The Galaxy S20 Fan Edition comes with a different camera system than the S20 and S20+. That is to say two out of three modules are different, the main unit is the same. That uses a 12MP sensor with big 1.8µm pixels behind an f/1.8 aperture lens. Image stabilization and dual pixel autofocus are on the list of features too.
The ultra wide angle cam covers a modestly larger field of view than what you can get with the other S20s - though at 123 degrees vs. 120 degrees and with the software correction accounted for, that's hardly a difference. The aperture on this one is f/2.2 as on the other models, and just like them it has no autofocus. The resolution is the same as well - 12MP. The big difference here is in pixel and sensor size - the FE has smaller pixels at 1.12µm on a smaller 1/3" sensor, next to the 1.4µm and 1/2.55" numbers of the S20 and S20+ specsheet.
On to the telephoto then. The FE is fitted with an 8MP tele camera that has a 76mm equivalent focal length. Measured from the 26mm of main cam, that's about 2.9x zoom which can pass for 3x in our book. This camera has an f/2.4 aperture lens and smallish 1.0µm pixels. Compare that to the 1.07x optical zoom and 64MP resolution of the S20 'tele' that does its zooming in software.
Over on the front, another change awaits. The Fan Edition gets a 32MP Quad Bayer sensor for selfies, instead of the conventional 10MP unit on the S20 and S20+. This one has the same f/2.2 aperture and 25mm focal length equivalent, but there's one notable downgrade - autofocus is missing.
The S20 FE gets the familiar Samsung Camera app which is straightforward and easy to use. The basics are as usual - swiping left and right will switch between available modes, and there's an option to re-arrange, add or remove some of the modes from the viewfinder. Vertical swipes in either direction will switch between front and rear cameras.
The familiar tree designation for zoom control is here too - three threes for ultra wide, two trees for man cam (moderately wide) and single tree for telephoto. As before, once you hit the one-tree toggle, an extra set of buttons show up, with additional preset zoom levels at 2x, 4x, 10x, 20x and 30x. Pinch to zoom is also available.
Selfie zoom levels on the FE adopt the logic Samsung's been using for a while and we've been complaining about for a while. By default, you're getting a cropped in view equivalent to a 32mm focal length and 6.5MP resulting images. To get the full coverage of the camera, you need to tap on the zoom toggle.
The viewfinder has the customary set of icons with the settings cog wheel located in the upper left corner of the screen. The usual stuff like video resolution, grid lines, location data, etc., can be found in the menu, as well as the ultra-wide lens correction, tucked in under the 'Save options' category. You can also turn on and off the Scene optimizer on a global scale. HDR is handled in the new way we got with the S20s - it's Auto HDR on or off, but it's missing a forced on setting.
There's a Pro mode too and the FE gets the full-featured one, as opposed to the more stripped down version on lesser models. We appreciate the granular exposure controls and manual focus with peaking, but there's still no live histogram or the ability to operate the telephoto or the ultra wide cams.
In broad daylight and with its main cam, the Galaxy S20 FE takes similar, yet different pictures, compared to the S20+ we had on hand. Mind you, it's a Snapdragon Fan Edition versus an Exynos regular edition, so the change of chipset could have its own effect on the processing in addition to the other possible variables.
The FE shots have a narrower dynamic range - certainly not the impressive results of the S20+. Colors are not as vivid either and if you're a fan of Samsung's particular colorful look, the FE could be a little too muted for you.
None of that goes to say that the Fan Edition takes bad photos, no. They are sharp and detailed and, as we've come to expect from Samsungs - practically noise free. And for all our preferences for punchier colors, the ones out of the FE are more accurate than the S20+'s.
The ultra wide cam is not the same, so at least whatever differences there are here, they're to be expected. The more restrained colors on the FE are among them, that theme continues. Interestingly, the FE's ultra wide is a touch sharper too - not by a lot, but it is noticeable. Dynamic range is about on par between the two.
Here are a few more samples from the FE.
As usual, there is software distortion correction enabled by default. We'd keep it that way unless artistic expression calls for the bulging non-corrected look.
The telephoto cam is the other new bit on the Fan Edition. Weirdly enough, that too outputs 12MP images, and as best as we can tell these are upscaled as opposed to being a composite between the tele for the center and the main cam for the periphery.
In terms of sharpness the results are comparable between the Fan Edition and the S20+. Noise performance is a lot better on the FE, though the non-FE does have a wider dynamic range.
The S20 FE's tele camera is a reasonably good shooter of close-ups - we wouldn't call it macro. It can focus down to about 20cm getting you more detailed shots with a distortion-free perspective - better than what you'd get out of the main cam at this range. Just make sure to cover the main cam with your finger to ensure you catch it when it switches.
