The Galaxy Note20 Ultra's Life Focus mode is where you go for portraits with blurred backgrounds. Typically on Samsungs you get two magnifications, one corresponding to the main cam's 26mm and another around the 50mm equivalent focal length, with a tree designation in the viewfinder to switch between the two. On a Note10, those shots would be taken by the main cam and the 2x telephoto respectively. However, on the Ultras with their much longer teles, that's not the case and the Note20 Ultra takes portraits at both zoom levels using its main cam.
The Note defaults to that zoomed-in 50-ish mm mode when you open Live Focus. It's better in terms of perspective and shooting distance from your subject, not so great when it comes to detail rendition - these shots appear softer than the wide ones.
The wide mode switches this short pro-con list and delivers sharper shots, albeit at the expense of less flattering perspective. It's the one to use for self portraits with the rear cam too, since the 2x setting makes for a hard time trying to fit an entire head in landscape at arm's length distance.
Regardless of zoom level, the Note20 Ultra delivers spectacular subject isolation even with this particularly complex subject's messy hair - easily better than the S20 Ultra, possibly the best we've seen. Bokeh rendition is also very nice, the default 5/7 setting could just as well be the only one.
Live focus mode shots have exposure biased to get the faces as well exposed as possible. They also benefit from HDR processing and have wide dynamic range, something that wasn't necessarily true in our experience with the S20 Ultra.
As usual, Live focus mode can also be applied on non-human subjects with much the same success. Now, while the street sign is very well defined, the outline of the building in the background does look a bit too sharp itself.
Another less that ideal result is the aloe plant (it's aloe, isn't it?) with blurred leaves that should be sharp, and sharp areas that should be blurred in between leaves. That's really a torture test and more of an outlier when it comes to the mode's performance.
The Galaxy Note20 Ultra takes okay selfies. We prefer the wider view both for group shots and selfies alike - it's just better when there's context around your mug. Detail is good on a pixel level, there's simply less of it if you respect the phone's default crop to 6.5MP. Colors are a bit bland and slightly cold-ish-green-ish after coming off the rear cam's much more appealing look. As with most photos with a face in it, the phone will try and expose for that, with the HDR handling the tonal extremes in high-contrast situations - dynamic range is excellent too.
Here's how these shots would look if the Galaxy would have its way with cropping.
Live focus mode on the selfie cam isn't quite as capable as it is on the main one, but for a single-camera solution it is very good. It will occasionally leave in focus small portions of the background alongside the border with the subject, but not quite as often as we saw on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Here we encountered another peculiar glitch, where the phone will leave in focus objects it reads as human-colored (or at least that's our best guess) - like a coworker just at the edge of the frame or a car far in the background.