The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G is officially launched in Singapore from 6 March 2020, and before that, there has been ample coverage by influencers, professional reviewers, media outlets. As a contributing editor of NXT Singapore, I have access to the unit for about a week, so I’ll just share my opinions on the smartphone. The views are mine and does not represent any publication nor is it sponsored.
Is it Better than Galaxy S10 Series?
Of course it’s better! The processor is faster (AnTutu: 500,132), the display refreshes at 120Hz, the battery is bigger at 5000 mAh, the Infinity-O punch-hole camera is a lot smaller, there are cool new features like “Single Take”, 8K video recording, and the “Space Zoom” camera system. I also prefer the flatter display – no more annoying curved edges, yay! Also, no more separate Bixby button.
What I’d miss would be the 3.5mm headphone jack.
How Good Is the 108MP Shot?
To shoot in 108MP, you need steady hands and hold on to the shot a little longer while the camera fills 108 million sensors. If you take a hurried shot or if there are subject movements, the image will show subject blur when you crop.
If you want to recrop only after the shot is taken, my advise is to zoom and frame from the start instead of relying on post-cropping. Based on my test, cropping the 108MP delivers poorer quality.
Even the S10 is better when using the maximum 8X digital zoom. Take a look:
So, you should only use the 108MP mode if you have a special moment to capture that you require high pixel count. And you should not shoot it in a hurry.
Can it really capture clearly at 100X Zoom?
Yes, the camera can indeed digitally zoom and capture at 100-times magnification, and the outcome depends on how far and how small the image is. Here are some images for your assessment.
Capturing Block Number
Capturing Vehicle Number Plate
Capturing Shop Merchandise
Capturing Bird in a Canal (not at maximum zoom)
So what do you think? It is pretty amazing how much you can zoom in, but the clarity depends on the subject. For zooms of up to 30-times, the quality is good enough for 4R prints and social media postings.
Which begs the next question: can it be used for voyeuristic purposes, like, seeing what people are doing in their apartment? Check this sample.
What happens in night time? Here is what I managed.
The effectiveness of the zoom really depends on the lighting conditions and the movement of the subjects. The camera operator must also have very steady hands or with tripod to take distant images effectively. But in summary, yes the Space Zoom can really get close to anything that you want, if you want, given good lighting. I just felt the processing is too excessive at 100x zoom, resulting in a watercolour effect.
S20 Video Tip: in video mode, you can only record up to 20x zoom. To record video at 100x zoom, frame it in photo mode, then press-hold the shutter to record in video.
Is it better than Huawei P30 Pro?
The P30 Pro can zoom up to 50-times, while the S20 Ultra can go up to 100-times, but let’s just compare at 50-times zoom.
The S20 Ultra is very aggressive in the processing to bring out more contrast and sharpness. I suppose with further tweaks to the algorithm, Huawei could match the Samsung.
In case you are wondering, this is a zoom of the following photo:
Should You Upgrade from Galaxy S10?
The upgrade will be meaningful only if you find yourself wanting to shoot at zoom ranges beyond 8x. See the above sample comparison of the S10, it still looks good. All the other features are not so life-transforming, so I don’t think it’s worth it. And the S20’s 8K video mode only captures at 24fps, which is pretty slow and will not get smooth panning results compared to the 4K 60fps mode, which is also available on the S10.
When Huawei launched the P30 Pro, it created a stir in the industry that a smartphone can achieve a shooting range of 50x zoom. When the Mate 30 Pro was announced, Huawei seemed to take a step back and limited to 30x zoom. This, coupled with the Google Play restriction, put a damper on Huawei’s technological influence on the global smartphone market. This gave Samsung time to catch up and launch their version of hybrid zoom, and giving even greater zoom and clarity.
Since the launch of P30 Pro almost a year ago, I have never really used the super-zoom feature, because, why would anyone want to shoot at such close proximity? It is not easy to frame and shoot moving subjects, and I ended up getting blur and poorly-framed images. I only took photos just to prove its capability to curious peers, for instance, shoot the moon, or the window of a distant building.
And I would say the same for the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Yes, it is an amazing capability that any new owners would no-doubt play around this feature for a few days. Until he would realise that the quality is not good enough for any archival purpose.
At the retail price of S$1,898, it is a huge price to pay for a camera system that you would end up not using as much as the usual wide-angle or short-range zoom, which the S20+ and S20 would comfortably support (up to 30x).