A Landscape Photographer’s Review of the Samsung S10+

Photography Gear

This article is not meant to be an in-depth review of the Samsung S10+. The review will chiefly discuss the cell phone’s camera capabilities from a landscape photographer’s standpoint.

The first thing I noticed when I began using the Samsung S10+ was how well calibrated the screen is in terms of colors, black point and contrast. What I see on the display is extremely close to what I see on my calibrated computer monitor. That to such a degree that I now use my phone as a point of reference when re-calibrating my monitor.

Sunrise Tyrifjorden. UWA camera, single exposure, ISO 80, f/2.2, 1/50s, tripod

The Samsung S10+ is equipped with three cameras; zoom, primary (77-degree field of view) and ultra-wide-angle (UWA, 123-degree field of view). The latter is very welcome for landscape photography. I hope a future software update will provide the UWA camera with raw (DNG) capabilities as well, offering the files greater editing latitude. As of yet, only the primary camera offers the option to shoot in raw.

The primary camera on the Galaxy S10+ is a 12MP sensor with 1.4um large pixels and an f/1.5-f/2.4 aperture whereas the ultra-wide-angle camera is 16MP. It seems to me that Samsung to a certain degree allows fine details to be sacrificed to reduce noise. However, the dynamic range is impressive and focus is always quick and spot on. I actually prefer autofocus to manual focus on the Samsung, contrary to how I shoot when using my regular cameras. The auto white balance is accurate and colors are not overly saturated straight out of camera.

UWA camera, single exposure, cropped on either side, ISO 50, f/2.2, 1/210s, tripod.

When I use a tripod I set the timer to 2 secs. The timer can, of course, be disabled, set to 5 secs or 10 secs.

I find the camera’s menus very easy to navigate just as it is very easy to switch between the various cameras and various camera modes (pro, pano, portrait, video, etc).

UWA camera, single exposure, cropped 4:5 for Instagram, tripod, ISO 50, f/2.2, 1/100s

The same image un-cropped and only edited in Lightroom:

It is fair to say that the ultra-wide-angle camera produces an amazingly wide field of view, and it’s very fun to use.

The next image is from a sunrise along the shores of Tyrifjorden, which is Norway’s fifth largest lake.

UWA camera — blend of two exposures for dynamic range — both shot handheld. Very strong light in the sky combined with very dark shadows necessitated a blend of two.

On my way home from my first outing with the Samsung S10+, I discovered a full moon rising. Arriving at that this church could work as a composition I made a quick stop, ran out of the car and made a few shots. When examining the image in Lightroom, I was amazed at how well it came out considering that I am often plagued with shaky hands. Dusk had already set in and taking into account this is a cell phone image, I am particularly impressed by the dynamic range in this instance.

Zoom camera, single exposure, handheld, ISO 200, 1/33s, f/2.4

During spring thaw possible locations at my end are a tad limited so I have opted to use the “cabin lake” for all it is worth when testing out the Samsung S10+.

UWA camera, single exposure, ISO 50, f/2.2, 1/105s, tripod. A 2 min Lightroom edit

But, what can we expect from the DNG files?

Primary camera, DNG, single exposure, edited in Lightroom and Photoshop

Close crop from image above:

To get an idea of about the editing latitude this is the straight out of camera version:

I have to admit I was curious about how far I could go with the DNG files the Samsung S10+ produces, and my claim is that the editing latitude is surprisingly good when considering the small sensor size.

The following image is also a DNG file. The image is straight out of camera.

A close crop after opening up the shadows:

Perhaps not so easy to see it here but the darkest shadows turn magenta and the sensor produces some noise in the darkest areas. This was a high contrast scene so I shot extra exposures for the shadows in case I wanted to edit the image. I have had both crop and full frame cameras from a well-known brand which raw files have produced magenta cast in the shadows when pushing the files. In other words, the Samsung sensor doesn’t behave very differently from some other cameras. It was nonetheless easy to fix the magenta cast and reduce the noise in Lightroom.

To conclude, I wish the level of detail was better, but I am impressed by the dynamic range this small camera sensor is able to produce. With a better noise reduction algorithm, it should be possible to extract even more details. I also find the colors pleasing. The camera produces more than enough good images for Instagram, Facebook and vacation memories. And it should be possible to achieve decent prints in A4 and A3.

To claim that the camera is comparable with a DSLR/mirrorless camera would be an exaggeration. Even though the Samsung S10+ camera comes with clever software enhancements it cannot compete with what my regular cameras are able to produce. Details, dynamic range, sharpness, color depth, etc are not on the same level as a DSLR. I believe it is important to point this out for those who believe a cell phone camera can replace regular cameras for landscape photography.

The DXOMark review gave the Samsung S10+ camera an impressive score of 109.

Given the right conditions the Samsung UWA lens actually produces some sun rays:

About the author: Ole Henrik Skjelstad is a landscape photographer and math teacher from Norway. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Skjelstad’s work on his Flickr, 500px, and Instagram. This article was also published here.

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