Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Note 10+ vs S20 Ultra vs iPhone 11 Pro Max: camera comparison

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra vs Note 10+ vs S20 Ultra vs iPhone 11 Pro Max: camera comparison
There's a new kid on the block and its name is Galaxy Note 20 Ultra. Although slightly cheaper than the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the Note 20 Ultra takes the reins as Samsung's top flagship phone. But it still needs to prove its prowess.

Camera performance has become one of the most important benchmarks of modern smartphones. From phones that cost upwards of $1,000, we expect nothing but top-notch image quality. And although at that level differences have become almost negligible, we'll do our best to find out if the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is worth calling the king of smartphones.



To do that, we've pitted it against some of its fiercest competitors: the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the Galaxy Note 10+ and the iPhone 11 Pro Max. Don't worry, the Note 20 Ultra will be part of many camera comparisons to come, so you'll be able to see how it fairs against other Android flagships as well.

We know you're eager to find out which phone is the winner, so we've put the final scores below, with some explanations after that. Of course, you can also see all the samples and compare them for yourself.

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Final average score:

  • Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 8.7
  • Galaxy S20 Ultra — 8.6
  • Galaxy Note 10+ — 8.3
  • iPhone 11 Pro Max — 8.1

It seems that Samsung manged to improve its camera performance over the few months that separated the release of the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Note 20 Ultra. Even if it's not by much, it was enough to give the newest member of the Galaxy family the top spot in this comparison. Its photos are consistently good no matter the situation you'll be proud to show them off at any given opportunity.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra more or less defends its $1,400 price tag and could have performed even better if we had photos with higher zoom levels, but that wouldn't be fair to the rest of the devices. If you care more about zoom than you do about the S Pen then by all means, go for the S20 Ultra.

The Galaxy Note 10+ might be a year old but shows once again, it's still a relevant phone with a capable camera. It took a hit during the zoom round but dished it out a couple of times as well. If you're rocking it as a daily driver or can get it with a hefty discount, there's no reason to look towards the more expensive Galaxy phones.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max came last but with 0.6 points separating the first and the last place, it's not like it took a beating. As you'll see below, most of the time the differences are almost negligible. Apart from the zoom scene where the 2X camera just couldn't keep up. It's still one of the best cameras around and we should keep in mind that the iPhone 11 Pro Max starts at $1,100, while the Note 20 Ultra starts at $1,300 and the S20 Ultra at $1,400. Not a small difference.



Scene 1: Lake at the park



The three pictures from the Galaxy phones look pretty much identical. You get a good amount of details in the leaves and water, the colors are natural and true to life. They're as good as you'd expect. 

The iPhone photo has a slight hint of the usual extra warmness, or yellow tint as some call it, that's typical for all iPhones and we assume a deliberate effect Apple has integrated in its cameras. Some like it, others don't, so it's largely a taste thing. One way the iPhone picture is objectively worse though is the sky. The Samsung photos all have a light blue sky, while on the iPhone it just looks white with barely any hints of blue.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 9
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 9
Galaxy Note 10+ — 9
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 8

Scene 2: Fun Park



Here things get tricky. Surprisingly, the Note 10+ picture is the one that stands out as slightly better. The area with the cartoon characters is much brighter but still well exposed and even in the background, there's a ton of detail among the leaves to the right of the word "Family" for example. The Note 20 Ultra comes second, followed closely but the S20 Ultra. Both photos are very similar with the S20 Ultra's being slightly darker, which puts it behind the Note. 

The iPhone again lacks color in the sky and the trees behind the pavilion are dark and lack detail. Still, if you don't have other photos to compare, all four shots are decent and would satisfy 99% of the people.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 8.5
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 8
Galaxy Note 10+ — 9
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 7.5

Scene 3: The Sea Casino



At first glance, you'd be hard-pressed to find differences between the four pictures. It's surprising to see that even the iPhone's yellow hue is barely noticeable in this scene. On a closer inspection, there are some slight differences. The Note 20 Ultra and the S20 Ultra have captured more details on the stone wall next to the staircase. Yes, we're starting to get picky, but at this level we're pretty much forced to. All four phones are doing such a good job that if we have to put one ahead, we must be extra rigorous.

The Note 10 Plus and the iPhone 11 Pro Max exchange blows, the Note having darker bushes and brighter trees, while the iPhone went for the opposite, so we're putting them on the same level for this one.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 9
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 9
Galaxy Note 10+ — 8.5
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 8.5

Scene 4: The Sea at Sunset



In this shot, we'll be looking more at which photo captures the mood of the scene in the best way. And although the Galaxy trio is delivering similar results once more, the 2019 Note 10+ edges out its younger family members. If you're wondering why, it's because of the superior details in the leaves in the right part of the picture and the rocks in the foreground. 

The iPhone's photo, on the other hand, lacks the red that gives that proper sunset vibe and without it the picture looks a bit sterile. The tree leaves are dark and lack detail, which brings the score further down.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 8.5
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 8.5
Galaxy Note 10+ — 9
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 7.5

Scene 5: The Ferris Wheel



Pictures like this show how far smartphone photography has come. At fist glance, all the photos look great. But once we start pixel peeping, we notice some differences. The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and the S20 Ultra appear to have done the best job at keeping under control the super-bright lights while keeping the details in the darker parts of the scene. The pictures are vibrant, the colors pop and you can really feel the atmosphere of the amusement park. 

The Note 10+ did slightly worse, with some blurriness in some parts of the photo and visible noise in the darker areas. 