In low light, images from the FE's main camera are more similar to the S20+' results, more so than in daylight. If we must point out the slight differences, the S20+ does a better job at containing the highlights around light sources while looking on a pixel level, the FE has a bit more detail and some extra noise to go with that.
Switch the two phones to Night mode, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a difference between them. You'll get virtually identical detail and hardly any noise from either of them. Highlight preservation is the same too, as is the boost in the lower mid-tones. There are textbook Night mode results if a little conservatively applied.
After sunset, the FE's ultra-wide fares a little better in some respects than the one on the S20+, counterintuitive as that may be. It holds on to saturation, while the S20+ images look discolored. The more aggressive noise reduction on the FE leaves a lot less noise to look at, though the S20+ has a bit more detail among the noise grain. Overall, it's not the downgrade we thought it might be, this ultra-wide.
Going into Night mode, it's actually straight-up superior. The FE's images are consistently sharper than the S20+'s here, while the dynamic range is the same.
Zooming to 3x to for the tele comparison, we're seeing another minor upset - the FE inches ahead as well. We're seeing improved detail, lower noise levels, and wider dynamic range.
The gap between the two gets narrower in Night mode, and both produce pretty good photos given some light to work with. That third shot on the S20+ is more of an outlier, we had no issues of this sort in other scenes.
Once you're done with the real world samples, head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G stacks up against the competition.
Live focus mode (Samsung's portrait mode) produces okay results on the S20 FE. Our wall paneling strikes again, confusing the algorithms, but in less specific scenarios the phone delivers good subject separation and natural-looking background blur.
Life focus mode works particularly well on non-human subjects where it doesn't have to deal with stray hair and other overly random bits. Having said that, the sharp outline of the building behind the street sign is anything but natural.
Selfies on the Fan Edition are an odd story. You'd expect 8MP shots out of a 32MP Quad Bayer imager, but these end up being 10MP. That was the case on the S10 Lite and Note10 Lite as well, both with 32MP front-facing cams. A lot like the 12MP output of the 8MP rear tele cam, we gather that Samsung just wants the FE to output the same image sizes as the non-FEs.
Image quality is decent at base ISO though they quickly deteriorate in even moderately dim conditions (samples 2 and 3). In good light (samples 1 and 4), you'll get well-detailed images with pleasing skin tones. Dynamic range is respectable as well.
Here's how these scenes would look in the default cropped in mode - now in 6.5MP.
A full-res 32MP mode is available as well. It delivers extra detail in well-lit situations, though it's questionable why you'd want all of it. Conversely, in dimmer light, results will be no different than what you'd get if you upscale the 10MP shot to 32MP - plus it's not a very good 10MP shot in dim light to begin with.
Selfie portraits often exhibit iffy subject detection - and that's not just because of the subject's torture-test-grade excuse for a hairstyle. Take a look at the wall paneling on the left in the first image, or the leftmost poster in the second one.
The Galaxy S20 FE records video up to 4K60 with its main camera. The ultra-wide can do 4K and 1080p but only at 30fps. Technically, so too can the telephoto, though to get it to record at 60fps in either resolution, you need to switch to tele first and then change the frame rate from settings. Additionally, how it manages to get 3840x2160px capture from a sensor that's nominally 3264x2448px, is a bit perplexing.
Anyways. Video quality from the FE's main cam is, well... adequate. While 1080p footage is comparable to the S20s', 4K on the FE is notably inferior in terms of sharpness and detail. It's not properly bad, it's just not as good as it can be in this respect. Other than that, the videos have likable colors and dynamic range is excellent.
More or less the same holds true for the ultra-wide cam too. 4K footage isn't up to the standard of the non-FE S20s when it comes to sharpness. Again, no complaints when you step back from 1:1 examination - colors are pleasing and the dynamic range is great.
And we finally get to the telephoto for a nice surprise. Zoomed in videos from the FE look very good in 4K, comparable to ones out of the S20+ and enjoyable on their own. Colors are on point, dynamic range is wide, and somehow there is nice fine detail in what has to be slightly upscaled footage.
Electronic stabilization is available in all modes on all cameras on the Galaxy S20 FE. On the main cam, it works great and irons out walking, does smooth pans, and stays planted if you have the phone pointed in one direction.
We had a less pleasing experience with the ultra-wide that can't hold a steady 30fps frame with the stabilization on and tends to produce abrupt jolts every now and then, whether walking, standing still, or panning. The telephoto is somewhere in between - it keeps a constant frame rate and while a little shaky, it's consistently just a little shaky.
Here's a glimpse of how the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G compares to rivals in our Video compare tool. Head over there for the complete picture.