Samsung finally took the wraps off its latest flagship phones, the Galaxy S20, S20 Plus and the S20 Ultra. The Ultra is the hero of the bunch, with boosted specs and features that are not on the others. Its cameras, in particular, contain some of the biggest upgrades and it's not being subtle about any of it -- the Ultra's square camera bump is completely immense. And, weird though it could look, it does have some cool tricks up its sleeve.
Much like its predecessor, there are three main cameras on the Galaxy S20 Ultra, a standard zoom lens, an ultra wide-angle lens, and a telephoto zoom lens. It's that last zoom lens that is seriously beefed up here. It sits at the bottom of the camera module next to the written text "space zoom."
When you look closely, the lens looks weird since it has new optics that provide it a huge amount of zoom. With those optics and its own 48-megapixel resolution, it could zoom in up to 100x. That's an absolutely astonishing level of zoom that, so far as I'm concerned, makes this phone the lovechild of a Galaxy S10 and the Hubble telescope.
I could zoom in on a bottle all the way across the room and may just about browse the label -- pretty impressive considering that with my naked eye, I couldn't even see there was a bottle in the first place. But don't expect pin-sharp clarity; while I could somewhat find out the bottle's logo, there was plenty of image noise and other artifacts. This meant the image wouldn't conclude printed and framed on a gallery wall. At 30x zoom, the product quality looked better.
Remember that I was handling an early sample unit though and I was testing the zoom in a dim corner of our demo area. I'm keen to see how the zoom performs once Samsung's optimized it a little more and I'm using it outdoors in daylight.
The 100x zoom is a feature reserved only for the S20 Ultra. Unless you feel the need to get up close on distant details then your regular S20 or S20 Plus could be your better options.
The main camera sensor comes with an astonishing 108-megapixel resolution, but it's not merely for needlessly-detailed images. It could incorporate nine pixels into one single pixel that, according to Samsung, captures a lot more light. The effect is a 12-megapixel image that even in dark conditions should turn out well-exposed.
It's important to remember that we haven't been able to place this to the test yet. Night-time shooting skills have already been a focus of varied recent phones, and handsets like the iPhone 11 and Pixel 4 take amazing shots in really dark scenarios. With these new Galaxy specs, it's going to be interesting to observe how Samsung's new technology can compete.
If you are not into this pixel combining feature, you can always get into Settings and shoot at the entire 108 megapixels if you want bigger, more descriptive images. Having extra resolution offers you more scope for cropping in to the image down the road, although precisely how well these high-resolution images can look from a tiny phone camera sensor remains to be seen until we put this thing through its paces.
Single Capture is a new mode that shoots a 10-seconds video and presents you with a complete variety of photographs and smaller videos, all shot with different zoom levels plus some with different effects like black and white already applied.
The idea is that you shoot just a little scene before you -- say, someone blowing out candles on a cake -- and rather than having to decide beforehand to simply take one image, Single Capture requires a whole bunch of different shots for you to pick from all at one go.
You can then choose the shots you intend to save because they are, or use the software to automatically incorporate them right into a little highlight reel you can quickly share with friends and family or family.
I wouldn't say that is a killer feature, but it's pretty fun and I can see it appealing to persons with young families who would like to quickly share the fun things their kids have already been doing and never have to fuss around with the several camera settings.