Today we have the brand-new Samsung Galaxy S20 camera review! What can the smartphone do? Is the change from the S10 worth it? I also compared the picture quality with a high-end compact camera and an SLR camera!
A friend of mine treated himself to the new phone. To test it extensively, he let me use it for a few hours. I wanted to know how good the new cameras are. Is the Samsung Galaxy S20 once again one of the best cell phone cameras currently available?
Smartphone cameras are getting better and better. Samsung has changed its product cycle and now „only“ brings a new smartphone series of their flagships once a year. That is also where the name change comes from. The current series is therefore called Galaxy S20 to match the year.
I am currently using a Samsung Galaxy S10, for which I have already written a review. In this respect, I also have a good comparison.
Key data about the cameras
The Samsung Galaxy S20 has a total of 4 cameras, including a front camera and three cameras on the back:
Front camera: 10 megapixels, aperture F2.2
Wide-angle camera: 12 megapixels, aperture F2.2, 13 mm
Main camera: 64 megapixels, aperture F2.0, 26 mm
Telephoto camera: 12 megapixels, aperture F1.8, 100 mm
The specifications for the focal lengths are 35 mm equivalent. Thus, the main camera of the S20 has a significantly higher resolution than the main camera in the Galaxy S10. I will describe how practically relevant this resolution really is further down.
The main camera is image stabilized and can deliver videos in UHD 8K resolution (7,680 x 4,320 pixels) at 24 fps. For slow-motion videos, 960fps in HD and 240fps in FHD resolution are possible. An LED flash is also on board again.
The camera sensor of the S20 has become larger. This promises better noise behavior and thus better image quality.
A few words aside from the camera test about the smartphone itself
Even though my interest was primarily in the cameras, I did get an impression of the other new features. The display has become 0.1 inch larger and now measures 6.2 inches. Of course, this is hardly noticeable.
More noticeable is the increased refresh rate from 60 to 120 hz. This makes it possible to scroll more smoothly in menus and when reading websites. I also work on a PC with a 144 Hz screen (the Acer Predator XB271HUbmiprz). I find that very pleasant.
Samsung has now also officially said goodbye to the Edge design again. However, when I put my S10 and S20 side by side, the difference is minimal here as well. Almost everything has remained the same in terms of menus and use. So I quickly found my way around. The front camera is no longer located in the upper right corner, but in the center. It has also become a bit smaller.
The Samsung Galaxy S20 camera test
How exactly did I test the camera? I took a photo tour through the park and along the Saale River. I primarily took pictures with the S20 and also some motifs with my Galaxy S10 for comparison. I also took pictures of the same subject and the same image detail with a high-end compact camera and an SLR camera. You can find more about that below.
What did I notice?
Even while taking the pictures myself, I noticed that the pictures on the S20’s display look more contrasty than on the S10. It was also noticeable here that the wide-angle camera seems sharper in the corners than on the predecessor. This was a point that I had criticized in my Samsung Galaxy S10 camera review. We will find out if this is really the case by looking at the pictures below.
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The new telephoto camera
Right off the bat, I also noticed that Samsung has increased the focal length of the telephoto camera. On the S10, the telephoto camera had a focal length of about 52 mm calculated on 35 mm. Now it is 100 mm. So that’s quite a bit more. In practice, this means that you can bring more distant subjects closer without them becoming blurry. Below are the appropriate comparison images.
Sample images from the test
These pictures were taken during the test. They are intended to show what is possible with the S20’s camera.
Comparison of the three cameras
The S20 has three cameras on the back. To give you an idea of the angle of view these cameras provide, I took a picture of a scene with all three cameras.
If you want to see exactly how sharp the pictures are, you can find a few image slices in 100% view here.
Again, I photographed the same subject once with the 12 and once with the 64 megapixel setting.
Samsung Galaxy S20 main camera – 12 megapixel vs. 64 megapixel image crop
I have to admit in all honesty: When I heard about the 64 megapixels when the S20 was introduced, I thought it was a marketing gag. Usually, the images are upsampled by software and that is no gain for the image quality.
However, the 64 megapixel files of the Samsung Galaxy S20 look good. Here, the picture is probably really taken with this resolution. The post-sharpening can also be seen, just like in the 12 megapixel pictures. But still, the overall resolution is much higher, even without seeing noise or anything like that in enough light. If I reduce the 64 MP image on the PC so that the subject is the same size as the 12 MP image, the 64 MP image looks much sharper. This should also have an effect on the printout of such a picture. Samsung has done an impressive job here.
Comparison between Samsung Galaxy S10 and Samsung Galaxy S20 – Is the switch worth it because of the camera?
As could already be guessed when taking pictures, the S20 exposes a bit darker than the S10. The pictures look more natural this way. On the left the picture from the S10, on the right from the S20.
More natural post-processing
Cell phone photos are known for delivering vibrant candy colors, and the photos are quite heavily post-processed.
At first glance, the left picture from the S10 looks sharper and more colorful. However, the trained eye can see that the image is sharpened via software. I find this aggressive re-sharpening of the S10 much too strong. In this respect, I am glad that Samsung has gone the way of less oversaturated colors and less re-sharpening. The pictures of the S20 look much more natural. A clear plus point for me.
