Last October, somewhat on impulse, I upgraded my phone to the Samsung Galaxy S10.
It all began when I met up with a friend of mine and saw that she was taking photos with her phone, not with a DSLR. This was a surprise to me, since the photos she had been posting looked like they came from a DSLR, with shallow depth of field. However, she was using a Samsung Galaxy S9. I filed this knowledge away, thinking that Samsung had made remarkable improvements in their camera technology.
When the S10 line was announced, I had a brief chuckle over the number of cameras. Up to five, in the case of the S10+, and then later they introduced the S10 5G with six cameras. However, I could immediately see the value. It is essentially an optical zoom solution without the bulk. The cost of a camera is so low that including multiple cameras in a device is an economically justified solution to providing multiple angles of view to the user. Apple is doing the same thing with their iPhone 11.
That was a while back. The S10 is not new now. However, on Thursday, I began to yearn for a better camera on my phone. On Friday, I ordered one (and in less than an hour, a team of “Enjoy Experts” was at my house, handing it to me).
First of all, let me be clear: I did not get DSLR quality in a smartphone. Samsung has a new feature they’re calling “Live Focus” which detects the subject and digitally blurs the background. It worked well enough to fool me into thinking I was looking at DSLR photos. However, now that I know what I’m looking at, I can tell the difference. I have also found some cases where it doesn’t quite work correctly, such as selfies of my bald head. It will be a while before I decide whether I want to use this feature much.
The S10 is in the middle of the line with three rear-facing cameras and one selfie camera. The selfie camera has an 80° diagonal angle of view. The rear-facing cameras have 123°, 77°, and 45° diagonal angles of view, which they call Ultra Wide, Wide-angle, and Telephoto, and in the camera UI they are called x0.5, x1.0, and x2.0. These are equivalent to 12mm, 27mm, and 52mm lenses on a 35mm film camera. I personally think the Telephoto camera is misnamed, but in the context of a smartphone camera, I can see why they chose to call it that.
The Ultra Wide camera is fixed focus with a fixed aperture of f/2.2, but it is 16 MP. Samsung has pointed out a fact that many people may not appreciate, which is that panoramic photos using this Ultra Wide camera will be much wider (vertically), and will therefore have a considerably more panoramic appearance. The Wide-angle camera is auto-focus with optical image stabilization, and it has two aperture modes, f/1.5 and f/2.4, but it is only 12 MP. The Telephoto camera is also auto-focus with optical image stabilization, has a fixed aperture of f/2.4, and is 12 MP.
Both Samsung and AT&T provide tools for transferring configuration, apps, and data across from an old device to a new one. I used both. On top of that, some media got transferred over from the cloud. Consequently, much of my media is duplicated in two or three places on the new device. I still haven’t cleaned it all up.
The device came with Android 9, but a system update soon followed (in December?) that upgraded it to Android 10. I have noticed only minor changes with Android 10. The only one worth complaining about is that format of the recent battery history has changed, and I have not yet been able to make sense of the new format.
Android 9 loses the old Memo app that was built into Android 7 and earlier versions (was it in 8?). I have been using the Samsung Notes app instead.
The S10 does not have the battery life of my S6 Active, and I assume, without having tested it, that it won’t be as durable. Live Focus, what I mistook for shallow depth of field, isn’t all that great, and I haven’t been using it. The wide-angle and telephoto cameras are useful on occasion, and I have been making use of them, but they alone weren’t worth the upgrade.
The S10 is slimmer and lighter than the S6 Active. Though the S6 Active has been working well, upgrading has put my mind at ease about having a device that was released four years ago.