The Galaxy S20 is here! Samsung’s latest line of flagship phones brings a ton of specs, a ton of features, and hefty price tags too. But, as was made clear by Samsung’s announcement, the key focus is on the camera and that’s something I think is extremely overdue.
To recap what the Galaxy S20 series brings to the table, there are three variants of the device. There’s the base Galaxy S20 which has a bigger, basically identical sibling in the S20+. Instead of an “affordable premium” S20e, though, there’s an ultra-premium Galaxy S20 Ultra. All three devices share a lot in common including Android 10, big displays, long-lasting batteries, and a similar set of features too.
In person, I think the smaller Galaxy S20 is by far the most comfortable to use. It’s basically the perfect size for a phone with its 6.2-inch panel that has hardly any bezels. In my hands, the phone nested itself comfortably and I didn’t have to move around too much to get to the four corners.
The S20+, on the other hand, is a bit bigger at 6.7-inches and not quite as comfortable. I can hold it and use it without much of a fuss. The same applies for the Galaxy S20 Ultra and its 6.9-inch display. The phone feels way better than I expected, but slapping a case on top would quickly make this harder to handle. I think the smaller size of the S20 will be more comfortable for a lot of people, but it’s great there’s choice.
With the S20 series, no model ditches on specs either. Whether it’s the S20, S20+, or Ultra, you’ll get a Snapdragon 865, 12GB of RAM on all 5G versions, and the 120Hz refresh rate on the display. All of those combined make these phones feel very snappy in person without even a hint of lag to be found.
They’re not enabled by default, but Android 10’s gestures also feel great on these phones. The home and back gestures work great on the slim-bezel displays and just feel like a more natural on this sort of form factor.
But, that’s enough of the basics. What about the cameras? Samsung seems to be betting big time on the camera performance of the Galaxy S20 series and the improvements here can’t be discounted. So far, I’ve only been able to use the S20’s camera array in a fairly poorly lit demo area, so I can’t fully speak to what they’re capable of. However, I can talk about what I noticed during my demo.
As far as picture quality goes, the shots taken on the standard S20 and S20+ look sharp from the 12MP sensor. Though, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in the processing department. The S20 Ultra’s 108MP camera didn’t exactly blow me away like that number might have you expect, but that’s almost definitely a result of the lighting conditions.
Samsung also pushed a lot of attention towards its zoom features. Using a combination of high-megapixel sensors, optical zoom telephoto lenses, and software, Samsung is able to produce up to 100x zoom on the S20 series. In my testing, the feature definitely works, but I can’t say the results are pretty. Zooming in the first 10-20x on the S20 Ultra produces some decent photos, but things quickly deteriorate after that. By the time you get to 100x zoom, you’re basically taking a picture of a blob of pixels that somewhat resemble your subject. On the regular S20, those numbers are lower with usable shots ending somewhere around 5-10x.
Right now, I think the final verdict on Samsung’s camera improvements are yet to be decided on, but the foundation is definitely there. I think that’s very much needed as the past few generations of Samsung’s flagship cameras just haven’t been competitive. They’ve taken good pictures, but lag well behind the competition in Google and, more importantly to Samsung, Apple. I, for one, really hope they can pull it off.
The elephant in the room with the entirely Galaxy S20 series, though, is its pricing. The starting price for this lineup is $999, with Samsung’s Galaxy S10 taking over the “mid-range” from $599 and up. At this point, I’m still amazed Samsung chose these huge price tags and, with those in mind, I think this camera overhaul is even more needed.
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