The iPhone 11 Pro Max photo is the only one in which it looks like the ferris wheel pillars have continuous lights, which we can see from the other pictures is not the case. Some of the other lights also not quite in check. Again, it's not a bad picture by any means, but the competition is fierce.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 9.5
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 9.5
Galaxy Note 10+ — 8.5
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 9

Scene 6: The Beach Bar



Extremely similar results in this scene as well, which seems to be the theme of this comparison. Time to get picky, then. In this one, it's the glowing sign that will separate the best from the worst. This time, it's the Galaxy S20 Ultra that edges out the Note 20 Ultra. The bulbs within the sign are clearly visible as is the pink color. The "pizza & gill & sushi" also looks crisp.

The Note 20 Ultra comes second because of the slightly less-pronounced color of the sign, and a step below it is the Note 10+ for the same reason. All other parts of the pictures are almost indistinguishable with just some slight brightness variations here and there. 

The iPhone comes last because in its photo the sign just looks white, which it clearly isn't. 

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 9
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 9.5
Galaxy Note 10+ — 8.5
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 8

Scene 7: The Docks at Night



A challenging scene which has both bright and dark areas and an object in the distance that has to be properly captured. So, how did our contestants do? Well, the Note 20 Ultra's picture is the brightest, but in this case that's not really a good thing. You're loosing the dramatic feel of the lights contrasting the dark sky and water. 

The Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Note 10+ are fighting for the top spot and in this case we think the Note 10+ did slightly better. Its photo is sharper, you can see more details on the hull of the ship and the wrinkles of the waves are well-defined.

The iPhone photo isn't as sharp as those of the S20 and the Note 10+ and the sky is noisier but overall the result is better than that of the Note 20 Ultra.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 7.5
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 8.5
Galaxy Note 10+ — 9
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 8

Scene 8: Ultra-wide-angle matchup



Time to see what the ultra-wide cameras of these flagships can do. Well, for the first time in this comparison, we're giving the iPhone 11 Pro Max the top spot. The iPhone photo looks more natural and well-balanced than the other three. The Galaxy S20 Ultra's shot is over-saturated and over-sharpened and the Note 20 Ultra one is almost identical. 

The Note 10+ on the other hand, went for completely different shade of green for the trees and it also lacks focus on the periphery of the image.  

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 8.5
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 8.5
Galaxy Note 10+ — 7.5
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 9

Scene 9: Zoom comparison



Of course, all four phones also have telephoto cameras. They do vary quite a bit, however. The Note 20 Ultra comes with a 5X zoom lense, while the S20 Ultra relies on a 48MP sensor to serve as a telephoto camera. Meanwhile, the iPhone 11 Pro Max and the Galaxy Note 10+ have 2X cameras.

At 10X zoom, all of the phones are doing a mix of optical and digital enhancements to give you the best results, but the raw data they get from the sensors more or less decides the score. What's surprising is that using two very different cameras, the Note 20 Ultra and the S20 Ultra achieved almost the same result. You can see details in the texture of the paint and even the individual blades of the blinds are clearly visible. 

If we look at the lightning rod on the right and the AC unit in the background, we can see that the S20 photo is actually a bit sharper, which is quite impressive. 

The Note 10+ and the iPhone 11 Pro Max are a big step back from the Ultras. Both pictures are grainy and lack detail with the iPhone's being slightly worse than the Note 10 one.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 9
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 9.5
Galaxy Note 10+ — 7
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 6.5

Scene 10: Selfie with portrait mode



While for some the quality of the selfie camera doesn't matter at all, for others it's a vital part of their phone that must be on point of they're to even consider it as a daily driver. 

Our first selfie scene is a pretty standard photo with portrait mode turned on. All four phones achieved a pleasant-looking bokeh effect, but the Note 10+ stands out as being less accurate with separating the hair from the background and it looks as if you've used the smudge tool on it. The two Notes chose a similar color for the skin but both give our model a sickly look, and the situation isn't much different with the S20 Ultra. 

The iPhone 11 Pro Max comes on top in this scene with the most natural-looking selfie that also has a great amount of detail without being too sharp.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 8
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 8.5
Galaxy Note 10+ — 7.5
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 9.5

Scene 11: Challenging selfie



Now, for a bit more challenging scenario, a very bright background. The result is the most diverse set of photos in this camera comparison so far. The two Galaxy Notes came up with similar-looking photos but surprisingly, the older Note 10+ handled the bright background better than the Note 20 Ultra. However, the subject's face is also slightly brighter on the Note 20 Ultra photo, making for a better selfie overall. 

The Galaxy S20 Ultra handled the background very well but at the cost of brightness of the face, resulting in a photo you're unlikely to share on social media. If that's the case, who cares about the background?

The iPhone photo is the most appealing at a first glance but it has its issues as well. The background is overblown but more importantly, the eyes are too dark. Still, the color saturation is better than that of the Galaxy selfies, resulting in a more natural look.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 8.5
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 7
Galaxy Note 10+ — 8
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 8.5

Scene 12: Night selfie



Final scene! Time for the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra to come back on top. The image is sharp, there's good detail in the brightly-lit part of the face and the background is totally under control. Great selfie. 

The Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Note 10+ are fighting over the second place. The Note 10 photo has a better color balance and although it's not as sharp as the Note 20 Ultra, it's still a decent selfie. The S20 Ultra went a bit too far with the red of the stairs, shifting focus away from the subject. 

The iPhone one-upped the S20 Ultra but not in the good way. The stairs are way too red and the face lacks detail and sharpness. It seems the iPhone selfie camera still needs work when it comes to low-light photography.

Galaxy Note 20 Ultra — 9.5
Galaxy S20 Ultra — 8
Galaxy Note 10+ — 9
iPhone 11 Pro Max — 7.5

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