Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra sports an insane 100x camera

Feb 11, 2020

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Each winter, Samsung unveils its latest flagship smartphones at a flashy, demo-packed event. It’s often quite entertaining — surprise special guests, seemingly endless demonstrations and perhaps even some sort of proof-of-concept device, like last year’s $1,980 Galaxy Fold, which was clearly geared toward early adopters. This time around, the company just announced a slew of new Galaxy S20 devices, and I managed to get an up-close look.

While there were several other announcements as well, most customers will likely be interested in the following three smartphones:

  • Galaxy S20: 6.2-inch screen, triple camera, 30x Space Zoom ($1,000)
  • Galaxy S20+: 6.7-inch screen, quad camera, 30x Space Zoom ($1,200)
  • Galaxy S20 Ultra: 6.9-inch screen, quad camera, 100x Space Zoom ($1,400)

I got a look at all three models — they’re lined up for a size comparison just below.

It’s easy to get caught up in all of the specifications — there are a lot to share, from the (almost) bezel-less screens to the 5G connectivity available with all three models — so I’m going to focus on the feature that I’m most excited about as a traveler: the camera(s). You’ll end up with an ultra-wide, wide-angle and telephoto camera at the very least, though the resolution and other capabilities do vary quite a bit.

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Each model has a slightly different lineup. Here’s how they break down:

  • Galaxy S20: 12MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide; 12MP, f/1.8 wide; 64MP, f/2.0 telephoto
  • Galaxy S20+: 12MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide; 12MP, f/1.8 wide; 64MP, f/2.0 telephoto
  • Galaxy S20 Ultra: 12MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide; 108MP, f/1.8 wide; 48MP, f/3.5 telephoto

The latter two offer a special “Depth Vision” camera, which helps with things like live focus, while the feature-packed Ultra model adds a crazy 100x “Space Zoom.” I’ve never used a 100x lens before, and while it does take some getting used to, it could come in handy when you want to, say, snap a tight shot from the nosebleed section at a sporting event, or capture a detailed photo of the Eiffel Tower from your Airbnb balcony across town.

The Ultra offers a 4x optical zoom that also functions as a “lossless” 10x zoom, by utilizing only a portion of the sensor. You’ll be venturing far into digital zoom territory by the time you approach 100x, but the sample shots I managed to capture (but can’t yet share) looked impressively sharp on the device’s 6.9-inch screen.

All three also include an f/2.2 “‘selfie” cam, rated at 10MP for the S20 and S20+, and 40 megapixels for the Ultra, and they can capture video content at a variety of resolutions, all the way up to 8K.

Finally, all three models offer a mode called “Single Take,” which I think could be great for travelers as well.

That option lets you snap a variety of photos and video clips all at once, so you don’t need to switch between different options if you aren’t yet sure what you’re hoping to capture. You can then choose to save select photos or videos, or keep them all.

Pre-orders begin Feb. 21 at 12:01 a.m. ET, with devices shipping beginning on March 6. Certain carriers may offer special pricing — Verizon’s lower-cost Visible subsidiary shared pricing of $984 for the S20 and $1,176 for the S20+, for example — but you can generally expect to pay about $1,000 for the base S20, $1,200 for the S20+ and $1,400 for the base S20 Ultra. Customers may also be eligible for a pre-order credit of up to $200 and a trade-in credit of up to $700.

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