Welcome to day 3 of our ongoing review of the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2. In today’s episode, we’ve tested the Fold 2’s five cameras, including the unique ways the phone can take photos or videos. Yesterday for Day 2 we looked at how it works as a laptop replacement, and on Day 1 we started thinking about the on-screen keyboard, the hinge and a lot more!
Everything on the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 screams for futuristic cutting-edge technology, except for one area: the cameras. That’s not to say they’re bad – far from it, but even Samsung would admit that the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s triple camera system is below that of the Note 20 Ultra in its own internal hacking order. For one thing, there is no fancy “space zoom” periscope camera, and the megapixel race is rather lopsided because the Ultra̵
Space constraints likely played a role in why Samsung couldn’t give the Fold 2 the same system as the Note 20 Ultra, as the Fold 2 has a far more intricate and intricate design than the traditional candy bar design of Samsung’s other flagship product. Unless you often need to zoom in over 2X or frequently take photos in pitch black conditions, the cameras on the Galaxy Z Fold 2 are probably as good for you as the Note 20 Ultra.
How is it to shoot with the Fold 2?
Because the Galaxy Z Fold 2 folds into a more compact, remote-control-like size, it’s easier for me to hold still – or for extended periods of time – when using the device with one hand. Modern flagships are all a bit too big and too wide for a secure one-handed grip, at least for my hands.
The camera app of the Fold 2 is almost identical to the camera app of the Note 20 Ultra and the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Hence, it should be known to anyone who uses one of these phones. It’s a swipe-heavy menu with all the relevant buttons and modes accessible with the thumb. There are three icons denoted by trees for quick switching between the 12MP ultra wide angle, 12MP wide angle (main) camera and the 12MP telephoto camera.
As already mentioned, the Fold 2 does not have this fancy periscope folding lens technology. So when I tap the zoom symbol (single tree), it jumps to 2x zoom and that’s it. No more “5X”, “10X” type buttons displayed in the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra’s camera app. To zoom in past 2 times with the fold 2, you need to pinch to zoom.
App continuity also works with the camera app. So if I open fold 2 while in the camera app on the deck screen, the camera app also opens on the large 7.6-inch screen. Taking photos and videos using this method is satisfactory because you can see so much more in the viewfinder than you normally would.
An added benefit of shooting in this mode is that the shutter can be slid to any part of the screen for easier access, whether it’s the lower left corner, upper right corner, or anywhere similar like the original Galaxy Fold. Samsung calls a new function the “Flex mode”, in which the camera viewfinder fills half of the screen, while the other half shows the camera controls and the previous recording. This can be used in either portrait or landscape orientation (although the square nature of the fold 2 calls these orientations into question). It makes more sense to use Flex mode horizontally, with the top half of the screen serving as a viewfinder and the bottom half lying on a flat surface. In this mode, however, the outer cover screen is the part that contacts the surface. So make sure it is relatively flat with no bumps to avoid scratches.
This trick isn’t all fun – hands-free selfies! – but it has clear advantages in certain shooting situations. For example, I can take long exposures outside of my window without a tripod because the fold 2 sits quietly on a flat edge by the window.
Another key use for the Galaxy Z Fold 2’s unique form factor is that the main camera system allows you to take selfie-style photos and videos as the outside screen can be used as a viewfinder. This solves a beginner vlogger dilemma: do you film yourself with your phone’s selfie camera and be satisfied with the sub-par image sensor and tight frame, or take a picture with the main camera but you can’t see yourself? The Fold 2 gives you the best of both worlds.
And since the Fold 2’s main camera has impressive video stabilization thanks to OIS and EIS, it offers a far better vlogging option than the front-facing camera, especially at night. See how much better the footage from the 12-megapixel main camera looks at night than the 10-megapixel selfie camera in the video example below.
I can imagine how I use it to shorten vlogs at press events. The fact that I can use a pair of Galaxy Buds Live as a bluetooth microphone makes this setup quite good for a beginning vlogger (more serious vloggers would obviously record with a suitable camera).
What do photos look like?
Despite the huge difference between 108 MP and 12 MP on the spec sheet, the photos of Samsung’s two most recent flagships look largely similar. This is because the Note 20 Ultra’s 108MP sensor is mainly used for taking 12MP photos with 9-in-1 binning. When taking this first shot of a building on a slightly cloudy day, note that both photos appear very sharp and balanced. Even when you zoom in to actual size, the Note 20 Ultra’s superior sensor ensures a more detailed shot.
At night, the Fold 2 actually delivers a slightly better lit shot, even though the Note 20 Ultra has a much-touted huge image sensor size of 1 / 1.33 inches. However, if you need to distribute this light information over 108 million pixels instead of 12 million, you need to use less light.
Unsurprisingly, the Fold 2’s zoom shots look over twice that grainy. In the following example, the 10-fold recording of the Note 20 Ultra is significantly sharper than the 10-fold recording of the Fold 2. The Note 20 Ultra can of course come even closer to the 50-fold recording. Considering that all of the top smartphones this year have a powerful zoom system, the Fold 2’s zoom cameras are behind the front runners.
At night, the difference in zoom capability becomes greater.
For selfies, the Fold 2 has two 10-megapixel front cameras, one on the deck screen and one on the inside screen. They work well and offer the same selfie performance as the Note 20 Ultra, but as I mentioned earlier, you can take significantly better selfies if you just shoot with the main camera instead. Just check out the samples below, taken in a dimly lit alley at night. The picture taken with the Fold 2’s 12MP main camera blows away the picture taken with the 10MP selfie camera. I took an iPhone 11 Pro selfie for comparison.
Despite the fact that the Fold 2’s camera system is technically less powerful than that of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (or the Huawei P40 Pro), the Fold 2’s form factor makes it more powerful, as it can sit still without a tripod and long exposures or take self-directed group photos; or it can take significantly better selfies or vlogs in low light. Thanks to that hinge, I even made a hands-free video call over lunch today.
Even after almost 72 hours with the device, I am still amazed at the crease 2. This thing really does everything.
Forget the rest of the deals – if you want to save a bundle on your unlocked Galaxy Z Fold 2 and have an updated phone, Samsung’s trade-in offer is the best. You can get up to $ 650 in credit and if you own the original Z Flip or Galaxy Fold you can save $ 800 on your new Galaxy Z Fold 2!