Telephoto camera with more focal length
As mentioned above, the telephoto camera of the Samsung Galaxy S20 has a longer focal length than that of the S10. Thus, you can get closer to more distant subjects. So if you already shoot a lot with the telephoto camera of the S10, this can be an advantage. On the left, the picture from the S10, on the right, the one from the S20.
Wideangle camera has better corner sharpness
A big criticism on my part of the S10 was the blurry corners with the ultra-wide-angle. Samsung has picked up on this point and improved it. Now this camera can also be used for prints.
By the way, only the main camera can still be used in Pro mode, where RAW files can be recorded. RAW recordings with the wide-angle or telephoto camera are therefore not possible, at least not with the standard camera software.
Update: With the latest software update of the S20, RAW recording is now also possible with the wide-angle camera. RAW with the telephoto camera is still not possible.
Overall, the improvements might not sound huge. However, I think Samsung has improved exactly the right places.
Is it worth switching from the S10 to the S20 for that reason?
If you really shoot a lot with the wide-angle camera and, for example, the smartphone is your main camera as an influencer for Instagram, then I would say yes.
However, for the majority of S10 users, I would say that the switch is not worth it. For you to notice a bigger difference, I think it’s worth switching to a current phone model every 4 years at most, more like every 6 years.
Comparison of the Samsung Galaxy S20 with a Samsung Galaxy S10, a high-end compact camera and an SLR camera
Here’s how I tested – the test setup for smartphone vs. DSLR vs. compact camera
I always find it exciting to see how good the cameras of current smartphone generations are. But how does a current cell phone perform against a good compact camera or a good SLR camera? I had already made such a comparison once with the Samsung Galaxy S7. However, a few cell phone generations have passed since then and so it was time for an update. Kindly, I got the opportunity from the Mitteldeutsche Multimediazentrum Halle to take these test shots from the roof of the building.
So I took the same picture with 4 different cameras.
For me, the Sony RX100M5A is currently the best compact camera in terms of image quality. If you want to know more, you can find my review of this camera here. To achieve the best imaging performance, the pictures were taken at f/5.0.
My SLR camera, with which I mainly take pictures, is the Canon EOS 77D. Of course, there is also a test from me for this camera. For the comparison I used the Canon EF-S 10-22mm. Here I chose aperture 8.0 for the best imaging performance.
With the S10 and S20, I photographed with the main camera in each case, which has a focal length of about 26mm calculated on 35mm. Correspondingly, I chose a focal length for both the compact camera and the SLR camera that provides the same image detail.
All shots were taken in RAW file format to get the best image quality out of the cameras. After shooting, I developed the files in Adobe Camera RAW. If available, I used a lens profile for correction. Then I set automatic white balance and also used automatic settings for the sliders.
The shots from the S10 and S20 were taken with the 12 megapixel setting. The Sony RX100M5A compact camera has 20 megapixels, while the Canon EOS 77D SLR delivers 24 megapixels. This is the reason why the 100% views have different sizes.
Comparison image center
Here you can see that the image from the S20 looks a bit clearer and has less noise compared to the S10. In terms of image sharpness, the Sony RX100M5A compact camera is ahead overall. The SLR camera delivers even more megapixels, but is even minimally blurrier than the compact camera. On the other hand, there is less noise in the picture due to the larger sensor.
Comparison of image corners
As with lenses for system and SLR cameras, there are always differences between image sharpness in the center and at the edges and corners of the image. That’s why I made a comparison here again separately from the bottom right corner.
Here, the compact and SLR cameras are clearly ahead. The lower right corner of the S20, which I had for the camera test, was anything but sharp. Since this comparison amazed me, I also looked at the other corners. Here it came out that only this corner was affected by the blur. The other corners were not on the same level as the center of the image, but at least similar to the S10.
I suspect that there are differences between individual S20s in terms of image sharpness in the corners. It is the same with lenses for SLR or system cameras. Some manufacturers do not manage to keep the sharpness over the entire image. Thus, with the exact same lens, there are good and less good specimens. This also seems to be the case with the S20.
My conclusion of the Samsung Galaxy S20 camera review
Overall, I think the camera of the Samsung Galaxy S20 is good. The larger sensor has increased the image quality and the pictures are less noisy than on the S10. I find it particularly useful that Samsung has improved the ultra-wide-angle camera. It is now sufficiently sharp up into the corners, which was not the case before. I also welcome the decision that the telephoto camera is equipped with a longer focal length and thus „zooms in“ closer.
While there seems to be some series variation in terms of image quality in the corners of the cameras, I think this is negligible for most photographers. The 64 megapixels of the main camera now make it possible to take larger prints from time to time. Samsung has improved the camera of the S20 in the right places.
Many thanks to Philipp from SEOLYMP for providing me with the phone for the test!
How did you like the test? What are your experiences with the S20’s camera? How do you see the image quality of today’s smartphones? Do we still need compact cameras at all? Write me in the comments! If you want, I can also let you know about every new post so that you don’t miss anything.