iPhone 12 vs 12 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S20 FE vs Note 20 Ultra | Camera Comparison

Hey guys happy 2021 and welcome back to another camera comparison video! It’s been quite a while since we did a video like this but anyway we’re back and we have 4 really interesting smartphones to compare this time. 

So this time I am going to try something different. Previously you see me comparing devices that have the same price range but now I want to compare the “Dai lou”(Big brother) and the “Sai lou” (Small brother) of a smartphone series, or rather a certain smartphone brand. This is actually to see if the more affordable device is able to keep up or on par with the more expensive ones. 

First up, we have the iPhone 12. Out of the 4 iPhone 12 series, this is my favourite. To me it has the perfect size and I like that it has a really good camera too. But is it as good as the most expensive iPhone 12 Pro Max? Is the 12 Pro Max REALLY worth all that extra money?

And since we are comparing the iPhone, I think it is also a good opportunity to compare Samsung devices as well. And that is why I have chosen the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE and the Note 20 Ultra. The Galaxy S20 FE is one of the more interesting smartphones to be launched last year because it is affordable, but has a lot of what makes Samsung flagships so popular. But the camera leh? Can it really compete with something like the Note 20 Ultra? Samsung’s best camera smartphone right now?

There’s only one way to find out.

SCENE 1: Dynamic Range

Let’s start off this comparison with this set of pictures. So the purpose of this set of pictures is to take a look at how well each phone handles dynamic range. 

Okay so the first thing that you will notice is that the highlights of the skies are blown out on the S20 FE. This means that the dynamic range is not very good on the S20 FE since it can’t capture the details in both highlights and shadows. It exposed the shadows and that is why the highlights got blown out.

The iPhone 12 on the other hand does a completely different thing. You lose the details in the trees and leaves because the phone decided to keep the details in the sky. The Note 20 and the 12 Pro Max don’t have this problem. They both were able to retain details in the sky and in the shadows meaning it has better dynamic range.

SCENE 2: Ultra-wide

Okay so let’s first compare the ones between the S20 FE and Note 20 Ultra. When you put the pictures side by side, you wouldn’t really notice any difference between the two. But if you look abit closer, there are some subtle differences.

For example, if you take a look at this building you will notice that the lines on the S20 FE are not super straight, and some of the buildings look like they’re leaning back. This distortion is not noticeable on the Note 20 Ultra.

And if you were to punch into the buildings on the left corner, you can also see that the details of the rails are much more prominent on the Note 20 Ultra, so it definitely has a better ultra-wide lens.

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Unlike their Android rivals, there isn’t much difference between the two iPhone images. They are both equally sharp, the details are there and there’s no distortion going on, which is great.

SCENE 3: Wide

Alright, moving on to the wide angle camera test. 

I’m actually really surprised to see how well the S20 FE performs in this category. Even though it doesn’t come with a 108MP main camera like the Note 20 Ultra, the results of the pictures between the 2 phones are not that far off. And when you punch in into the temple, you can see that the details are all still there and it is really comparable to the Note 20 Ultra. And when you take a look at the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro Max they are also not so far off from each other as well. The differences between them are almost non-existent I’d say.

But the most noticeable difference between the iPhones and the Samsung’s is the brightness. The iPhones are a little brighter while the Samsung’s are a bit dark and look quite dull.

SCENE 4: Max Zoom

Here’s where things start to change, because each phone has different max zoom ranges. Like I mentioned earlier in this video, the iPhone 12 is the only phone that doesn’t come with a dedicated telephoto lens so it definitely doesn’t have the same reach.

The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra can zoom in the furthest with a 50X digital zoom so that means you can see the chinese characters clearly. The  iPhone 12 Pro Max and the S20 FE both have 10X and 30X digital zoom respectively.

I think that the iPhone 12 has the worst image quality here since it does not have a telephoto camera. If you punch it in, you can’t really see the chinese characters properly. The Note 20 Ultra on the other hand is able to zoom so close to the Chinese characters and the details are really sharp, so that’s a win for the Note 20 Ultra.   

But in terms of the colours, I prefer the ones produced on the iPhones because the colours are more pleasant to the eyes and they are more natural looking compared to the ones on Samsung devices. But I’d still give the win to the Note 20 Ultra  because it can reach even further with its 50X digital zoom and you can definitely still see the details of the temple.

SCENE 5: Portrait Mode

Since the iPhone 12 doesn’t come with a telephoto camera, you will notice that the iPhone 12’s portrait photos are a little different from the others. We also noticed that even though the S20 FE comes with a telephoto camera, the portrait picture is not shot by the telephoto camera, which we find it weird. 

