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Battle of Generations – Samsung S20 Ultra, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Film Camera

Updated: May 29, 2022

For many years photographers around the world have been using fill cameras to take pictures and they were delivering great results. Digital photography actually took a little while to catch up and produce better results. Years have gone by and nowadays digital photography has been improving dramatically. Phones are getting close to being just as good as the average DSLR.

We decided to make this article and video about comparing the difference in generations, putting side by side the new, the old and the super old to see if it’s actually that much different. Our line-up is Samsung S20 Ultra, Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Practica MTL 50.

And what better place to do it than in Singapore Botanic garden.

So we woke up early in the morning and headed out to test our 3 devices. In low light conditions our film camera had to stay out due to its film’s 200 ISO limitations. Therefore for this part of comparison we focused only on S20 Ultra and Mate 20 Pro.

Standard mode

Without using Night Mode S20 Ultra is delivering much brighter results, but with night mode they’re actually quite comparable. In some situations during the Night Mode Mate 20 Pro is delivering more black-and-white pictures when S20 Ultra gets some colour into it even though it’s really dark.

Night mode

One of the observations we made is – once it started to go a little bit brighter S20 Ultra actually really struggled to use the Night Mode, in fact the normal photos and night-time photos were basically the same. Huawei Mate 20 Pro has Night Mode which you can use at any time so it’s just going to take more pictures, stack them together and just bring out the shadows and kind of flatten the whole picture making everything bright. We do like that feature, it can sometimes be very useful, it kind of gives you more flexibility. But the use cases come up very seldom so it’s not a big deal if Samsung doesn’t have it.

Night mode during daytime

When testing out both phones for slow motion, we noticed that Huawei is producing crispier foreground and background, however the water droplets on Samsung S20 Ultra seems to be more separate and distinct. It seems like Samsung is using a much higher shutter speed therefore moving objects are sharper.

Moving objects in slow motion

Zoom capabilities of both of these phones just show what a generational advantage brings to the table. Mate 20 Pro definitely has a very good camera, when using the main camera, they both look quite comparable. Of course, the newer phone has slightly sharper pictures, but overall the results are very equal. Even at 5 times zoom they’re quite similar but it’s clear that Samsung Ultra is already winning over. At 10 times zoom Huawei is becoming very, very soft while Samsung is still quite sharp. 30 times zoom on Huawei becomes basically useless, and Samsung kind of looks like Huawei at 5 times zoom. Samsung does have the 100 times zoom but that looks like the 30 times zoom on the Huawei and they both look like garbage.

OK, it’s time to do some comparisons involving our film camera as well.

In this picture of an orchid on top of a tree branch the difference between Samsung and Huawei is actually quite obvious. Samsung has much punchier colours and it also looks a little bit sharper. Huawei and the film camera have very similar colours, one major noticeable difference is the bokeh. Film camera has ridiculous subject separation.

Here Huawei really struggled to get focus in general. It might be because it’s a very complex scene, at the same time Samsung actually made the picture really, really sharp across the board without creating any subject separation. Overall my favourite camera here is the film camera which creates amazing subject separation and really hones in on that shallow depth of field.

We really wanted to test the dynamic range. Samsung together with the film camera is doing quite well. If you look just outside of the patio on the left hand side in pictures from Samsung and Film camera you can still see the shadow from that pole. In Mate 20 Pro it is just simply gone.

One of the things we noticed while taking this picture – you tend to forget to straighten out pictures because there are no assist features. It’s made much easier with a phone and a digital camera with levelling lines and reminders.

With close-ups in pictures Samsung’s done a really good job, isolating the subject. I dare to say it is as good as the film camera’s result. For Huawei the picture is reasonable but the background is rather distracting.

We had to take a few portrait shots and it’s very obvious that Samsung is delivering better skin tones but it does it by just boosting all the colours all together. You can see just above and on the far left – the greenery is just a little bit too green. Huawei maintained a reasonably natural look and the film camera… well it seems that we shot it overexposed and out of focus so the joke is on us.

Then I gave the film camera to Kristine and was trying to teach her how to do it. And obviously it’s well in focus, exposed nicely and it looks better than both of the camera phones.

In this next picture I prefer the Samsung photo as it delivers a reasonable background blur and it keeps the colours nice and even. I would actually like for the skin tones to be a little bit more similar like the film camera delivered.

Here we have yet another picture of me trying my best to take a picture of Kristine and failing miserably on a film camera. But on the other hand I want to give kudos to Kristine – while I’m swapping phones, cameras and everything else she looks exactly the same in every single picture. Huawei does deliver an overall good picture but at the same time you could see that the phone is starting to age, at least when it’s compared side by side with a Samsung S20.

Long and behold! Yet another picture where Anton has failed at focusing with a film camera. And they say that the Samsung phone has bad focusing system…

We really wanted to check out the macro capabilities of these cameras. It is a little bit unfair for the film camera as it is using a standard lens, however Samsung and Huawei should really be able to do it. Huawei has a dedicated Super Macro mode. Unfortunately Samsung has quite a long minimal focus distance so we had to use a stanard camera, zoom in and focus manually as it wasn’t really getting it.

Here is another macro picture and Samsung and Huawei both look very similar regardless of colours. Huawei does start to look a little bit washed out in comparison to Samsung which has very bold and bright colours. Unfortunately Samsung does have a bit of fringing and actually considerably more than Huawei. But film camera here has that nice vintage feel.

For this next picture I have a challenge for you. Can you tell which one of these pictures is which camera? As far as I’m concerned they’re quite similar (you can find the answer at the end of the article).

In this picture by the market stall I wanted to check how vivid will the cameras decide to make these pictures. Actually Huawei has done probably the best job keeping it as accurate as possible, Samsung has definitely bumped the saturation a little bit too much where the items start to become a bit plastic looking (pun intended).

This is another great example where all three pictures look quite similar regards of colours. Yes, the new phones have a slightly sharper picture but overall to a naked eye, unless you start zooming-in, you can’t really tell the difference.

I’d like to summarise this mostly uneven and unfair comparison.

Film camera is awesome! Especially if you know how to use it, which we clearly don’t. We really missed the focus on a lot of pictures. It can deliver amazing results and it keeps that timeless look.

Phones are developing at crazy speeds and they are really delivering some incredible results. I would say, in some cases Samsung S20 Ultra actually gives a little bit better results than what you can get out of the film camera.

Two generations one after the other – Huawei Mate 20 Pro and Samsung S20 Ultra – a year and a half old phone is starting to show its age and overall it should probably stand to the side, the new king of photography Samsung S20 Ultra is keen on delivering results.

Thank you for sticking till the end on this one! We’ll see you in the next one.

The correct answer: Samsung – film camera – Huawei

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