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Samsung Galaxy S10 camera review: great photos with no fuss

Pros

  • Extra-Wide angle camera is for great holiday shots
  • High level of customisation makes it perfect for more advanced photography
  • Easy to switch between the three cameras

Cons

  • It’s not a radical upgrade on last year’s S9
  • Augmented reality apps and Bixby vision has only niche applications at the moment

Using the camera

Samsung has put considerable effort into its camera software, making the S10 by far the best cameraphone Samsung has given us so far.

The camera can be launched via the Home screen icon, or as with other Samsung phones, by double clicking the power button on the right of the device.

S10 Camera Interface

You can easily switch between wide-angle, standard and zoom by tapping on the icons above “Photo”.

The interface is very responsive and the essential controls are well laid out. You can switch between the three cameras using the "trees" icons near the shutter button. Meanwhile, shooting modes can be found by swiping sideways.

S10 Camera Bixby-Ar Interface

The interface is uncluttered and easy to navigate.

The scene optimiser is easily accessible close to the shutter button. This clever feature analyses the scene you’re photographing and adjusts the exposure accordingly to give you the best settings to suit your subject.

For example, the S10 camera can tell the difference between food, pets and landscapes and will tweak the settings to make your food look delicious, your pet extra cute or your scenery even more spectacular.

In practice, it’s fantastic at detecting the type of scene you’re trying to photograph. It can enhance colours in good light and brighten dark areas when recognising a poorly lit location to make sure your images really pop.

S10 Camera Bixby

Bixby Vision uses object recognition to give you more information on anything you point the camera to. Take a photo of a product and it can shop for it online or capture some text written in a foreign language and it’ll translate it for you.

Bright light and landscapes

While the Galaxy S10 uses the main sensor found in last year's Galaxy S9, the image processing has been refined to deliver noticeably better results.

The "auto enhance" feature which sometimes led to oversaturated shots on the S9 has been replaced by a much more sophisticated scene detection on the S10. It analyses the scene you’re trying to capture and then chooses from hundreds of predefined settings to ensure you take the best photo possible.

The most exciting feature of this camera is the extra-wide angle lens. Capable of capturing 123° field of view, this is the widest angle you can reach on a smartphone camera without resorting to external clip-on lenses.

The wide-angle is an ideal solution when you want to photograph wide views without resorting to the fiddly panorama option. And it’s really handy for large group shots, letting you squeeze all your friends and family into one photo.

Comparison of a standard vs wide-angle shot. Capturing wide buildings is the perfect application of the wide lens. And as you’ll see, there’s no noticeable loss of detail when using the wide-angle.

While the new wide-angle lens steals the show, the 2x Optical Zoom lens remains a great companion when capturing landscapes.

It has Optical Image Stabilisation, an essential feature of a telephoto lens that minimises the risk of motion blur.

Under bright conditions, there is no noticeable loss of quality when using the zoom lens. The sky is a deep blue, and the bricks retain a good level of detail.

Colours and close-ups

Samsung has made huge strides in colour reproduction over the last couple of years and the S10 yields wonderfully realistic results.

While scene detection can lead to oversaturation in a lot of cameraphones, the AI works well in the S10 by consistently bringing out the best colour levels. Photos are colourful and crisp without looking over-bright or artificial.

S10 sample watch

The S10 adjusts reliably to different light conditions. In this close-up shot under warm artificial light, the colour balance is excellent.

S10 sample flowers blur

Live focus used to blur the background. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better simulation of shallow depth of field.

S10 sample yellow flowers

Despite appearing very bright, the yellow still retain plenty of detail.

S10 sample chocolate cake

If you want to share your latest bake, select the dedicated “Food” mode, which will make your culinary creations look even more delicious.

S10 sample art

As long as the scene is well lit, Live Focus will almost always deliver better-looking close-ups.

S10 sample books

Given that this image was taken in relatively poor light conditions, I’m very impressed with the level of detail in this shot.

We’ve found the Scene Optimiser incredibly accurate in guessing the type of scene and applying the right enhancements to make our photos look professional.

Thankfully, on the rare occasions it can’t correctly predict a scene or subject, the Scene Optimiser sits quietly back and won't force any potentially incorrect enhancements on your shot.

Live Focus, also known as Bokeh or Portrait Mode, pulls the subject of a photo into sharp relief while artfully blurring the background to give you professional-looking portraits with very little effort. And it's also excellent for close-ups where it can be used to really highlight an object in the foreground.

