I used the new Samsung Galaxy S10+ for a week, and its five camera lenses are the reason I’d recommend it in a heartbeat

The rear cameras on this phone can almost rival a DSLR in terms of image control.
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You might have heard: Samsung’s newest phones hit Singapore’s shores on Friday (Mar 8).

But even before that, some reviewers had already begun using the phone, and many of them left glowing reviews of its cameras.

Read also: Samsung’s extra ‘ultrawide’ camera lens makes the Galaxy S10 stand out from all the other smartphones that already take great photos

So when I got my hands on a Samsung Galaxy S10+, I had to try see if it was indeed worth the hype.

Here’s how my week with the phone went:


Price

To start off, the Galaxy S10+ is the most expensive phone in the S10 range. There are three options available for this model, each with different amounts of memory space.

The 128GB model will cost S$1,398, the 512GB model is priced at S$1,798, and the 1TB model – the priciest – costs S$2,198.

Samsung

First Impressions

In order make the phones easier to use with one hand, Samsung says the Galaxy S10 series is smaller, thinner and lighter than the S9 series.

True to its promise, the phone was surprisingly light despite its size (as tall as a Galaxy Note, but slimmer).

Sadly, the edgeless effect was ruined by a thick black border.
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I liked the sleek feeling of the curved edges. The phone fit in my hands comfortably. 

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I loved the hole-in-display, which is Samsung’s answer to the notch – it’s subtle.

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The cameras on the rear of the phone were far less discreet though. They were housed in a big black bar that stuck out prominently against the white of the phone.

To be fair, a phone case will likely solve this problem, since it covers up most of the device anyway.
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Security

The phone had PIN, password, face recognition and fingerprint scanning. 

The face recognition on this device worked instantly with zero lag time. It was so fast, I thought I had forgotten to turn it on.

I activated the “faster recognition” option.
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It was also surprisingly reliable. The phone didn’t work when another colleague tried to use it, nor when I tried to unlock it using a selfie and a close-up video of myself.


The Screen

My positive sentiments about the phone took a dive when I opened up YouTube. Firstly, the videos didn’t fill up the screen, even when on full screen mode.

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Most of the videos were also blurry or pixellated. After watching several different videos, I concluded that the pixellation was likely because the videos were not as high-res as the screen.

YouTube screenshots

This was extremely disappointing, as some of these were professionally-shot music videos and movies.

YouTube screenshot

The Keyboard

The keyboard was comfortable to use with one hand, but had a major drawback: spellcheck didn’t work, despite the fact that it was switched on in settings.

As someone with clumsy fingers, this was devastating to me.
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Bloatware and Personalisation

The phone came pre-installed with a folder of Google apps, a folder of Samsung apps, and Facebook, Spotify, Linkedin and SGSecure.

Thankfully, these apps were easy to remove/uninstall using a quick shortcut.

This is unlike some phones, which don’t allow you to remove the apps.
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Personalisation of the phone is one area that Samsung shone in. The phone offered free and paid themes – both looked decent.

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I could remove everything on the home page, including the toolbar. 

I personalised my new home screen with a theme, and chose the tools I used most, including a “to-do list” widget that kept me super organised.

There are other widgets to choose from, but sadly, there wasn’t one to display a mini photo (my favourite feature on older Samsung phones).
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There was also a special home screen setting for adults who let kids use their phones, including control over app permissions.

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Sound

The Galaxy S10+ offered users options to optimise sound. I chose the setting for playing music, and listened to music from videos off YouTube.

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The resulting sound was richer, but with certain songs, I could still hear tinny metallic sounds coming from the instrumentals.


Charging

A full charge for the phone took about two hours, It uses a USB type C cable, and  comes with an adapter for Type A cables.

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Reverse charging was very  easy to set up on the phone – I just turned on the option in the settings bar. 

It worked instantly on a colleague’s iPhone.
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The phone was also able to reverse charge other devices while being charged itself. I can see this feature coming in handy on holidays, when there are multiple devices to charge but few sockets available.


Camera

Undoubtedly, the camera function was the star of the show on this phone.

There were five lenses, three on the back and two on the front. 

One of the front lenses offered selfies at two focal lengths, one nearer and one further. The other lens was used only for depth-sensing, not photo taking.

