Galaxy Note 20 Ultra on an island adventure: Here’s what I loved
There’s a lot to shout about: a massive screen, its easy S Pen stylus, 5G connectivity and an attractive design. All of this makes it a great phone for high-flying business types, but how does it fare on a rugged photography adventure on a remote island? To find out, I took it to the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland, and found the note to be more than just a trading instrument.
Here’s what I like
Awesome 5x zoom
It is a given that the Note 20 should be able to take cracking photos in its standard zoom mode. And it is – they are bright and vibrant and packed with detail. But this is the zoom skill that I liked very much on my travels. 5x optical zoom will give me vastly different compositions in my images that are beyond the 2x zoom range.
It is great for landscape photography. Instead of taking wide-angle shots of everything in a scene, I can zoom in and focus on certain elements, capturing more intimate shots. The images themselves are pin-sharp, and it works well for videos.
I shot a video diary of my time in Mool, where I went and what I see in my landscape photography. Every footage in it was shot in Note 20 (mostly at 4K resolution) and it was the zoom skill that raised my shots to a more cinematic level, otherwise I would have gotten something else. Which I…
Still shots even when zoomed
Zooming in on DSLRs with a long lens normally means a lot of shaking, and usually requires a strong tripod. The Note 20’s improved optical image stabilization worked well, but smoothing out any shaking with my hands, and being so smooth that when I was filmed as I was walking it looked like it was a static gimbal. Was shot using.
This is a huge help when you are zooming in, when any movement will be more noticeable. However, the phone was able to lock objects in a scene and keep them locked in the frame. There were a few scenes in my video where it struggled a bit – usually not when there is a clear point to “lock on” – but the footage was easily digitally stabilized in Adobe Premiere Pro.
Large scale display
The sheer size of the 6.9-inch display on the Note 20 makes it great for shooting photos and videos because it is so easy to create your shots. It is also bright, meaning that I was easy to see even under bright sun for a few moments on my trip.
This is a big advantage when it comes to editing my images, as it is very easy to change sliders in Adobe Lightroom Mobile on a large screen. I edited the shots I took from my phone, which I imported from my Canon 5D MkIV, and when I got my 12.9-inch iPad Pro, ($ 999 at Apple) For editing, I found it easier to sit back with the Note 20.
Also noticed that it was more enjoyable to watch the downloaded Netflix while I was drinking my morning coffee at the MSR camping stove.
S Pen makes image editing a dream
It was also during editing that I actually found the use of the S Pen. Adjusting the small sliders in Lightroom can be done more accurately using a fine tip of style, rather than jabbing with a finger. It is also easy to “paint” in effects, such as selectively lightening or darkening an image, using the stylus as much as I would using my professional Wacom graphics tablet at home.
The downside is that it is small and if you do not push it back into the slot at the bottom of the phone, you are guaranteed to lose it. On one occasion this Jeep managed to run and run towards the driver’s seat of the Wrangler, which I had borrowed for the trip. I did not notice at first and it took me some time to get it out. Since then I made sure to click the phone back completely before putting it away.
It’s as hard as it looks
The glass back and soft gold color of the phone make it like a little posture phone. Something that looks fantastic sitting at the cocktail bar table, but will not be put to great abuses. In fact, it is much stronger than it sounds. It took at least three tumbles to the ground – one of which was on a stony path, and neither the display nor the glass back showed any cracks.
The screen protector installed in the factory is heavily marked by the misuse it receives, but the display itself is correct and a replacement protector will give the phone a new look. The IP68 rating also meant that there was no problem keeping the water out when I shot footage multiple times in the rain, or I was regularly drenched in water because I made a short trip to the small island of staff. Sailed the boat.
I wonder how this phone understood the demands of my island adventure, especially when it was not even in a case that would have definitely happened had I spent my money on it.
However this was not all the opposite. Here’s what I didn’t like about the Note 20 Ultra.
Battery life may be better
Using the phone to shoot a lot of 4K video footage with screen brightness at maximum is a huge drain on electricity. But still, I was surprised at how quickly the phone seemed to suck the juice, requiring a recharge from the mobile power pack at midnight, despite being fully charged at 9am on the same day.
I found that it was being spared more when I used it and placed it in airplane mode to make sure it wasn’t unnecessarily wasted in powerlessly searching for cellular signals (Mull is a blackspot , Is something signal-wise).
Video microphones make wind noise
Being a fairly exposed island in the Atlantic Ocean, it is no surprise that the island can be very windy. I recorded my video using only the built-in mic and intentionally did not use an external microphone with a wind-shield to see how it performed. I did not even try to record myself while talking on camera in very strong winds because any microphone failed.
But even when the wind seemed soft, many of my clips suffered from wind noise. As a result, I recorded most of the dialogues of my film as voiceovers at home, with only a few left-over shots of the affected. You can still hear the wind noise in the film and it is a shame that some clips. I had to be completely isolated from the shot.
If you want to use the Note 20 as a vlogging camera, make sure you invest in microphones that can plug into the USB-C port.