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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Review: Oh yes, it’s ALL about the camera

The Galaxy S20 Ultra is the big brother in a set of three siblings announced last month by Samsung. The Galaxy S20, the larger S20+ and the largest of them all – the S20 Ultra.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been using the Galaxy S20 Ultra and boy is it a beast.

Frankly, I don’t know that it’s worth bothering to run through the features of this device other than the camera.

It’s got an enormous 6.9 inch screen, but thanks to an epic screen to body ratio and that punch-hole front-facing camera, the device itself isn’t all that much bigger than Apple’s biggest iPhone, the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

Here they are side-by-side:

And as you can see, you get a lot more screen from the Samsung:

The 5,000mAh battery keeps that screen shining, but it also ensures an easy all-day battery life. Probably nearly two days for many, but let’s be honest – you’re charging your phone at night, so the biggest of days is going to be fine.

Despite my preference for a smaller phone, I didn’t feel overly uncomfortable with the S20 Ultra, though there are very few times a single-handed usage is possible unless you’ve perfected some next-level balance and thumb reach technique.

Frankly, this phone is all about the camera. It has a great screen, great battery life, it’s fast, it makes and takes calls – let’s be honest – you just want to know how the camera performs.

SPACE ZOOM

Why do they call it Space Zoom? Here’s why:

Now here’s the honest truth about these photos. I waited a week for the moon to be in the cycle that showed as much of it as I’ve captured. I had a tripod at the ready.

Anyone who knows how zoom works knows that every bump and bounce makes lining up the zoomed image hard. So I thought – hey, use a tripod.

Worked, but let me tell you, the above photo was taken hand-held.

In fact, I think I got better results hand-held – go figure.

The camera on the S20 Ultra has up to 10 times Optical Zoom. What that means is, the glass and lenses in the camera can magnify to that 10x zoom without any computer processing of the image.

Samsung’s 30 and 100 times zoom aren’t optical – they are the phones best attempt to produce a clear picture at that level of zoom.

Personally, I’m blown away by it.

Here’s all the zoom levels (except ultra-wide):

Now I bet you always wondered what the top of the Channel 9 transmission tower in Sydney looked like. Nope, neither did I – but hey, holy crap that’s amazing right?

As with many of the pics, be it the moon or these ones, plenty of people say to me “I can do better on my camera” – yes, if you have a DSLR with Zoom – it’s going to be great.

But this is a SMARTPHONE. And for those who say it’s just a digital zoom of the 10x – yeah, for the most part it is – but it’s also using some processing to ensure it’s the best you might hope for – and, it saves you cropping it out:)

Plus, good luck getting your iPhone to produce anything quite like those pictures above. I’ll wait.


Moving on. The reality is, the 100x zoom is a gimmick, despite my defense of it at every turn. I mean, when do you need it? It didn’t help me at Baseball – my daughter is all blurry!

But that 10x zoom – boy oh boy, that’s handy! You’re at kids sport – here’s Harri’s good mate Lachie in the outfield ready to catch. But I can’t get a great shot.

Can with that 10x – and that’s Optical, so it’s a cracking photo.

10x is enough to write home about Samsung, but I get why you’re pushing the 100x – it’s impressive.

Apple’s other advantage of late has been night mode, and I think it’s safe to say Samsung has stepped up to match them there too.

While the lenses and the hybrid zoom are the headline, Samsung’s improvements to the Camera software adding things like Single Take – which allows you to capture a moment and get multiple outputs including photos, videos, and boomerangs, is the real star of the show here.

These are the things that will actually come handy at the kids’ birthday party, or when they celebrate that Grand Final win.

All-in all Samsung has taken a leap ahead here, this is not an incremental upgrade from the S10, it’s a leap forward in all areas.

My only concern really is the size of that camera bump – it’s the thickness of a 20cm coin – it’s big.

Really makes the phone lay not quite flat – like a wedge:

But with the enclosed plastic case, you forget about it, and I’d like to think you’re going to put it in some sort of case!

With their A series phone covering the $1000 and less category, the S series starting at the S20 is a real winner for Samsung, it’s their bread and butter, and if they could convince enough of you to choose the Ultra of the three – then they’d be laughing all the way to the bank.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is the best smartphone on the market today, no doubt. With the delays other companies are facing, and the concerns around global supply lines – this phone could dominate for some time and rightly so.

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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Review: Oh yes, it’s ALL about the camera
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