The big news this year is that Samsung's finally including an ultra-wide angle camera on its top models - in a smartphone landscape where every maker seems to have one, precisely three years after LG's ultra wide experiment with the G5.
What we're getting is a flagship-grade triple camera setup spearheaded by the tried and tested 12MP primary module with dual pixel autofocus and stabilized dual aperture lens, flanked by telephoto and ultra-wide cameras. The telephoto unit is again carried over from the previous model - a 12MP sensor behind a stabilized lens with an f/2.4 aperture and a 52mm equivalent focal length.
The ultra-wide is an all-new 16MP shooter with a 123-degree field of view that's different from the one of the A7/A9 models. It's fixed focus, and while that's fairly common among smartphone ultra-wides, it still means the one on the Huawei Mate 20 Pro remains unmatched on paper - 20MP of resolution plus autofocus.
The triple rear camera is the same on the Galaxy S10 and S10+. If you opt for the smaller and cheaper Galaxy S10e you'd be sacrificing the telephoto module. While that obviously means losing the ability to zoom in on distant subjects, it comes with a second implication - Live focus (portrait mode) shots will be taken with the relatively wide main camera instead of the telephoto, and it will be on its own in assessing depth data - the ultra wide won't be part of the process.
There are differences on the front as well, though here Samsung's drawn the line higher. While all three phones get the same 10MP primary selfie cameras, only the S10+ is equipped with an extra module. That would be an 8MP depth-only camera, however, and not a standalone camera like, for example, the ultra wide selfie shooter you'd get on a Google Pixel 3. Now, the 10MP chief selfie module is still pretty impressive as it can record 4K video, it's just that if you want selfies with better depth detection, you'd need the secondary module of the Plus.
And then there's the Galaxy S10 5G, where you get to keep all three regular rear cams, but they're joined by an additional 3D depth sensing ToF module. And since two of something is better than just one, there's another ToF camera on the front next to the regular 10MP shooter. Those will enable Video Live focus for capturing blurry background videos.
With the improved and/or added hardware also come tweaks in the software. Scene optimizer can now recognize 10 more types of shooting scenarios in addition to the previous 20, yay. Smart composition guide will try to assist you in picking the right framing for the subject in front of you.
Additionally, this year's Galaxies double the time they're able to shoot in super slow-mo and you get about 0.4s of 720p/960fps for a playback time of 14.8s.
The camera app is a slightly tweaked version of the one we've been getting on recent Samsungs. Under the hood, Scene optimizer can now recognize 10 more types of shooting scenarios in addition to the previous 20 (yay!). On the surface, there's a 'Best shot' smart composition guide that will try to assist you in picking the right framing based or magic and/or AI - it'll even take the photo for you once you align the shot the way it thinks you should.
And now that we have a Galaxy S10+ at the office and we're starting the usual review process. We figured we'd give you a taste of the camera performance so you have something to do as we go about our routine. We're starting out with some daylight shots from the ultra-wide camera - it is the one we've all been waiting for.
Moving on through the focal lengths, the main cam delivers a field of view equivalent to a 26mm lens - that would be the standard smartphone FOV. Here are some early samples.
Next comes the telephoto camera with a 52mm equivalent focal length bringing distant objects closer.
There are also the low-light shots we captured last night - one from each camera.
One of the major changes we're observing this year is that the Galaxy S10+ captures its portraits with the main cam, as opposed to its telephoto. We've been through this a million times, but let's say it again - that means having to be somewhat uncomfortably close to your subject and not using the most flattering focal length, but also getting higher image quality, particularly in low light. Here's a portrait of a person and one of a trash can.
The selfie camera of the Galaxy S10+ offers you an odd choice between a wide mode and a not so wide mode. It's a bit misleading, because the wide one actually uses the entirety of the sensor and produces 10MP selfies, while the tighter one simply crops the center and you end up with 6.5MP images.
Here are a couple of regular selfies, followed by the scenes captured in Live focus mode.
A key feature that was pointed out in the press materials is Super Steady recording. It's a separate setting from the Image stabilization and it defaults to 1080p. Suggested use cases were 'dancing in the middle of an amazing concert or trying to record every detail of a bumpy bike ride', neither of which we felt like doing. Here's a comparison between a 1080p Super Steady clip and a regular stabilized 2160p one taken while walking in the park.
Predictably, the latest high-end Galaxies don't fail to dazzle. They have the fine build that we've come to expect from Samsung's flagships, class-leading displays that are now synonymous with the brand and cameras that have taken the next evolutionary step by embracing the ultra-wide angle modes. Oh, and also internals that make competing offerings seem like a compromise.
Of course, those are just the initial impressions from looking at a few press releases and spending minutes with the Galaxy S10s. More than a few questions remain to be answered, and those include essential bits like day-to-day usability, battery life, image quality, the lot. We'll be sure to report on all of that and then some, as soon as we have review units at the office for testing. In the meantime, we'll remain dazzled.