Goodbye Note 8 . . . Hello Note 20 Ultra

“Say WHAT?”

You read correctly . . . the Samsung Note 8 is no more. My current phone is a Samsung Note 20 Ultra.

Let me explain . . .

It was the middle of February, and Melisa’s Samsung S8 decided it would change its state from that of a functioning high-end smartphone . . . and opted to become a sleek, pristine, glossy, and useless paperweight. No warning, it gave . . . it just had enough and decided to check out.

A little history on that phone and on the Note 8. It was 2017 when my then Note II decided it would no longer boot up. At that point, the phone was nearly four-and-a-half years old. Edited to add: here’s the LINK to the post about that event.

That’s when we upgraded both of our phones, Melisa going with an S8 and me with the Note 8.

See where I’m going with this? The S8 died at about 3.5 years of age. Naturally, I became concerned about my Note 8. In the process of replacing Melisa’s S8 with a Samsung S20FE, I looked at the Note 20 Ultra . . . and Samsung had a promotion on it . . . plus, they would give me $250 trade-in credit for my Note 8 provided it had no more than “normal wear”, would boot, and hold a charge.

Like Melisa’s S8, the Note 8 is . . . was pristine, indistinguishable from a new phone . . . except that unlike the S8, the Note 8 was still functioning.

I was faced with a not-so-difficult choice . . . I could trade the Note 8 for the credit, or risk it dying on me in the near future and get nothing for it.

Hello, Note 20 Ultra.

By the way, none of these photos have been processed by me in any way. I read them into Lightroom primarily to output a smaller version for the blog.

The above photo is late at night and a testament to the low-light capability of the Note 20 Ultra (hereby abbreviated as N20U) camera.

. . . or, I should say “cameras”. That’s right, it has three cameras; an ultrawide-angle, the main camera, and a 5x zoom camera. Rather than me explaining the technical details, let me give you some links for descriptions and reviews (LINK, LINK).

Nota Bene: I read extensive comparisons between the Samsung and Apple and Google flagships and the combination of “bang-for-the-bucks”, camera performance, and what I expected from the phone, again led me to buy the Samsung Note 20 Ultra as opposed to other brands/models (for instance, the other two would — understandably — only offer me $60 to trade in my Note 8, or about five times less than I could sell it on eBay). To be sure, money was not the only criterion, but it was a criterion.

OK, so, likely, no one read the links about the cameras. And why should they, unless considering the phone for purchase? Plus, realistically, the vast majority of people don’t take the time to learn about how to properly use their phone cameras to get the best possible photos from them. I’m not being condescending or turning my nose up at people; I’m just saying most people do not prioritize the photo quality from their phones (plus, modern phones automate everything and produce pretty good results). 

Let me show you a few photos I took as I was learning about the camera.

Let’s start with these three photos taken with me at the edge of my walkway, the phone held about waist-high . . .

ultrawide camera
main camera
5x periscope zoom camera

One comment for those who don’t play with their phones much . . . the size and aspect of the photos are controlled by the ratio you choose. For the above, those are 16:9 (in portrait mode, they would be 9:16 ) ratio. My preferred ratio is 4:3 (in portrait mode, they would be 3:4) because that closely matches the 1/1.33″ image sensor size.

Wait, one more thing . . . depending on the camera choice and the ratio you choose — and the scene you’re shooting — the N20U’s full-size photos can range anywhere from 2MB to over 50MB (an external SD memory card is a must). The “normal” use will likely be with the 12MP camera setting, and that generally will result in photos of about 5MB. If you use the 108MP camera, expect much larger photos (my largest so far is 54MB). When I output the photos from Lightroom, I use 80% quality (20% compression) which knocks down the photos to about half their size. For the blog, I also limit the long dimension to 1280pixels which results in most photos being about 500KB.

The main camera at the full 108MP settings (at the 3:4 ratio) produces photos that are 12,000 x 9,000 pixels. This next photo is at that resolution (obviously scaled down here, but the full-size version is in SmugMug) and the original is 30MB.

Main camera, 4:3 ratio and 108MP option.

