Powerful 100X zoom camera makes Galaxy S20 Ultra worth the price

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Updated Tue February 11, 2020

The Galaxy S20 Ultra sits at the top of the heap of the Galaxy S20 5G family. With a starting price of $1,399 unlocked, you're getting an epic phone. It features a massive 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED display, supports both 5G bands, is powered by a Snapdragon 865 processor and can take up to 10X optical zoom photos, and that's not even all of it. Yes, it's safe to call it a mouthful.

Oh, and yes, it's less than the $1,499 razr.

Yet, during my hands-on time with it, the S20 Ultra caught my attention. Yes, it slightly dwarfs my iPhone 11 Pro Max, which has a 6.5-inch display, but it's the tech that has me the most excited, namely the extra-power-filled camera setup on the back.

The S20 Ultra features a quad-camera set comprised of a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens, a 108-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 48-megapixel telephoto lens and a depth vision one. Like on previous Galaxy devices with multiple lenses, you can switch on the fly and ultimately have a lens for every scenario, right in your pocket. You also have a 40-megapixel lens on the front.

Plus, for 2020, it's not just new hardware. Samsung is focused on clear pictures with less noise and better performance in low light. Of course, we'll need to put this all to the test in a formal review, but on paper, it's set for success.

Like the S20 and S20+, the S20 Ultra supports Single Take Mode, which lets you hold the shutter to capture a plethora of photos and videos. This works while you're moving the phone to capture a subject, whether it's rear-facing or front-facing. The result is a series of videos with fun jingles mixed with photos, including some with effects, and even a portrait shot. It's impressive and makes it simple to live in the moment, while also recording memories and visuals.

100X Zoom

More impressive, though, is the zoom on the S20 Ultra.

You can get up to 100X zoom, made up of optical imagery and digital imagery in what Samsung calls "Super Resolution Zoom." I demoed it briefly, and boy, did I ever walk away impressed. Yes, it's not optical (the S20 Ultra can only go up to 10X), but it lets you see more. I can't wait to try it from the nosebleed seats at a concert or from an airplane window. It opens the possibilities. Even cooler, you can zoom in or out to 100X with just a click of a finger.

The cameras differentiate the Ultra from the S20 and S20+. In the U.S., it's powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 processor with either 12GB or 16GB of RAM and between 128GB or 512GB of storage. The S20 Ultra with 512GB of storage and 16GB of RAM will cost $1,599.

Either way, you'll have ample power for Android 10 with Samsung's One User Interface version 2 on top. Plus, its 6.9-inch Dynamic AMOLED supports up to 120Hz motion rate, which is noticeable. It's the same technology in the latest devices from OnePlus andProMotion on Apple's iPad Pro. You'll notice it when gaming, especially for quicker frame rates, plus you can even customize the RAM to improve gaming. There are a lot of pro features tucked inside.

This is just our first look at the Ultra, and it's a behemoth in both size and price. Just think, you can buy a smartphone that can take a 100X zoom photo in addition to the ability to zoom for exquisite detail. It's impressive and we're eager to test it, but on paper, and after my brief time with it, the S20 Ultra seems to justify the price.

If you're already sold, you can reserve it today at Samsung.com, lock in your preorder on Feb. 21, score a nice $150 credit if you do it by March 5 and your epic new S20 Ultra will be heading to your front door on March 6.

Stay tuned to CNN Underscored for full coverage of Samsung's Galaxy Unpacked 2020 event.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.