150-photo Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra test: 100x zoom, 108MP camera, 40MP selfies

Samsung Galaxy S20 'Live Focus' portrait mode

We're still testing the Samsung's portrait mode, and the fact that the S20 Ultra has Time of Flight cameras (something missing on the normal S20), meaning it should be able to better sense depth and differentiate the foreground from the background.

That's not always the case, as the S20 Ultra looks about as good as the Note 10 in our sample photos when it comes to determining the edges. However, our mobile editor, David Lumb, looks sharper in the S20 Ultra photos.

And, for what it's worth, Samsung has consistently had 'the most fun' camera to use with its filters like Color Point (the selective back and white filter), even if it wasn't always 'the best' camera. This year, it could claim both titles.

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra camera in Live Focus mode was able to determine the difference between the foreground and background better during the day than at night. You can see a photo we took with each phone camera without portrait mode turned on.

We went out at night, and things got... a little more complicated. Portrait mode had a harder time determining David's hair from the background (especially) at the top left, yet he has a nice balanced glow to his face on the Galaxy S20 Ultra version.

We also liked the 'Live Focus' portrait mode filters Samsung allows you to apply and tweak after a photo is taken. Color Point (the last filter in this gallery that makes the background black-and-white, but keeps the foreground in color) is our favorite.

Galaxy S20 Ultra's biggest rivals in portrait mode

Every phonemaker does it differently, with some leaning into the bokeh (background blur) more than others. These phones also vary in how much they crop in to get that effect, so you may have to stand further back from your subject than you would to capture a normal.

Really, it comes down to taste, though, we have have another set of portrait photos examples coming soon. Watch this page.

iPhone 11 Pro Max portrait camera

iPhone 11 Pro Max camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

Google Pixel 4 portrait camera

Google Pixel 4 camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

Last year's Samsung phones

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus portrait camera

Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

S20 Ultra vs cheap phones

OnePlus 7 Pro portrait camera

OnePlus 7 Pro camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

The OnePlus 7 Pro softened David's face in every attempt in this mode, so while we liked the OnePlus 3x telephoto camera, the portrait mode left something to be desired.

Google Pixel 3a portrait camera

Google Pixel 3a camera sample

(Image credit: Future)

For a camera phone that's $1,000 cheaper than the S20 Ultra, the Google Pixel 3a isn't bad by any stretch.

Matt Swider