The level of blurring can be adjusted with the on-screen slider, so you can experiment with your framing and distance before taking the picture. Even better, you can edit the level of blur after you’ve taken the shot, provided the image is stored on the phone or the Samsung Cloud service.

S10 Camera Effect Interface

Background effects are not limited to standard Bokeh. If you feel creative, the Galaxy S10 comes with a selection of effects such as spin, zoom and colour highlight.

S10 sample board game close up

The colour point effect is good fun, letting you pick the right section to turn to monochrome.

S10 sample portrait

The S10 shines when used for portrait photography. Skin tone looks natural and edge detection is perhaps the best you can get on any smartphone right now.

S10 sample dog

Live Focus works best if the subject is still. For active pets, I’d advise sticking with normal Photo mode as edge detection can look artificial. In this sample shot taken in Normal Photo Mode, the Scene Optimiser makes this little guy look even cuter. And the photo is even stored with the tags “dogs” and “terriers” so you can find it really easily.

S10 sample cartwheel

Burst shot is your best bet to capture fast-moving targets. Simply hold the shutter button to start. Once done, you can scroll through the images and either keep one and delete the others or combine them into a high quality animated gif.

Low-light

There are lots of smartphones capable of capturing excellent shots in decent lighting conditions. But it’s only after dark that you can really tell the difference between a good cameraphone and a great one.

With both the iPhone XS and Google Pixel 3 setting new highs when it comes to low-light photography, this is one area where the S10 has to excel. And it does not disappoint.

The S10 has ditched the optional Auto Enhance seen on last year’s S9 in favour of a new "Bright Night " mode, which comes on automatically in low-light conditions.

The results are noticeably brighter, delivering sharper detail and crisper colours than anything we’ve managed to capture on previous Samsungs.

If you prefer a darker realism, however, you can disable AI Detection and take photos without any enhancements.

S10 sample courtyard

Judging from our samples, this is a positive step in the right direction compared to last year's model. Colours tend to be on the warm side when indoors.

Selfie camera

It’s safe to say that if selfies are your thing, you can’t possibly go wrong with the Galaxy S10.

While many competitors have prioritised brightness in low-light, Samsung has been refining the selfie camera so that it delivers realistic colours and skin tones both in indoor lighting and in bright, sunny conditions.

Beauty Mode is still there for those of us who want to achieve flawless skin without a costly regime.

But our favourite selfie mode by far is Live Focus. All you need to do is stretch your arm and make sure you're in front of a good light source to snap nigh-on professional portraits.

Edge detection is even better on the larger S10 Plus which, thanks to its additional selfie camera, does a great job at detecting the edges of the subject when blurring the background.

Video Recording

While 4K indicates a high resolution (2160p to be exact), HDR gives videos deeper blacks, brighter colours and a wider range of light levels.

Like last year's S9, there are two slow-motion recording speeds. There’s the regular "Slow motion" at 240 frames-per-second at 1080p resolution, and "Super Slow-mo" with an amazing 960 frames-per-second at a reduced 720p resolution.

Super Slow-mo is limited to 0.2 seconds. But that’s plenty at this speed. In fact, you'll be hard pressed to find any other device capable of this.

Just remember that, for best results, especially the ones recording at a high frame rate, you can never have too much light.

Verdict

You'll be hard pressed to find a mobile phone manufacturer not claiming that their latest phone will revolutionize mobile photography.

From this point of view, the Galaxy S10 is a clear exception.

It doesn't introduce headline-grabbing gimmicks seen on a lot of other high-end handsets. Instead, the S10 brings you the latest in Samsung’s steady evolution of what is still the best Android device on the market.

It’s everything that a premium smartphone camera in 2019 should be. Not topping the chart in a limited set of situations but delivering the best overall experience. From the excellent wide-angle to the simply superb portrait mode, the Galaxy S10 has you covered for everyday photography. And if you're happy to experiment, you'll be very pleased with the high level of customisation and features like the super-slow motion.

We have no doubt that the best Android device out there has the camera it deserves.

Sold on Samsung's latest? Here are our best Samsung Galaxy S10 deals.

Want to go large? Take a look at our best Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus deals.

Prefer the smaller model? Check out our best Samsung Galaxy S10e deals.

Category: Reviews
Tagged: galaxy s10, samsung
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