You can click for a larger version, but I’m not linking the full-size here because it just chews up my remaining WordPress (stingy) storage allotment.

But, I can show you what the resolution is at a 50% crop and at 100% crop.

50% crop
100% crop (1:1 view)

The 50% view is resized, but the 100% view above is the actual 1:1 crop of the original (1830 x 1370 pixels — click to view full-size).

These next two are using the main camera at the 12MP resolution, 9:16 and 16:9 ratios.

Now, where would you use the 108MP resolution? Oddly enough, I had occasion to use it just recently . . .

If you click on that, it’s not impressive because that photo is scaled down (again, the SmugMug gallery offers full-size photos). However . . .

. . . I give you a 50% crop (1:2) of the above . . .

50% zoom

. . . and . . .

100% crop (1:1) — 1900×1200 pixels — Click for a full-size view.

Normally, I’d have to take a photo of the whole, and then multiple photos of the individual sections. Here, one photo, and I can crop (zoom in) as needed.

Now, are those amazing at 1:1 crop? No, but then that’s something I would seldom do, crop 1:1. Not even with my DLSR unless I absolutely needed to.

Now, here’s the problem with the main camera . . . well, not a problem for some, but a problem for me. You see, because of the f-stop of the lens, it has a shallow depth-of-field. And, as people might know, I’m not a fan of shallow depth-of-field (LINK).

So, at the full 108MP resolution with the main camera, close-ups have shallow DOF, something pro-photographers love, but that I generally hate.

Those, and the next photos (with some obvious exceptions) are all from inside the house. Except, I went back to the 12MP camera setting.

Even at those settings, and not too close to the subject, you still get portions of the photo not in focus.

Step back a bit, and the “problem” disappears . . .

Step up close, and it reappears (note the buffalo and bear’s hind portions are out of focus).

Sometimes, of course, I like some DOF effects. Mainly, when the subjects are parallel to the camera, and the background is not important to the photo.

The DOF issue is mitigated by using the 5X camera from farther away. Unfortunately, if you change the zoom to a lower number, it will switch back to the main camera with the shallow DOF.

For most people, it won’t be an “issue” but them who be like me will do well to learn and be aware of the camera’s properties and adapt their shooting to what they desire as an outcome. Here’s a small gallery of other shots from around the house in various lighting conditions and varying distances.

There are other “modes” — like “Night Mode” — that I’ll explore in another post, but let me cover the zoom camera for a moment.

These next photos are shot from about the same distance as I shot the first photo . . . only I’m playing with the zoom.

5X zoom
10X zoom
20X zoom
50X zoom

Those are inside, and the subject is not well-lit . . . outside, it’s another matter . . .

Main Camera, no zoom
5X zoom camera – 5X
5X zoom camera – 10X
5X zoom camera – 20X
5X zoom camera – 50X

Anything over 5X is essentially a digital zoom, but Samsung plays some games with the processing because they combine it with the native zoom to give a better result than you would get just from cropping (digital zoom is essentially cropping).

Two things . . . anything over 10X or 20X (depending on the conditions) is probably useless . . . unless an eagle happens to land on that tree and all I have is the N20U.

I am impressed with the phone so far, and I’ve only scratched the surface of what it does. For instance, there’s also 8K video, and motion capture, and slow motion, and other stuff I’ll be trying.

But, this is all for now.

For a SmugMug slideshow click HERE<<link. When you click the link, it will open in a new window and you have two options:
1) Manually scroll through the photos by clicking the “<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos.
2) There’s a PLAY/PAUSE button at the top-left of the screen with the transition set at about 5 seconds. Note: clicking the PLAY arrow will run a full-screen slideshow. You can then still use the”<” and “>” symbols to the left or right of the photos as this will pause the slideshow.

If you want to zoom-in to the 1:1 view, click anywhere on the photo and that area will display at full resolution. Click again to zoom out, or click and hold to “drag” the view window around the photo. Be aware some of these files are large (25MB) and it may take a few seconds to load. Be patient.

Here’s the gallery of the above photos . . .

That’s it. This post has ended . . . except for the stuff below.


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