Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra teardown offers ultimate closeups on its crazy camera

 Galaxy S20 Ultra camera closeup
(Image credit: Future)

The Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra launches tomorrow (March 6), so today's a perfect day to get all up in its internals. A new report shows us the nitty gritty details of the phone's camera sensors, providing details of how Samsung fit so much inside an 8.8 mm thin chassis. 

These details come from the gadget repair geniuses at iFixit who performed one of their super rigorous teardowns on the S20 Ultra. They even compared its 108-megapixel camera, close-up, with the iPhone 11 Pro Max's 12-MP sensor.

For starters, iFixit gave a close-up on how the Galaxy S20's 108-megapixel camera fits those 108 million pixels into a 9.5 x 7.3 millimeter rectangle. This works out to 1.5 million pixels per square millimeter, which is hard to visualize. Of course, we know Samsung makes these infinitesimally tiny pixels work better in low-lighting conditions with a trick called "pixel binning" that draws in more light.

The S20 Ultra and iPhone 11 Pro's camera sensors, up close

The S20 Ultra camera (Top) has 108 million pixels in its camera sensor, while the iPhone 11 Pro camera (Bottom) fits 12 million in its. (Image credit: iFixit)

And while the giant camera block on the back is impossible to not notice, Samsung manages to fit a lot into it (including that 100x zoom sensor) with a neat trick. The S20's zoom lenses are rotated sideways, so a prism can then "bounce the light sideways," between the image and the sensor and the lenses. iFixit then found a supporting bracket that the "prism moves back and forth against … "to compensate for your shaky hands."

In other spec reveal details, iFixit confirmed that the S20 packs a 5000mAh battery (which we first heard about last December), and that the phone runs at a total of 19.30 watt-hours. That power draw is larger — but not shockingly higher than — those of the iPhone 11 Pro Max (15.04 Wh) and the Galaxy Note 10+ 5G (16.56 Wh).

Galaxy S20 Ultra camera zoom lens bay

The Galaxy S20 Ultra's camera zoom lens stack fits a lot into a little space. (Image credit: iFixit)

But about the S20 Ultra camera's flaw ...

We don't see any details that could explain the S20 Ultra's camera zooming flaws. In house at the Tom's Guide headquarters, we saw a jumpy focus, as the camera momentarily paused before actually focusing on objects that it was pretty close to. The iPhone 11 Pro Max, on the other hand, had no such issues. 

This kind of problem, on a seriously expensive handset, is the kind of annoying problem that led my colleague Mike Prospero (senior editor at Tom's Guide) to pen the excellent op-ed The Galaxy S20 Ultra had one job — and Samsung screwed it up. Samsung, of course, is in the process of delivering a fix.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.