Update: The Samsung Note 10 camera takes brilliant photos, and we put it to the test over the day 72 hours, snapping several low-light photos from its multi-lens setup. It's among the top camera phones in 2019, as you'll see from the newly updated photo gallery below. Set your sights to 'stunned' for some of these Note 10 pictures.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10 camera instantly stands with the best camera phones in 2019, or at least that's the conclusion I'm drawing ahead of TechRadar's full review on Friday. We're closing in on a score now that the camera has been tested.
I've already unboxed the Note 10 and offered details about the size, performance, and a select few camera samples. Now it's time to unleash a full gallery and demo the versatility of the four camera lenses and the Plus-exclusive depth sensor.
The Samsung Note 10 is outfitted with a 12MP regular lens with a variable f/1.5 and f/2.4 aperture. To explain that very briefly: the amount of light it absorbs changes depending on a room's lighting condition. It's fairly sophisticated for a smartphone.
What stands out more are its 12MP f/2.1 telephoto and 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide lenses. They offer photos at varying perspectives. I captured scenes in new ways: up close without distortion via the 2x zoom telephoto lens, and cramming more in frame with the wide-angle lens – without having to back up to get everything in the shot.
After a weekend of testing, I'm ready to share the good, the bad, and the sometimes slightly out-of-focus. Here's our ongoing Note 10 camera review.
10 different Note 10 scenes captured
Ultra-Wide lens: 42nd Street / Chrysler Building
Regular lens: 42nd Street / Chrysler Building
Telephoto lens: 42nd Street / Chrysler Building
Above are the first Samsung Note 10 camera samples I snapped, and they remain my favorite because they shows how the three rear cameras depict a scene in very different ways, especially that 16MP wide-angle lens.
With the ultra-wide lens, you can see see 42nd Street and the iconic yellow New York City taxi cab in the other two photos. There's an obvious fisheye effect going on, and that means the tall buildings do exhibit a bend, but that's part of this particular Note 10 camera's charm and makes the cityscape seem rightfully intimidating.
The street and all of Manhattan's chaos isn't a part of the other two photos using the regular and telephoto lens. But if you wanted the Chrysler Building on its own, the telephoto lens is there to get the best shot of its perched gargoyles.
Ultra-Wide lens: Reflection photo cropped and edited (best of both worlds)
Regular lens: cuts off the tops and bottoms of subject
Ultra-Wide lens: everything in frame – maybe too much
Ultra-Wide lens: cropped before editing
My second-favorite Note 10 camera photo set is this one, and it again demonstrates how useful the ultra-wide camera can be in certain situations.
The first photo you see here is the 'finished product'; it was taken with the ultra-wide lens, and has had some edits – some basic Adobe Lightroom color fixes (just using the basic slider tools) and cropping. I used the ultra-wide lens because the Note 10's regular lens didn't do this reflection justice (photo 2) – the building is cut off at the top, and at the bottom in the reflection.
Because I didn't want to get splashed by the nearby traffic (you can see a bunch of yellow taxis almost staring me down), I didn't have enough time to back up and reframe the shot. With a quick switch to the ultra-wide camera (photo 3), I was able to snap a more inclusive photo and crop it later (photo 4); the image was then edited to produce photo 1, which I'm much happier with in the end.
Color Point Live Focus mode
Color Point Live Focus mode
Color Point Live Focus mode
This renders the background and portions of foreground in back and white, but keeps the main subject in color to make the person or object really pop from the scene. It's not always perfect – you can see that part of the red tomato is in color and part of it isn't, and the glass is also in color. A couple of adjustments from the photo taker and several attempts to be safe (just hammer that shutter button until it works) usually fixes these issues.
It's a really fun way to capture a scene, and Samsung does it better than anyone else (especially Motorola, which has tried the same thing with lackluster results).
Color Point vs Regular Photo
Color Point vs Regular Photo
Here's another great example of a Color Point mode image alongside an all-color regular photo. I don't want the people in the background of the shot (sorry, folks), and the Color Point Live Focus mode makes them far less distracting.
