Is the Galaxy S20 zoom as good as the zoom on the Galaxy S20 Ultra?
With all three new Galaxy S20 phones in our hands, it's time for the ultimate zoom comparison that will show you whether getting the S20 Utlra for its super zoom capabilities is actually worth it over just getting the Galaxy S20 or the S20 Plus.
The S20 Ultra impressed us with its Space Zoom camera: it features a folded, periscope lens with a native, 4X optic zoom, but it performs incredibly well at 10X thanks to Samsung's Hybrid Optic zoom technology that combines input from the periscope camera and the main camera. The Ultra can even go as far as 100X zoom, but keep in mind that everything further than 10X appears to be good old digital zoom where you lose in terms of quality and detail.
sports a lens that is very much wide-angle, almost as wide as the lens on the main camera. The "telephoto" lens only provides a 1.06 zoom compared to the regular camera, so all the zooming is actually almost entirely based on software.The Galaxy S20 and the S20 Plus, on the other hand, lack the periscope camera, and they don't even have a telephoto camera at all. The two phones use a 64-megapixel secondary camera. Samsung itself admits that what it calls a "telephoto camera" actually
Is this really that bad when compared to the S20 Ultra? We have shot images at 30X, 10X, 4X and 2X zoom, as well as the regular 1X photo with the main camera. Here are the results:
Starting with the maximum zoom level on the S20 and the S20 Plus, 30X zoom, you can see that just as you'd expect, the cameras on these two phones are basically the same. Where you do see a huge difference is in comparison to the S20 Ultra, which looks much cleaner and which has a lot less noise. This is especially noticeable on that stray piece of hair that looks beautifully sharp and clear on the Ultra.
In this next scene, our own Peter K modeled for this shot and you can see that his face looks clean even at 30X zoom, while the same zoom level on the S20+ and the S20 produces an image that is very noisy, and that doesn't look as good.
Finally, we also zoomed in on some text far away. This is a good moment to mention that all these shots are taken without any tripods or gimbals, we are just holding the phones in our hand and shooting. My hand has obviously trembled a bit on the S20 shot, and you can see that it looks slightly blurrier than the S20 Plus, but both are quite noisy when compared to the Ultra.
So far, at 30X zoom, the Ultra outperforms the other two strongly.
Excuse the misaligned shots for this comparison, but don't excuse the noisy shots from the S20 Plus and the S20. Again, the Galaxy S20 Ultra captures a clean image that looks just great and is extremely impressive.
Peter volunteered to sit it out in the cold and he looks rather unhappy, but I do hope the results were worth it: once again, this image proves that the Ultra is far superior in both the detail and the overall appeal of the image. The difference at 10X is nowhere nearly as pronounced as it was at 30X, but it is still easily noticeable.
Next up, we go to 4X zoom level, the native optic zoom for the S20 Ultra. Your framing would probably be different if you shoot at 4X as you would have a lot more subject in the frame, but for the sake of this comparison we stood still and did not change our position. You can still notice the cleaner photo from the Ultra, which beats the other two handily. The S20 photo is affected by a slight hand tremor, which is a good reminder that you should hold your phone with both your hands as steady as possible when you zoom in.
Look up close in this second scene, and you see tons of noise on the photo from the S20 Plus and the S20, while the S20 Ultra remains crispy clean. The Ultra is truly the most advanced phone when it comes to zooming far and away.
Interestingly, none of the S20 phones have a 2X telephoto camera like the S10 series used to. This means that quality at 2X zoom level is actually worse than on last year's Galaxies. But back to this comparison, there are no huge differences at this zoom level between the phones. The advantages of the Ultra are only apparent after you zoom in at least 4X.
One more shot to prove this, and again we see no major differences between the phones at 2X zoom level.
Finally, this is how this image looks at 1X. Scroll back once again to see it in 30X magnification to appreciate the incredible amount of zoom range all these phones provide. Truly mind-boggling.
This is a good image to also check if there are any major differences in image quality between the 108MP main camera on the S20 Ultra, and the 12MP main camera on the S20 and the S20 Plus. The answer in our opinion is no, not really. It seems that colors and detail all look very comparable, unless you really start pixel peeping.
One more shot to compare the main camera on the S20 Ultra against the main cameras on the S20 Plus and the regular S20. We do notice a bit more dynamics on the S20 Ultra which reveals the blue in the skies, while the other two phones don't quite cope with that task, but apart from that one detail, the images are very similar.
So, we started with a question and that question was whether the zoom on the Galaxy S20 Ultra is vastly better than the zoom on the S20 and the S20 Plus.
In our opinion, the answer is unequivocal: Yes! Images from the Ultra look much cleaner, from 4X to 30X, and if you want to capture that special moment of your kid's first baseball game or a concert, the S20 Ultra is the way to go. The S20 and the S20 Plus can still capture a good looking image, but not quite to that extent and the difference is noticeable.