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Is the Samsung Galaxy S20 now the best Android phone for videographers?
The Samsung Galaxy S20 family is among the first to ship with support for 8K video capture. That means it captures video at a resolution of 7,680 by 4,320 pixels, or 33MB per frame. Resolution isn’t everything, however, and videographers need more than a high pixel count to make the best videos. Does the Galaxy S20 offer anything beyond 8K? Let’s find out.
The raw numbers
Thanks in part to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 865, a wave of new flagships with 8K video capture support is about to wash over the market. Samsung and its Galaxy S20, S20 Plus, and S20 Ultra happen to be the earliest to reach stores.
Samsung told Android Authority that five minutes of 8K video footage will consume about 3GB of storage space on the S20. That means you’ll get fewer than 40 minutes of footage on an empty S20 with 128GB of storage. You’ll need a microSD card for sure, preferably one with an insanely fast write speed, or the 512GB S20 Ultra. Storage is the only real limiting aspect as far as how much you can capture, says Samsung, but there are other factors to consider.
At the end of the day, the S20's ability to record in 8K is simply massive data capture.
For example, the S20 chops 8K video into 4GB files. The phone will record continuously, but once a file reaches 4GB in size it’ll end that file and then automatically start a new one. You’re looking at just over 6 minutes of footage in a single 4GB file. You’ll have to assemble all the files on your own.
The S20 limits 8K capture to 24 frames per second. This is the same frame rate used for movies, but many videographers prefer 30fps or even 60fps for smoother motion.
At the end of the day, the S20’s ability to record in 8K is simply massive data capture. The phone’s fancy video features don’t apply to 8K. For example, stabilization isn’t possible. If raw pixels are what you want, the S20 gets that job done in 3GB chunks.
What can you do with 8K?
The first thing you’ll need to do is either edit on the device, or transfer the files to a PC. On the device, you can crop and trim 8K footage, as well as paste clips together. That’s all good.
Samsung allows you to share 8K video, too. Owners of Samsung QLED 8K TVs can stream 8K footage directly from the S20 to the television set. That’s nifty. Want to share anywhere else? You’ll need to downsample. Luckily, it’s easy to do.
You can crop and trim 8K video footage directly on the Samsung Galaxy S20.
Changing the resolution from 8K to 4K, 2K, 1080p, or 720p is as simple as using a drop-down tool in the share menu. The best part here is that the S20 preserves the original resolution even when sharing lower-resolution files. You can also convert it to HEVC to conserve storage.
Last, the S20’s 8K Video Snap feature allows you to capture a still picture when recording video. This is fairly common on today’s devices. Keep in mind, however, that the snapshot from the S20 will be 33MP. That’s four times the size of the 8MP image you get from a 4K-capable video camera. Nice.
Doing more with less
The Samsung Galaxy S20’s video story is more interesting when you back away from 8K. Notably, once you drop down to 4K you’ll be able to apply all the phone’s advanced capture tools. What are those?
First, there’s Super Steady. This mode pairs AI-assisted motion analysis and anti-rolling stabilization to create shake-free video. Yes, the S20 is your new action cam. Next is Night Mode, which relies on the larger sensor and multi-image and multi-ISO processing to deliver sharp nighttime video. Night Hyperlapse is an offshoot of Night Mode. It allows people to create clean hyperlapse videos in the dark. There’s Live Focus video, too. This is basically bokeh for video. The S20 blurs the background while keeping your subject sharp.
The Galaxy S20's advanced video capture modes aren't available when shooting 8K video.
Last, there’s Single Take. This is a single shooting mode that does everything at once. Press and hold the shutter button for three to ten seconds to record a video clip. The S20 then produces up to nine different files. For photos, it delivers AI best moment, ultra-wide shot, Live Focus, AI filter, and Smart Crop. For video it delivers the original file, forward/backward video, fast forward, and fast reverse. You can then pick and choose which to keep.
These are all great modes and will surely lead to fun and creative results.
The S20 allows people to capture 4K video at 60fps, which is the current Holy Grail of video standards. It delivers a great mix of sharp and smooth video for today’s 4K HDR TVs. In other words, this is the sweet spot for most videographers.
What about audio?
This is the big mystery. Samsung has not yet made any specific announcements or claims with respect to the Galaxy S20’s ability to capture audio. There are at least two mics on the chassis of the device, but we’re not sure what they can do.
One big detractor for videographers? There is no headphone jack on the Samsung Galaxy S20. This is a big no-no for audiophiles, and prevents the phone from working with certain types of external microphones. The USB-C port does support audio-in with an adapter.
Samsung’s position on audio is in direct contrast with some of its competitors. LG and Sony, for example, make it a point to include the latest audio features on their devices. You can be sure that any forthcoming flagships (LG V60) from these two companies (Xperia 2) will likely be audiophile-approved.
Is the Samsung Galaxy S20 a good phone for photographers? Yes, absolutely. While the ability to capture 8K shouldn’t be your main purchasing decision, it’s certainly an appealing add-on to an already powerful video-creating machine. The only potential drawback is audio, which we hope to learn more about in the weeks ahead.