom
Overview & sample images
Note: This article was first published on 27 Feb 2020 and is republished today because the phone is now available in retail.
Big camera bump, great camera?
The camera is arguably the most important part of any modern, flagship smartphone, and it is even more important to the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Samsung's latest flagship doesn't break any new ground in terms of design or other features, but its new quad-camera system upgrade housed in gigantic camera bump could possibly be its biggest talking point to set new benchmarks. The size of the bump almost demands that Samsung justify it with a truly excellent camera, and it sure is trying its best to do that with specs that sound really impressive on paper, including a 108MP main camera and 100X Space Zoom.
For a complete lowdown on how the camera system and sensors work, we've addressed it as part of our main phone review here. But here's a quick recap of the camera's specifications:
- 12MP, 120°, f/2.2, 13mm (ultra-wide), 1.4µm
- 108MP, 79°, f/1.8, 26mm (wide-angle), 1/1.33", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS
- 48MP, 24°, f/3.5, 103mm (telephoto), 1/2.0", 0.8µm, PDAF, OIS, 10x hybrid optical zoom
- 0.3MP, f/1.0, time-of-flight 3D, (depth)
- 40MP, 80°, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 0.7µm, PDAF
I'll be comparing the S20 Ultra to other top Android devices in this article, including the Galaxy S10+, Huawei P30 Pro, and Google Pixel 4 XL. To begin, I'll start off with pictures shot with the 108MP main camera in the default 12MP mode before moving on to 108MP pictures, the wide-angle lens, Night mode, and the 100X Space Zoom.
Sample images (Default 12MP mode)
In the shot of the bull below, the S20 Ultra produces the most saturated colours of the lot, even adding a slight blueish hue to the faint grey of the clouds in the background. In comparison, the Pixel 4 XL produced the most lifelike pictures of the lot, but certain sections of the sky were overexposed.
On the other hand, the S20 Ultra has a tendency to crush details in the darker areas of the scene, such as the black underbelly of the statue. However, the larger sensor size on the S20 Ultra and P30 Pro helped them reduce noise in areas like shrubbery at the bottom of the bull. The S10+ and Pixel 4 XL both showed obvious graininess when zooming in, but the S20 Ultra still produced relatively clean images at close crops. This is something you'll notice across the board, and it looks like the nona-binning tech on the 108MP sensor and the resulting larger pixel size is coming in handy.
The Huawei P30 Pro came up with the bluest sky here, but the S20 Ultra wasn't that far behind. However, the emphasis on the sky came at the expense of the greenery on the structures, which appeared rather muted in comparison the how it turned out on the Pixel 4 XL and the S10+. To my eyes, the Pixel 4 XL produced the most balanced picture here, producing a reasonably vibrant sky while exposing the greenery correctly. And as in the previous picture, the S20 Ultra also shows a tendency to omit detail in the shadows.