So to match the reframing, we tried to reposition the subject to match the framing of the other 2 phones. That is why you’ll see that the angle is slightly different between all 4 cameras. 

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I personally prefer the ones taken on the Note 20 Ultra and the iPhone 12 Pro Max because it has a more flattering angle. But that’s what I think. I know some might even like the pictures taken on the S20 FE and the iPhone 12 because the angle makes me look a little slimmer. That said, I think all three images have really good edge detection, because they all did a good job at separating me from the background. My skin tone also looks natural in all photos so that’s great.

SCENE 5: Selfies

Now let’s move on to selfies. Right off the bat, I think you guys will know which one of these belongs to the iPhone and which one belongs to Samsung. Obviously, the one with beautification is the Samsungs while the more natural looking ones are the iPhones. I wouldn’t say that any of these are better because at this point, it really depends on your preference on whether you like your selfies to have beautification or not. 

For me I like the realistic looking picture of the iPhones, but do let me know which one you think looks best. 

SCENE 5: Macro

Now let’s move on to the macro test! All four phones don’t come with a dedicated macro camera But I want to see how close each main camera can focus to a subject. 

As you can see the Note 20 Ultra’s picture is slightly more saturated than the others. The red is brighter than the others, but that isn’t a big deal. 

But it’s funny that when I’m using the iPhone 12 Pro Max, the device seems to have problems focusing on the car’s steering wheel. But that doesn’t happen on the iPhone 12. I’ve tried positioning the 12 Pro Max the same way I positioned the other 3 phones but it still does not want to focus. So I am forced to place the 12 Pro Max a bit further from the subject.

SCENE 6: Night Mode

Night mode OFF

Now moving on to one of my favourite modes in smartphones and it is time to take a look at some of the shots taken at night. 

The iPhone 12 Pro Max as a LiDar scanner, which is this black circle right here. This scanner is to help you focus better in low light. The Note 20 Ultra has a similar laser autofocus system, but that has a more limited range. But, do these actually help you take better low light images? Let’s see.

So for this test I think it is fair to take pictures with night mode off and on. When the night mode is off, you will notice that the iPhone’s picture leans more towards a warmer hue while the Samsung devices have a cooler tone.

Night mode ON

Once the Night mode is turned on, the pictures are slightly brighter especially if you look at the skies. All four phones handle noise reduction pretty well. The S20 FE and Note 20 Ultra don’t have much difference in terms of quality and that’s actually really good.

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But if you take a look at the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s photos specifically, you will notice that both pictures, including the one with Night mode turned on, have a noticeable lens flare compared to all of the other photos. This is actually quite surprising since the iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro Max uses the exact same camera system. I also notice that there’s a patch of colour  noise on the wall of the house. I suspect that could be caused by the lens flare. 


So, now that we’ve seen all the pictures, can the Sai Lou (Small brother) really fight the Dai Lou (Big brother)?

Let’s first take a look at the iPhones. Apple’s iPhones have always been the best when it comes to taking natural and consistent looking photos, and the new iPhone 12 and the 12 Pro Max are no different either. 

The only difference is that the iPhone 12 doesn’t come with a dedicated telephoto camera while the iPhone 12 Pro Max does. You will also be missing out on a larger sensor as well as a LiDar scanner if you are getting the iPhone 12.

But to me that doesn’t really matter because if you were to take a look at the comparison, there isn’t any significant difference in terms of image quality. And even though the Pro Max comes with a sensor shift OIS, the videos taken on the iPhone 12 is on par with the more expensive 12 Pro Max. So if you are planning to get an iPhone,  I think that the best option right now is the iPhone 12. 

Alright. So now let’s talk about the Samsung devices — the Galaxy S20 FE and the flagship class Note 20 Ultra. To me what’s really interesting about the Galaxy S20 FE is that it has a really attractive price tag for the spec that you are getting. The pictures are also very comparable to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, which is amazing. The only thing that I don’t understand is that even though the S20 FE has its own telephoto camera, the portrait picture is not shot by the telephoto camera, which is weird. 

Hey, but look at the bright side. At least you get a slim looking picture of yourself. — Just joking. 

Fun fact: this is also the most affordable smartphone in this comparison. so because the quality isn’t that far from the Note 20 Ultra, I think the S20 FE has more value for money.

At the end of the day, I think it’s very impressive how close the “cheap” sai lou smartphones have come to the most expensive dai lou phones. For most people, I think the S20 FE and iPhone 12 cameras are good enough, so that’s good news because you can save a lot of money but still get like 80% of the camera performance. 

Unless you are a hardcore mobile photography pro, I think you will be happy with the S20 FE and iPhone 12. 

But that’s what I think, what do you think? Which phones would you pick? Let me know in the comments below.