We took a bunch of photos both during the day, at night, using portrait mode and a few selfies, and selected a few of them to show you the differences.
We won't go into much detail about the camera specifications, but feel free to visit our detailed specs pages for these two phones where you can find all about that:
With this in mind, let's waste no time and look at the photos!
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There aren't any huge differences when it comes to landscape photos like this one, but there are some interesting nuances like the slightly warmer and more saturated colors on the iPhone.
In this scene, you notice again some slight differences, but the best image is left to personal preference as objectively both look great.
If you take photos of people, chances are that you will use the Live Focus mode (on Samsung) or Portrait mode (on iPhone). These modes blur the background and make your subject pop, much like it would when you take a photo with a fast prime lens on a professional camera. Interestingly, the loss of a 2X zoom lens on the Galaxy here shows as the image it captures is far less detailed and the camera is unable to deal with the sunlight that hits our model's face, and that part is burned out. You will notice a lot more balanced and more detailed image captured from the iPhone, which wins this round.
One more portrait shot illustrates the same point, but here you can see that there is no harsh sunlight on my face, the light conditions are more favorable and the differences between the two phones are more subtle. Yet still, using digital crop here, the Samsung has a bit less detail.
But what about the signature Space Zoom feature of the Ultra? Take a look at this 5X times crop from an image: the Galaxy is just way more detailed than the iPhone!
The difference, however, is most striking when you zoom 10X and probably that is the reason why Samsung decided to call this a 5X Hybrid Optic zoom camera (even though the native focal length of the periscope lens is 4X). Here, the difference is mind boggling and the Galaxy wins this round easily. It truly is an amazing camera for those moments when you need to zoom in.
At night, we can see that Samsung has really improved the image quality. This photo was taken without the dedicated night mode (you can find that in the More menu, but most shots take an excruciatingly long 8 seconds to capture, so we did not use it in this comparison), while the iPhone used the auto Night Mode setting.
Both images look clean and good, but there are some differences in the colors and the clarity of detail in the skies.
Once again, notice the signature yellow-green tonality on the iPhone image. This is not how the scene looked in real life and the Galaxy is way closer to the actual white balance.
In this scene, the iPhone took the slightly better photo: notice the surprising loss of detail towards the blue neon sign on the Galaxy. This was a bit surprising to us since in most of the shots the Samsung phone was quite consistent with its performance.
Finally, here is a photo with the front camera. You can definitely see the Galaxy doing a more aggressive noise reduction, but we kind of like it as it makes the skin of our model look even smoother. We would not call one of the two images better, though, it's a matter of personal preference in this case.
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The Galaxy S20 Ultra raises the bar in terms of smartphone photography with balanced images during the day, great night photos and incredible zoom performance that we recommend using at 5X zoom or 10X zoom as the quality quickly falls apart after that. The iPhone, however, stands its ground quite well: it has some issues with the white balance that are most noticeable at night, but it is able to deliver great images effortlessly.
Which one do you prefer?