Samsung’s S20 Ultra: Hands on review

 

Anyone who buys Samsung's newest top model phone will be buying it for its camera.

It's not just the boldest Samsung phone camera to date, it's the boldest in the market.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra packs in an image sensor three times bigger than those that came before it - big enough fit 108 megapixels into a single image.

And, while most photographers will tell you that more pixels do not always mean better images, they certainly don't hurt.

In the shots we were able to capture with this beast of a phone, the added detail was obvious.

With a 108-megapixel image, you can crop it, crop it again, and crop it once more and still have an Instagram-worthy image.

The top model Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra will capture 108-megapixel images and can magnify objects by up to 100 times. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson/News Corp Australia
The top model Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra will capture 108-megapixel images and can magnify objects by up to 100 times. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson/News Corp Australia

Take a photo of a building, for example, and you can zoom into the shot to see detail in the paintwork, imperfections in the bricks, or to capture patterns you didn't notice with your naked eye.

Compared with photos taken at a 12-megapixel resolution, you can see where the extra pixels help.

But the upgrades to the Galaxy S20 Ultra don't stop at more pixels.

The black rectangle on its back houses three cameras to cover ultra wide, wide and telephoto perspectives, but there's also an extra lens below it with an optical zoom.

When combined with software, that extra lens can magnify objects up to 100 times.

This feature is unlikely to be one you'd use every day but could be very useful if you're trying to read a faraway sign or spot Keanu Reeves in a mob.

The third big photographic enhancement to Samsung's new range is Single Take, and it's a mode available across the entire S20 line-up.

After employing it, users record 10 seconds of video and watch as it's transformed into a series of still images, images with filters, Boomerang-style animations, and shorter video clips.

The idea is that you can use Single Take in moments when you want to capture a scene from all angles, like a kid blowing out birthday candles or an embarrassing dance, for example.

It's a simple idea and one that perhaps builds on the idea of Apple's Live Photos, but it's well executed and likely to be popular.

Samsung will release three models in its Galaxy S20 range, including the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson/News Corp Australia
Samsung will release three models in its Galaxy S20 range, including the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra. Picture: Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson/News Corp Australia

Other enhancements in the Galaxy S20 Ultra include a 6.9-inch screen (making it slightly bigger than the Note 10), 8K video capture, a 40-megapixel selfie camera, up to 16GB RAM and 512GB storage, and a big battery boost - this model features 5000mAh of power.

The Ultra will also only be available as a 5G phone and, surprisingly, undercuts the price of Apple's top model smartphone by $250.

But, of course, there are limitations to this new camera system.

The file size of photos taken with the 108-megapixel camera are naturally larger than a typical image, with some as big as 30 megabytes rather than 3MB, and they'll require more storage space.

At full resolution, this camera will also only deliver a 6x zoom, and images snapped at the full 100x magnification are not terribly sharp. They're clear enough to get an idea of what you were looking at but nowhere near crisp enough to share.

Given its inclusions, this smartphone is also heavier than previous models and, at 220g, even weighs more than the Note 10. That weight is well distributed, however.

Ultimately, the decision about whether to buy this phone will depend on how seriously consumers take their phone photography. Those who snap on the run, and demand a lot from those images, are likely to find greater resolution to buy here.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, $1999-$2249, due March 6

 

Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson travelled to San Francisco as a guest of Samsung.



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