Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review
Ultra - that's where you end up when you one-up your usual Plus. In other words, Samsung's outdone itself this year and has gone above and beyond its S20+ to give us the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Leading the spring-time roster this year, the Ultra marks a shift compared to the 2019 lineup. Where last year we had the similar in most ways S10 and S10+, and then the S10e positioned below them, this time around there's a model above the mainstream S20 and S20+ - the new moniker makes all the sense then.
And it's ultra alright. Sure, it's got an even bigger display and packs a larger battery with faster charging support than the other S20s, plus you can have it with up to a ridiculous 16GB of RAM, while the non-Ultras top out at a modest 12GB. But that's not it.
It's the camera - likely the most extraordinarily all-out setup we've seen to date. The primary cam uses a sizeable 108MP sensor which combines 9 tiny pixels into one big one with processing designed to make use of the extra data being gathered - Nonacell as Samsung calls it.
Then there's the telephoto shooter - it's got an unmatched combination of a big 48MP imager and a periscope lens offering 4x optical zoom over the main. Samsung has '100X space zoom' branding on the back of the phone and we'll be sure to check by just how much it misses the moon, but in any case it's a spectacularly impressive tele camera on paper.
The ultra wide isn't quite there. While it is a new unit with a big sensor and large pixels, it's still missing a vital part of what makes a truly good camera - autofocus.
Over on the front, there's yet another ultra camera touch - Samsung's fitted a 40MP selfie module to set it apart from the so familiar 10MP units on the regular S20s. It's going to be one lengthy camera section.
Portraits with the Galaxy S20 Ultra are a relatively complex topic. For starters, the go-to mode for taking pictures of people with blurred backgrounds is Live focus. As has been the case on recent Samsung high-end models, on the Ultra you have two different coverage options designated in a familiar tree fashion. On the Note10 and S10, those meant two trees for the main cam and one tree for the telephoto cam, with the other module pitching in for providing depth data.
It's not quite so on the Ultra. In both Live focus magnifications, the phone captures the image with the main camera, while the depth estimation comes from the ToF camera. The zoomed-in view matches a 2x coverage. What that means for purposes practical is that the wide mode a) gets you too close to your subject, generally making the shooting process uncomfortable, and b) captures photos with distorted facial proportions due to the wide-angle lens' perspective.
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