I took these from the same spot, just toggling between the options.
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When it sensed people in the shot, the front camera tried to apply a “beauty” effect, smoothening wrinkles and removing zits. Like previous Samsung phones, the beautifying effect could be controlled or turned off.

The camera also had a motion photo setting that captured a few seconds of video along with the photo.


The three back cameras also let me take pictures with three different focal lengths, from a regular shot to an ultra-wide angle shot.

The three focal lengths, from longest to shortest.
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All taken from the same spot, just toggling between the lenses.
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The difference between the ultra-wide angle lens and the zoom lens was incredible.  

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I then tried changing the size of the frame.

Instead of simply cropping off more of the photo, the camera picked the best lens and resized my subject (a bench), while maintaining the same focal length. I was impressed.

From left to right: full frame, 9:16 ratio frame, and square frame.
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The camera had several settings. One was called “pro” and mimicked a DSLR, letting me change the aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance, and other settings.

A photo taken on “Pro” mode before tweaking the settings (left), and after adjustments (right).
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The camera also had a setting to tell you where the best composition was.

Arguably, composition and angling are two of the most critical factors in getting a good picture. I could immediately see how this feature would help tons of people take better photos.

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In pro mode, I was able to tweak the settings to get a film-like effect.

The same photo taken on regular mode (left) and on “Pro” mode (right).
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Overall, the camera settings offered sufficient shooting options to seriously rival a DSLR in terms of the photographer’s control over the image.

It made me want to ditch my 3kg camera and just bring the phone on my next holiday.

The only issue I had was that the phone started getting extremely warm after I had used the camera for 15 minutes.


For those who don’t want to meddle with “pro”, the regular setting had an automatic scene optimiser.

It chose the best colour and shooting effect for my photo. 

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I could tell that, compared to real life, the camera had upped the colour saturation of the bench, and it was a good choice aesthetically.

This setting means that even people with average photography skills can get nice-looking shots.


The camera also had several trippy special effects on a setting called “live focus”.

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However, I didn’t think I would use them often.


Samsung seemed proud of its night photography setting. The effect was satisfactory – quite on par with other brands.

I simulated a night scene by taking a photo under my desk, where the light doesn’t shine (above). The bottom photo was taken with the night setting on the S10+.
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The panorama function was great, and captured triple the amount of background, compared to a regular photo.

The image on the regular camera (cropped for better comparison).
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The image with panorama settings.
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The camera also had a setting just for food photos, which made the colours warmer and softened the focus.

Photos on normal mode (left) and on the “food” setting (right).
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I tried the effect again on a leaf, and got similar results.
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AR Lens

The Galaxy S10 had an AR lens that created a digital render of me based on a selfie. I was able to tweak the look, including changing the eyes, hair, and face shape.

The AI’s initial render (left) and after my tweaks (right).
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Once I had my AR character done, I was able to make it copy my facial expressions.

But like all AR features, while this was fun, I wouldn’t use it often.
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Videos

Samsung claims the video camera on the phone offers professional-grade videography and an in-built stabiliser.

Two standout features for me were the slow-motion and hyperlapse videos.

The slow motion video let me appreciate the finer details of a cat walking…

Very educational.
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…and made a swimming pool water look like a work of art.

However, the video quality dropped after being exported out of the phone.
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However, the video camera suffered terribly under indoor lighting, and couldn’t focus properly on a fast moving object (a spinning coin).

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Hyperlapse videos fared better.

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Overall thoughts

While I enjoyed using the phone, the standout feature was hands-down the impressive camera. It was an absolute delight to use, and managed to transform even the most mundane scenes into professional-looking photos.

I particularly liked the three rear cameras, which offered a way to get an up-close or far away photo, all while standing in the same spot.

I was also impressed by how easy it was to use the pro function, and how user friendly the settings were. Although there were quite a number of settings, I didn’t feel overwhelmed. Most people will have no problem figuring out the camera functions.

On top of that, the slow-motion and hyperlapse video functions made for fun videos, and settings like pro, panorama, and motion photo seemed perfect for capturing holiday shots.

Since I use it often to document my day, a camera is one of the main features I consider before deciding to buy a phone. While the camera on the S10+ is not without its faults (it heats up and is uncomfortable to hold, for example), it’s powerful enough that I wouldn’t mind replacing my DSLR with it on holidays.

And to me, that’s a powerful enough reason to buy it.

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