Galaxy S20 Ultra camera ups ante on iPhone with Space Zoom and 108-megapixel photos

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Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
Lots of promised power in this camera bump.
Photo: Samsung

Samsung fired a powerful-sounding salvo in the battle for smartphone camera supremacy Tuesday when it introduced the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

The Ultra kicks off a new decade in smartphone camera technology with an impressive list of specs packed into its four-camera module. Some of the features include 8K video, a 108-megapixel sensor on its main wide-angle camera, and a 100X zoom feature called Space Zoom.

Whether the specs live up to the hype of Tuesday’s Galaxy Unpacked stage show in San Francisco will be answered soon enough as the Android smartphone hits the hands of photographers, filmmakers and test labs. The Galaxy S20 Ultra release date is March 13.

Samsung smartphones over the years have had decent cameras but always fell short compared to the iPhone and, more recently, the pro-model handsets made by Huawei and Xiaomi. The Galaxy S20 Ultra seems ready to compete and is trying to attract professional creators. But the $1,400 price could scare a few away.

Galaxy S20 Ultra camera specs

The four cameras on the Galaxy S20 Ultra backplate include the 108-megapixel standard wide-angle camera with an f/1.8 lens. It is expected to shine in low light without boosting ISO (less noise) or slowing down the shutter (less blur).

The S20 Ultra also packs a 12-megapixel, 120-degree ultra-wide camera and a telephoto camera with a 48-megapixel sensor that provides a 10X optical zoom. The camera has a “folded lens” system, which is how smartphone camera teams add reach without compromising the slim form factor we have come to accept.

The fourth camera is for what Samsung calls DepthVision. It can assist with augmented reality apps and add computational focus effects in portrait mode.

Samsung’s new Single Take feature covers the user’s butt if they are little asleep at the shutter. The phone supposedly senses when good moments are happening and takes the picture.

For video, 8K happens on both ends: capturing video and watching 8K programming. Samsung says it has improved its image stabilization and paired with AI-powered motion analysis for smoother clips. The S20 Ultra also will allow creators to pull a 33-megapixel frame grab from a video.