The Samsung Galaxy S10e is the technological foundation, or common denominator, of the whole Galaxy S10 series that include four models: S10e, S10, S10+, and S10 5G.
As such, it uses the same wide and ultrawide camera modules and software tuning as the Samsung Galaxy S10/10+. That’s why this camera review starts with the one difference with the S10/S10+ camera: the zoom capability.
For everything else, we’ll summarize the situation, and you can read the original Galaxy S10 Camera Review if you want to have all the details.
Image Quality Analysis
Important: let’s clarify some terminology we’ll be using:
- “image processing”: software work that improves the image data quality
- “image filtering”: software work that changes the style (aesthetic) of the photo.
- “context photo”: a great approximation of what we see
- Including how dark the scene actually is
- Only to provide the context of the shot.
A note about the Uber-G Camera IQ Score: our camera scoring system is based on four “Pillars” or sub-scores that provides much-needed nuance: day, night, zoom and ultrawide photography.
Zoom Photography: 58
The Galaxy S10e comes with “only” two rear camera modules, a 26mm primary camera and a wide-aperture 12mm secondary one. It means that any zooming primarily relies on software processing to magnify the image.
There are a few ways to improve software zooming, and Google has pioneered it with the Pixel 3 by using multiple shots to capture more details, let’s see how good the S10e zoom is.
The zoom performance of the Galaxy S10e is lower than S10 which has a 2X optical zoom. There’s only so much that a single 26mm lens can do, but the Google Pixel 3 fares a little better, so perhaps the S10e zoom performance could have been increased to that level.
The above comparison shows why the Google Pixel 3 fares and scores better, despite not having an optical zoom lens. The colors also look very different from the actrual scene as shown by the two other cameras.
The Galaxy S10/S10+ has a more natural-looking image than Pixel 3 because the optical zoom reduces the need for using image filters that make the photo look less natural. Also, The S10/S10+ can capture the texture of things better and surfaces don’t look completely smooth.
Daylight Photography: 187
The Galaxy S10e bright-light photo performance is identical to the Galaxy S10’s, and that’s great because the S10 is one of the three best performing photos in bright light, alongside the OnePlus 6T and the iPhone Xs.
“IDENTICAL TO THE GALAXY S10”
Samsung has improved the camera tuning from the Galaxy Note 9, which shares an identical primary camera module as the S10 series. Despite the challenge of using an f/2.4 aperture, the camera takes excellent photos with excellent color capture that’s very close to the real world.
The HDR tuning has seen the most improvements, and in places where the Note 9 might have under or over-exposed, the Galaxy S10e performs better and is closer to what you’re looking at.
Above: both the Pixel 3 and the Huawei P30 Pro tune the image with more contrast and capture the scene in a way that makes the areas in shadow appear darker than they really are. That also make the scene appear a bit darker than in reality (look at the shed). The Galaxy S10e captures a more life-like photo.
When compared to the iPhone Xs, the Galaxy S10e uses much more artificial image sharpening that introduces some ringing around some objects. On the other hand, the colors are more natural than the iPhone Xs, which tends to over-apply HDR to photos, making them a bit dull sometimes. Consider the scene below:
In the S10 there’s a white “ring” around objects that artificially increases the perceived contrast of that object. It’s called “ringing” and is technically considered as an “artifact” since not present in the scene. People have a different level of tolerance for these image-filtering “enhancements”, and this is a very subjective topic, although at some point too much ringing can lower image quality.
The Galaxy S10 makes up for it by capturing excellent colors with usually very good high-dynamic range (HDR). The image-filtering makes it lose a little bit of texture for objects far away. On the other hand, the iPhone XS is excellent at preserving texture, but applies excess HDR, which makes the image a bit duller than the scene really is (visible on the tree colors here).
The OnePlus 6T takes advantage of its 16MP sensor and manages to add more pixel details in many pictures while having an agreeable result. OnePlus also applies artificial sharpening and takes more liberties with colors than the S10 would. As a result, the photo outcome can be less predictable for the user, but within reasonable limits.
Night Photography: 194
In low-light photography, The Galaxy S10e camera performed just like the S10 and was the best low-light camera until the Huawei P30 Pro came along and beat it by adding a unique Night Vision capability and lower noise at all low-light levels. You can read our in-depth analysis of the Huawei P30 Pro low-light performance.
Whether it is against P30 Pro or iPhone XS, the S10e/S10/S10+ capture color hues that are clostest to the real-world. The iPhone’s struggles to keep up as light becomes more scarce.
The Huawei P30 Pro image-filtering style can modify the mood of the scene substantially. Just look at the cropped section below:
P30 Pro and Galaxy S10e/S10 phones compete at the same level up-until ~0.4 LUX of brightness. For reference, on a full moon night, you have 1 LUX of brightness, and in a dim bar, you often have 2 LUX of brightness.
Below 0.4 LUX, when your eyes have a hard time to see colors and details, Huawei’s night vision mode kicks in and turns night into day, a unique feat that P30 Pro only can do today. That said, you still need SOME light to amplify it, so it doesn’t work in real total darkness.
The S10e is at present among the most potent low-light mobile camera group, far ahead of the Apple iPhone and the Google Pixel 3, so it’s something to brag about!
Ultrawide photography: 134
Above: the Galaxy S10 captures more life-like colors, including the blue hues of the sky behind the trees. Also, check the purple chromatic aberration at the upper-right of the P30 Pro photo, in the branches.
We’re so glad that Samsung decided to have a dual Wide/Ultrawide camera combo in the back. Pioneered by LG with the LG V20, it is the most optimum combo from a user’s perspective because it addresses the broadest usage model. The vast majority of photos are either shot in wide or ultrawide, with zoom and portrait being much more scarce.
While it’s true that zoom photography becomes more important with new 135mm zoom lenses, but when an Ultrawide lens is available, data suggests that up to 40% of photos are taken with the ultrawide lens. The same thing cannot be said for zoom or portrait, it’s undeniable.
Fortunately, the Galaxy S10e camera has the exact high-performance ultrawide camera has the S10/S10+ and as of today, it remains the best we’ve tested. Images are sharp, capture colors nicely, and exhibit fewer lens distortion issues than competitors, despite being “wider”.
Conclusion: best high-end camera for the money
|Uber-G Camera IQ||Sub-scores|
The Samsung Galaxy S10e has the same outstanding camera performance as the Galaxy S10, except when it comes to zooming. However, it is when you take the Galaxy S10e price into account that it becomes really remarkable. From an image quality for the money, it’s a monster.
With street prices starting at $620 (Amazon int. version) and $669 (B&H no contract), it has the best performance/price ratio of any high-end mobile camera on the market, far outpacing the latest iPhone Xs in overall absolute photo quality, while costing $300+ less.
“IMAGE QUALITY FOR THE PRICE: S10E IS A MONSTER”
From that point of view, the Samsung Galaxy S10e’s camera value is one of the best-kept secrets of the mobile industry. Usually, you can this performance/price ratio in high mid-range ($400-$500) and premium smartphones ($500-$600) that are designed specifically to compete on price but none achieve this level of camera performance.
Filed in. Read more about Mobile Camera Reviews and Samsung.