Hands on: Samsung Galaxy S10 / S10+ camera review

The new Samsung Galaxy S10 range has lots of lenses and lots of variants - but what about the software?

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Our Verdict

The Samsung Galaxy S10 and S10+ have a fantastic camera array, packed with decent imaging features. The only thing is: we've seen it before on other, rival handsets. When Samsung eventually launches the Galaxy S10 5G that's when things will get very interesting, given the ToF sensor.

For

  • Brilliant steady shot mode
  • Great ultra wide-angle functionality

Against

  • Nothing ground-breaking
  • The line-up feels a little stretched

The Samsung Galaxy S10 has been one of the most anticipate camera phones for a long time now. But, for photographers using Android handsets, there’s currently a huge amount of choice, no matter what your budget. 

For instance, the Google Pixel 3 has amazing processing powers, the Honor View 20 has a mighty 48MP sensor, and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro uses a three camera set-up to help capture great images no matter the situation. 

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is still among them, but as it approaches its first birthday, it’s already starting to show its age. 

Fear not Samsung fans, as the Samsung Galaxy S10 (as well as the Galaxy S10+) is hitting store shelves in less than a month, and not only is it shaping up to be a fantastic phone, it’s also looking like a very strong photography tool that will shake up the best camera phone rankings once again.

Samsung Galaxy S10 camera: design and features

As soon as you lay eyes on it, you’ll notice that the Galaxy S10 has changed the physical positions of the cameras significantly from the S9. 

The rear cameras are now arranged horizontally rather than vertically down the centre.  

This is just as well, as there can be up to four lenses on the S10, and keeping them in the same orientation would mean you might have ended up with your hand or fingers spoiling all your landscape shots.

Meanwhile on the front, the bezel containing the selfie camera has disappeared. Samsung’s new Infinity O display puts its front facing camera (or cameras) in a little round punch-hole in the top right of the screen. 

This won’t make you take better selfies or anything, but you will be able to enjoy a large almost uninterrupted display to look back at your photos and video and navigate around the phone’s other functions.

Considering the amount of tech they’ve stuff into this phone, it’s impressive how ergonomic it feels to hold. 

The returning Edge Screen helps a lot, letting your thumb sit more naturally around the edge of the S10 while being a fairly wide phone, particularly when you get up to the S10+ and S10 5G models, which are around 16cm tall and 7cm across.

Samsung Galaxy S10 camera: variations

So, what’s the S10 range packing in terms of cameras? There’s a breakdown below, but all the range share a Dual Pixel 12MP wide lens (F1.5/F2.4) and a 16MP ultra wide lens (F2.2) on the back, and a Dual Pixel 10MP (F1.9) camera on the front. 

As a refresher, Dual Pixel is Samsung’s autofocus sensor technology, a high density variant of the phase detection tech seen on dedicated DSLRs and other high-end smartphones.

These are all you get on the basic S10E, but the normal S10 adds a 12MP (F2.4) 2x optical zoom telephoto lens to the back.

 The S10+ gets all of that as well as an 8MP Depth (F2.2) lens to the front, resulting in a double punch-hole, which has been rumoured for some time. The range topping S10 5G has, aside from 5G connectivity, gets two hQVGA 3D depth sensing cameras. 

One goes on the front, replacing the 8MP depth lens, while the other goes on the back with the others, giving a four lens wide rear array. That’s a considerable amount of hardware. Some of it is borrowed from the Galaxy S9, but it’s still great to see it come back with little tweaks and upgrades.

If you’re an inexperienced photographer, or want to see how Samsung’s AI matches up to your own skills, then you can activate Best Shot. 

This mode consults Samsung’s proprietary library of 100 million photos to see how the scene in front of you can be best captured. 

You hold the phone pointing towards your subject, and after considering the scene for a moment, the S10 will draw a line across your screen with a circle on it. 

Tilt the phone until the line’s horizontal and point the centre of your screen at the circle and it goes yellow, taking the shot for you. Good for making sure you don’t take landscapes where the horizon and the top and bottom edges are noticeably not parallel!

Samsung Galaxy S10 range camera specs

Samsung Galaxy S10E

  • Rear Dual Pixel 12 MP OIS (Wide/F1.5/F2.4), AF
  • Front Dual Pixel 10 MP AF (F1.9)

Samsung Galaxy S10

  • Rear 16MP (Ultra Wide/f2.2), FF
  • Rear Dual Pixel 12 MP OIS (Wide/F1.5/F2.4), AF
  • Rear 12MP OIS (Tele/F2.4), AF
  • Front Dual Pixel 10 MP AF (F1.9)

Samsung Galaxy S10+

  • Rear 16MP (Ultra Wide/f2.2), FF
  • Rear Dual Pixel 12 MP OIS (Wide/F1.5/F2.4), AF
  • Rear 12MP OIS (Tele/F2.4), AF
  • Front Dual Pixel 10 MP AF (F1.9)
  • Front 8MP AF (Depth/F2.2)

Samsung Galaxy S10 5G

  • hQVGA (3D depth sensing camera)
  • Rear 16 MP (Ultra Wide/F2.2), FF
  • Rear Dual Pixel 12 MP OIS (Wide/F1.5/F2.4), AF
  • Rear 12MP OIS (Tele/F2.4), AF
  • Front Dual Pixel 10 MP AF (F1.9)
  • hQVGA (3D depth sensing camera)

In addition, there’s also scene optimisation, which uses 30 scenes (10 of which are new for the S10, including a scene for photographing your pets), to subtly change the colours and tone to make your images look their best.

Then there’s the Live Focus options, which let you play around with background effects, like bokeh, desaturation and spinning blurs while keeping focus on a subject. You can use this on either front or rear cameras too, making it a versatile tool for some effects based photography.

Videographers, particularly those trying to record in unsteady environments, will appreciate Super Steady Video. 

The camera records video using the ultra-wide lens, but doesn’t use the whole of the raw footage for the final product. Instead it tracks the subject and uses the wriggle room it has to make sure it’s always on screen.

Samsung demonstrated this at our briefing with a video following a mountain biker riding down a rough trail. Despite the sharp drops and rough terrain, you always had a good view of the rider as he rushed downhill. 

You can also record video in HDR10+, Samsung’s own high definition video format, if you activate the setting in the options menu. Slow motion and super slow motion make a return from the S9 too, if you want to record at 240 or 960 fps.

Early Verdict

Taking into consideration that it’s only been a year since its last flagship phone, it’s quite impressive how much more the S10 seems capable of doing compared to the S9. 

Some of it won’t interest users who want as little AI fiddling between them and their pictures as possible, and some features are only mildly tweaked rather than overhauled. 

But the basic power of the multiple cameras should provide excellent results to anyone who picks up an S10. And it’ll be at least a half decent phone too!

The Galaxy S10, Galaxy S10+ and Galaxy S10e will be available in stores and online from 8 March 2019. 

Pricing starts at £799 for Galaxy S10, £899 for Galaxy S10+ and £669 for Galaxy S10e. Pricing for the Samsung Galaxy S10 5G are TBA.