Will the Galaxy S20 have a 10x optical zoom? Here's what we know

Expect the Galaxy S20's cameras to outpace those on the Galaxy S10 (pictured) (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The rear cameras on the Galaxy S20 figure to be a standout feature for Samsung's upcoming flagship phones. But one of the more eye-catching capabilities — an optical zoom that blows away competing camera phones — may not make it to every model.

The confusion over the Galaxy S20's zoom capabilities has been sparked by a report over Samsung's parts supply line — specifically, a report this week in The Elec. That Korean business paper says that a company called Optrontech is readying an optical 5x zoom camera module for the Galaxy S20 series, which is expected to consist of three different models.

On paper, that's great news. Last year's Galaxy S10 and S10 Plus featured a telephoto lens capable of a 2x optical zoom, so this year's models sound like an upgrade in that regard.

However, if you've been following your Galaxy S20 rumors, you'll recall that the possibility of a 10x optical zoom has been raised by Samsung watchers sorting through assorted spec leaks. As recently as this week, a massive specs dump pointed to a 48MP telephoto lens with 10x optical zoom finding its way to the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the range-topping model that's slated to debut at Samsung's Unpacked product event on Feb. 11.

Because The Elec doesn't mention the S20 Ultra specifically — just the S20 series — that's fueling some concern that the 10x optical zoom feature won't be in any S20 model, with Samsung capping the optical zoom at 5x on its new phones. That would still put Samsung's new models ahead of Apple's iPhone 11 Pro devices and Google's Pixel 4 series, both of which feature a 2x optical zoom. The Huawei P30 Pro features a 5x optical zoom, but that phone's not easy for U.S. consumers to grab.

A more likely scenario is that Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Plus will sport a 5x optical zoom, while the 10x optical zoom will be reserved for the S20 Ultra. That's what the specs leak from earlier this week seemed to point to, at any rate.

It makes sense, as at least three of the Galaxy S20 models are expected to have a lot in common. The 5G versions of the Galaxy S20 are all expected to be powered by the same processor (the Snapdragon 865) and employ the same design, albeit with larger screens. Cameras are likely to be the distinguishing factor between the S20 variants, with the S20 Ultra leading the line with a 108MP main sensor, a 48MP telephoto lens and a 12MP ultrawide shooter. The 10x optical zoom capability would further let the Galaxy S20 Ultra stand out from the other Samsung phones while justifying a higher price tag.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.