Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review: amazing phone but camera focus issues need to be solved

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The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra is a groundbreaking device: the biggest screen, largest battery, 8K video and 5G wireless and more memory than many laptops!

It’s also a big phone but oddly comfortable in your hand. Plus, it has camera module you can’t miss!

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I’ve been using the phone for two weeks and there’s no doubt it’s a beautiful and powerful device. Samsung has refined its special blend of android software so its speedy and has lots of helpful extras, like screen recording and a way to share large files between Galaxy phones.

The screen is gorgeous – the best I’ve ever seen on a phone. It’s so nice it’s tough to look away. The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra won’t help your screentime issues.

The battery is big enough to last all day for many users, although it’s not as power efficient as the iPhone. The included power brick will charge it really fast although you can get an even speedier charge with an upgraded wall charger.

I tested 5G on the device using a T-mobile SIM card and while it felt futuristic to see the 5G indicator in the status bar, I wasn’t able to find life changing network speeds. They seemed about as fast as my typical 4G LTE speeds, and many times I tested, 4G LTE from AT&T and Verizon were faster.

It’s clear 5G networks still need time to mature and this alone is not a reason to buy this phone.

What you do buy this phone for is the camera. It’s seriously impressive looking, with a giant module on the backside of the device. You can take photos up to 108 megapixels and zoom in up to 100 times. The zoom is useful, but after 10 or 20 times in be prepared for blurry pics. Still, the 10 to 20 times zoom will be nice to have when you’re seated in the back row at your kids school performance.

Now, about the camera. Although I fully expected to be blown away by what Samsung says is a 3x larger sensor and the biggest improvement in years, I’m not so sure. There is still room for improvement.

Don’t get me wrong, you will take some incredible pictures on this camera, but it might take more work than you expect.

The camera often has trouble focusing, leaving photos with soft edges around the subject. When it comes to video, it takes tapping the screen to keep the subject in focus. I took the phone to the New York Toy Fair and shot a ton of video on it.

Compared to the iPhone’s ability to keep the subject in crystal clear focus at all times, the Samsung was constantly searching for a focus, refocusing often or not focusing at all. It was frustrating, and even when you do lock focus I find that iPhone video has a richer, clearer and more cinematic look and feel.

When I asked Samsung about the camera focus issues, they sent me this statement:

The Galaxy S20 features a groundbreaking, advanced camera system. We are constantly working to optimize performance to deliver the best experience for consumers. As part of this ongoing effort, we are working on a future update to improve the camera experience.


Bottom line: Samsung nailed nearly every aspect of the S20 ultra, but at a $1400 price tag, I expect better camera performance with less effort! Hopefully future software updates will address these shortcomings.

NOW: Listen to my podcast where I discuss my experience with the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra camera in more detail.

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