SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Beware, smartphone buyers of the marketing hype from Samsung for its new Galaxy S20 Ultra phone, introduced Tuesday. The specs – “100X Space Zoom” – make it sound actually superior to a top-of-the-line pro-level DSLR.

Based on the pre-production model I checked out at a press preview, it seems like a nice camera in a really expensive phone, even pricier at $1,400 than Apple’s top-of-the-line $1,100 iPhone 11 Pro Max. 

But when Samsung says: “This is the phone that will change photography,” sorry, but it’s “emperor has no clothes” time. At least, so it seemed to me in my limited time checking it out. The final version will be released March 6. 

Try some of the touted advanced features of the S20 Ultra, as I did in a 30-minute hands-on at the Samsung Unpacked event, and you could be very disappointed. I predict you’ll try them once, and never go back to them again. 

“Zoom in 100x to find shots you never knew existed.”

That’s what Samsung says. 

Samsung marketing hype for "100x" zoom

Like, say, a wide shot of a baseball field, and then zoom in for a close-up of a ball player’s face. 

Do so, and you’ll be sorry, because the image will probably be pixilated and not sharp. You’ll be able to tell that there’s a ball player in there, but it won’t look good.

The previous model, the S10, has a “2X” zoom, which means it brings you just a little closer to the action. The advancement – and Samsung gets kudos for this – is that it added “10x Hybrid Optic Zoom,” which did indeed seem great when I checked out the S20 Ultra. 



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