Let’s face it, cameras have become one of the most used (and loved) features on our smartphones. Whether you’re video chatting with friends and family or taking selfies from quarantine (very guilty) to Instagram, this camera app is probably always running in the background.
So, when it comes to choosing a new smartphone, you want to make sure you are purchasing a device with solid images in good faith. I mean, having our best in the digital world is now as important as it is personally, so that decision can be difficult.
If you are looking for the next best option, there are really only three options to consider now: Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra and the new Note 20 Ultra and iPhone 11 Pro.
What makes these three phones so special?
For the Samsung S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra, it all revolves around the phones’ impressive 108 megapixel rear camera. There is also the company’s Space Zoom feature to be considered, which combines optical zoom technology with software-based digital zoom, powered by AI, to offer a paparazzi-like range.
While I’m not sure that the latter feature will necessarily impact your decision in any way, at least it’s worth mentioning that the S20 Ultra allows you to zoom in on an object up to 100x, while the Note 20 Ultra offers zoom up to 50x. It sounds ridiculous in theory, but this zoom can be useful – if you happen to be applying for a job as a paparazzo or just want to spy on your noisy neighbors.
The iPhone 11 Pro, on the other hand, has three 12-megapixel lenses in its rear camera. And while this doesn’t look as spectacular as what Samsung has achieved with its latest flagships, Apple’s hardware and software offer tons of camera features on the device to help improve the quality of the photos.
The cameras on all three phones certainly look impressive on paper, but the specifications alone cannot say whether or not these sensors can deliver crisp, clear photos. So, I took the guesswork out for you. Seeing how I now have the Note 20 Ultra, S20 Ultra and iPhone 11 Pro in my possession, I decided to take some sample photos using the three to see if there are any noticeable differences. Here’s what I found.
The Note 20 Ultra has a 108 megapixel wide-angle sensor that you can activate to provide a high resolution image. When disabled, the default is a 12 megapixel sensor.
Essentially, you get a better dynamic range (read: contrast) with the 12 megapixel camera, so that it captures details like highlights and shadows better. But the 108 megapixel sensor offers a more detailed image.
Here is an example of an image taken with the 108 megapixel sensor on both Samsung phones:
The Note 20 Ultra provided a super sharp and clear photo that doesn’t look supersaturated in certain areas. Considering that this is a problem I had with the S20 Ultra, it was a pleasant surprise to see that the colors were much more balanced in general.
You can see an example of this supersaturation in the photo above. Although the plants are quite similar in color to the Note 20 Ultra, you can see the biggest difference in the bricks, especially in the background. In the S20 Ultra, they are not only sharper, but also clearer.
Then there is the photo of the iPhone 11 Pro, as shown below.
It looks a lot like the photo taken on the Note 20 Ultra, but certain subjects in the photo are a little darker – like the shades of pink in the flowers along with the shades of brown in the flower pot and the bricks on the right.
In addition, here are some examples of ultra wide angle photos:
It is much easier to see this example of excessive sharpness in the photos above and below. While the sky, clouds and trees look really similar in color, the photo taken with the Note 20 Ultra looks a little more faded.
Meanwhile, in the photo taken with the S20 Ultra, the colors look a little artificial. There is a lot of saturation in the darker colors, which you can see especially when looking at the shading in the bricks.
As usual, the iPhone 11 Pro produced a more realistic image that largely mimics what you see in front of you.
Low light photos
Both the S20 Ultra and the Note 20 Ultra have a night mode feature for photos in low light environments. It uses multi-frame processing to combine 30 images into one sharp photo. The iPhone’s night mode works similarly, with sensors that analyze the amount of light available to determine how long the shutter should stay open.
The petals in the Note 20 Ultra photo above look much more realistic, while in the image taken by the S20 Ultra below, they look over-processed. But the S20 Ultra captured clearer results at the bottom of the vessel, which looks much sharper than the Note 20.