I Took The Galaxy S20 Ultra To Chernobyl And All I Got Were These Spooky Post-Apocalyptic Pics

Credit: Fergus Halliday

Though not nearly as dangerous as it was during the 1986 nuclear disaster that rendered the 30-kilometer exclusion zone uninhabitable, there are still plenty of sharp edges to watch out for in Chernobyl. 

My recent day trip mostly steered clear of the Red Forest (where the majority of remaining radioactive "hotspots" are found) but we still had to contend with uncertain and uneven terrain. Entry to many structures within the zone is restricted or prohibited due to the risk of collapse. 

Credit: Fergus Halliday

Photographing Pripyat requires a similar degree of caution. On paper, the unrelenting solitude and overgrown footpaths of Ukraine's ghost city invite something close to tranquility. In reality, there's a native unease to the place that keeps you on your toes.

When you're trekking through one of the most radioactive places on earth, you can't always get as close to your subject as you'd like to. For that reason, the souped-up quad-lens camera on Samsung's new Galaxy S20 Ultra proved a more than capable companion during a recent trip to Ukraine. 

Samsung's latest flagship features a 108-megapixel main (wide) lens, a 48-megapixel telephoto lens, a 12-megapixel ultra wide lens plus a Time-of-Flight sensor on the back. There's also a 40-megapixel selfie camera on the front. For more on why more smartphone camera lenses are better than less smartphone camera lenses, check out this feature.

When it came to photographing local wildlife, the optical 5x and hybrid 10x zoom that sets the S20 Ultra above its cheaper counterparts (the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20+) proved particularly useful.

galaxy-s20-ultra-bump-100831718-orig.jpgCredit: Christopher Hebert/iDG
galaxy-s20-ultra-bump-100831718-orig.jpg

Though mostly-friendly and intensely-photogenic, the strays that call Chernobyl home are still wild dogs.You'll definitely want to walk away with some nice photos of them. You won't necessarily want to get close enough to physically interact with them. 

As has been documented by other reviewers, the autofocus on the Ultra sometimes proved finicky and unreliable at higher zoom settings. Regardless, I was mostly happy with the results it chewed out - even if the length of time it took to get that perfect shot often varied quite radically.

I don't know if I'm quite ready to call the S20 Ultra the best portable photography device out there but it certainly feels like a more-than-incremental upgrade on last year's S10 and Note10 handsets. Though technically comparable, the high-end zoom here ultimately doesn't feel quite as consistent as something like Huawei's Mate 30 Pro. Then, the lack of software magic leaves some shots without the luster you'd get from a Pixel 4 or iPhone 11 Pro.

As impressive as the optics here are, it's hard to shake the lack of polish that out the S20 Ultra as Samsung's first attempt at offering this specific kind of smartphone camera experience.

Still, here are some of the best images we captured using the Galaxy S20 Ultra.

Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday
Credit: Fergus Halliday

You can expect our full, Australian review of the Samsung Galaxy S20 to land sometime in the near future. In the meantime, here's a widget that breaks down the best mobile plans for the device we used to photograph Pripyat. 

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Tags samsungUkraineGalaxy S20 UltraChernobyl

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Fergus Halliday
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