The all-color shot is taken at an f/1.5 aperture (it's a bit dark in the restaurant), and so is the black-and-white Color Point photo. What's interesting is that Color Point mode (and all Live Focus modes) allow you to switch between the regular lens and the telephoto lens (the latter is always the default).
Note 10 vs Pixel 3 low light: Note 10 photo (regular mode)
Note 10 vs Pixel 3 low light: Note 10 photo (Night mode)
Note 10 vs Pixel 3 low light: Google Pixel 3 (regular mode)
Note 10 vs Pixel 3 low light: Google Pixel 3 (Night Sight mode)
This... needs more testing. I used Samsung's newish Night Mode on the Note 10 (it appeared in the S10, S10 Plus and S10e via a software update after those phones launched).
The first photo shows what Samsung cameras do in dimly-lit settings – they amp up the exposure, and smooth, smooth, and smooth again. This looks like my skin went through an old-school family portrait-editing session. Samsung's Night mode (photo 2), further increases the exposure, but grain can be seen everywhere, especially in the curtains. It's definitely brighter, though.
I threw in a Google Pixel 3 photo taken with that phone's famed Night Sight mode. It does a better job of keeping detail and tamping down the grain, but it's also noisy in the end. This is a dark photo, which means the Note 10 camera requires more testing in bars. "Drink, please!"
Note 10 vs Pixel 3 lowlight: the Note 10 night mode
Note 10 vs Pixel 3 lowlight: Pixel 3 night mode
Using the Samsung Note 10 night mode outside, we certainly get a brighter image. The camera likes to do the following:
- Increase brightness (especially in low light shots)
- Punch up colors with more saturation
- Smooth everything in sight like a steam roller (again, especially with low light photos)
That works well enough in some situations, although you could argue that the Pixel 3 comparison shot provides a moodier, more-true-to-life scene. We're going to continue to test the night mode leading up to our full Note 10 Plus review on Friday.
Color Point photo in focus
Color Point photo out of focus
Regular lens – in focus
Regular photo out of focus
Telephoto lens – in focus
Telephoto lens – out of focus
Ultra-wide lens – in focus
I did say I'd highlight the good, the bad, and the sometimes slightly out-of-focus. Trying to get the regular and telephoto lenses to focus on subject in Color Point mode can be difficult – but this can also be the case with regular snaps as well, as you can see in the images above. I gave myself permission to eat a donut for this test. One donut was harmed in the making of this Note 10 photo gallery.
Live Focus modes besides Color Point
Color Point gets all of the attention, and for good reason. It's Samsung's best new camera mode, and this is the first time we've see it on a Note phone. But there are other Live Focus modes besides this one.
There's Spin (photo 1) and Zoom (photo 2), a normal blur effect, and the new big Big Circles filter that makes lights in the background blurred and bulbous in shape (seen in the next photo set).
Remote selfie and Big Circles Live Focus mode
Remote selfie and Color Point mode
Remote selfie and close-up perspective
Remote selfie and un-cropped perspective
Here's a good example of the Big Circles mode using the 10MP front camera – and an example of a shot taken remotely, using the S Pen to fire the shutter.
Samsung's S Pen has always been a useful stylus, but it became a Bluetooth camera remote shutter with last year's Note 9. That feature returns, along with other gesture controls for swiping through camera menus and zooming in and out. Color Point appears in (photo 2) along with a cropped selfie (photo 3) as Samsung's front camera auto-crops vs the wider selfie (an un-cropped version, photo 4) that you can select instead.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10 camera tests continue
I tested the Note 10 camera for an entire weekend and most of Monday. That's not enough to put a stamp on the review, but I'm closer after 72 hours (well, a little longer after writing and uploading photos – Samsung's photo transfer software leaves a lot to be desired, which I'll nitpick in the review).
The deep camera analysis isn't done. Too often reviews don't take into account the video capabilities of smartphones, and that's what I'll be doing Monday and Tuesday. The Samsung Note 10 image stabilization has been enhanced, according to Samsung, and I'll test that out in side-by-side comparisons. Stay tuned for more updates as the week goes on and the Note 10 flexes its multi-camera muscles.