Even so, the S20, S20+ and S20 Ultra clearly show growth over the S10 family. Both in features and capabilities, as well as literally – in size.
Meet Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra. With revolutionary 8K Video Snap changing how you capture not just video, but photography — and 5G changing the way you share it.1 Add in Samsung Knox security, an intelligent battery, powerful processor, and massive storage — and the Galaxy S20 series unveils a whole new world for mobile.
Three phones designed around a revolutionary camera experience?
Predictable, yet still pretty impressive. We take a first look at Samsung’s new mainstream flagship offers.
Another year, another Galaxy S lineup. You all definitely know the drill by now – these are the best phones Samsung has made to date. Kind of by definition, since innovation is the name of the game. And the game never really stops or takes a break. As DJ Koh, now ex-head of Samsung’s mobile division, put it himself at a Galaxy Note unveiling from a while ago – it is obviously getting increasingly hard to push the smartphone envelope consistently, year upon year.
Luckily, there is plenty to love about both the Galaxy S20 and the S20+. Potentially, even more so, when it comes to the top-dog S20 Ultra, since it appears to pack most of Samsung’s more radical steps and innovations for 2020.
Even so, the S20 and S20+ clearly show growth over the S10 family. Both in features and capabilities, as well as literally – in size. The new Galaxy S lineup is bigger and heavier, raising a few interesting cross-generational heritage questions. Throw in Samsung’s new naming convention, where the “S20e”, is nowhere to be found and confusion really starts to set in.
On the back of the S20 and S20+, the new camera module design is kind of hard to ignore. Well, “new” is a bit of an exaggeration, actually, since we have already seen something similar on the Galaxy A71and A51. And with the relatively fresh announcement of the Galaxy S10 Lite, we can’t even say that the new spacious camera hump is entirely novel for the Galaxy S family either.
The one on the S20 is quite tall, compared to the other Samsung phones we just referenced. We can’t really complain, though, since it kind of fits well with what is a pretty tall phone altogether. Plus, the vanilla S20 definitely has the least, “camera hump dysmorphia” of the three phones. For what it is worth, on the regular S20, at least, the hump doesn’t bother us much visually. The lack of any text on it should also be noted, since, looking at the S20 Ultra, apparently it is not a given. It still contributes to a noticeable wobble when when the phone is placed on its back. A case is definitely the way around that, if it bothers you.
At a high level, what the table above means is that Samsung is making a big bet on high megapixel counts. If you take a look at the S20 Plus and Ultra, you’ll see sensors of 48, 64, and 108 megapixels. All of these cameras will default to taking 12-megapixel photos by default, though you can go up to the full count if you like.
On to the cameras residing on this module. Starting off with the 12MP, f/2.2 ultrawide, things look deceptively straight-forward. The S10 lineup had 12MP main cameras and the S20 and S20 have those two. But the camera systems are not identical. As far as we managed to gather – the cameras on the new phones no longer have the variable dual aperture and have a larger pixel size which should translate into a bigger sensor (while still being 12MP).
Now the main 12MP camera on the S20 and S20+ is fixed at an f/1.8 value, which is a nice middle ground inside the old f/1.5 – f/2.4 range. On the flip side, the Samsung S20 product manager promised us more advanced image stacking processing.
It is definitely a fact that recent advancements in computational photography have really pushed mobile photography to new heights, arguably more rapidly than advanced hardware solutions. Perhaps Samsung deemed its old dual aperture system too complex or no longer necessary, instead electing to cover ground with clever algorithms? We really can’t say before we get to do a full review on the S20 line.
Last, but not least, there is the 64MP telephoto. Decently equipped, with an f/2.0 lens in front and OIS. It will be getting plenty of attention in S20 PR campaigns thanks to the new Hyper Optic Zoom and Super Resolution Zoom features, cumulatively named Space Zoom. On the S20 and S20+, which share most of their camera setup, these two features offer 3x and 30x hybrid optical zoom, respectively.
After trying out the new zoom for ourselves, some questions did arise, especially ones regarding these numbers. From what we managed to gather at the event, as well as some deduction based on specs sheets, this 64MP is likely not a true telephoto unit. Instead, what Samsung seems to be doing to get those 3x and 30x zoom figures is based on cropping. Plus, a bit of difference in the field of view between the main 12MP camera and this 64MP one, which helps to deliver the technically “optical” bit in the company’s advertised Hybrid Optic Zoom. This setup is yet to be entirely confirmed, though. Plus, we aren’t quite sure of any potential implications quite yet. But this is definitely another aspect of the new Galaxy flagship camera we intend to investigate thoroughly in the full review.
Oh, quick note about the S20+ and this one is actually quite easy to forget – it actually has one extra camera, on top of the trio found on the S20. It is a DepthVision module, with no quoted resolution, clearly aimed at providing bokeh and portrait assistance. Kind of an oddly small and insignificant thing to leave out of the vanilla model. Then again, at the end of the day, it is all the PR team needs to write “quad” and “triple” camera setup on the respective promotional material. So, this might just be the least annoying way to create market segmentation? We’ll take it.
Just like its Ultra bigger brother, the S20 and S20+ can also capture 8K video. This definitely makes sense from a performance standpoint, seeing how all three share the same chipset and ISP. However, in the absence of Samsung’s new 108MP sensor, the vanilla and plus models are only left with one option for their 8K capture – the 64MP telephoto camera. There is plenty of testing to be done on this end as well, come the full review.
For the S20 Ultra, Samsung went all out and included a “folded” zoom lens, which means that the hole on the back of the phone actually hits a prism that redirects light across the phone to the sensor. It’s the same basic concept Huawei used in the P30 to achieve its zoom last year. That gets the S20 Ultra to 4x zoom. Then Samsung says it can do “lossless hybrid optic” zoom up to 10x though some combination of binning (combining multiple pixels into one big pixel) and sensor cropping. After that, it’s digital zoom up to 100x using similar methods.
In terms of new camera features, the S20 series do make a few promises for us to properly validate in the full review. Super Steady video mode, for one, should be improved. Then there is Night Hyperlapse – a new video mode that, like the name suggests, can produce clips with awesome light trails. AI Best Moment also sounds nice on paper. It is also pretty aptly named and is basically an algorithm that tries its best to snap and sort out the best moments it can, complete with as many smiles and non-blurry faces. It also takes into account things like colors and contrast in photos. It can even auto-apply filters for the best possible look. It mostly worked during our brief hands-on test.
The selfie camera has a nifty new trick that should combat most of the backlash Samsung initially received from some of its more perceptive users when in decided to disable the wide mode on its selfies by default. Now, if the phone detects more people outside of its default cropped frame, it will automatically toggle wide mode, thanks to Smart selfie angle.
Single Take, however, sounds like the single most interesting new camera software trick. Not unlike a certain app that has been gaining popularity on Apple’s latest iPhones, Single Take captures videos and photos from all back cameras simultaneously. When you start recording, it takes anywhere from 2 videos as a minimum up to a maximum of 10 photos and 4 videos. Capture time is capped at 10s for a single take. The idea here, beyond simply showing off phone hardware prowess, is to then offer all of the angles and media to the user in a convenient interface for a more “interactive” picture of the moment. The best shots are picked based on moving subjects detection, face detection, perceivable sharpness and blurriness and so forth.