Eric Zeman / Android Authority
The Galaxy S22 Ultra claims to offer Samsung’s most impressive camera package yet. Not much has changed on the hardware side, other than some minor improvements under the sensor and lens hood. But Samsung is still touting a number of imaging upgrades, including Adaptive Pixel detail, Nightography and super smooth video.
We voted the Galaxy S21 Ultra the best camera phone of 2021 (and you agreed in our poll!), so we have high hopes for the new model. While we’ll be doing plenty of deep shootouts in the weeks and months to come, we didn’t want to wait to try it out. Let’s dive straight into some sample images and first impressions in this quick test of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera test: Photo samples
As you’d expect from a $1,199 camera phone, it’s hard to complain about the quality of the photos above. At least not without nitpicking. Exposure, color balance and detail are sublime for a smartphone. As you can see from some of our most colorful stages, there’s quite a bit of pop and punch here. However, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is arguably not as oversaturated as in years past.
Our first verdict: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra hands-on impressions
We can, however, spot at least one flaw here. The tree example shows signs of foreground fringing and aberrations, typical of moving lenses that aren’t fast enough to properly focus the light. Also, the bokeh blur in the selfie portrait might be a bit strong. But that’s being pedantic. These are minor but familiar complaints, so those looking for a significant upgrade over last year’s Galaxy S21 Ultra will be disappointed. Still, camera hardware has recently plateaued across the industry.
However, Samsung says it has improved the detail capture of its 108MP ISOCELL HM3 main camera this year. Specifically, Samsung claims that its Adaptive Pixel technology extracts more detail from the camera by merging 108MP and 12MP pixel data.
In broad daylight, there’s certainly plenty of detail to offer here. Although, like all pixel cameras, fine detail takes on a painted-on effect due to a combination of image cleanup and quad-bay filter demosaicing. It’s pretty hard to say if Adaptive Pixel made a difference here – we’ll have to take some side-by-side shots against the S21 Ultra. Still, the harvests are just as good as you’d expect from a high-end phone.
Of course, if you’re really into distant detail, the Galaxy S22 Ultra packs not one but two zoom cameras, with 3x and 10x optical focal lengths, respectively. As such, the S22 Ultra is the king of long-range shots, delivering impressive levels of color and detail outdoors. Intermediate zoom levels between the two cameras also look decent, and the phone also holds up to around 30x. However, the phone’s 100x capabilities are heavily oversold.
A quick glance at the ultra-wide snapper reveals a familiar step back from the main camera. The colors here err a bit more on the yellow side, and there are some telltale signs of lens distortion and chromatic aberration near the edges. Overall, the setup seems to be pretty much in the same place as last year’s ultrawide – solid but definitely not 100% perfect.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Galaxy S22 Plus camera test: How do they compare?
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
Of course, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus have their own set of notable camera improvements and saw bigger hardware upgrades than the Ultra on this release. The older 12MP main sensor gives way to a bigger 50MP affair, and there’s a 3x optical rather than hybrid telephoto lens on board this year. While the Galaxy S22 Ultra still has a noticeable hardware advantage, what’s the difference between the two?
Color-wise, there doesn’t seem to be anything in between. Both deliver vibrant colors without too much of a hint of oversaturation, and white balance is essentially identical too. If I had to be picky, there’s a bit more yellow saturation on the S22 Plus, but really there’s nothing in it.
In our second shot, the phones share the same sky hues, and even in terms of full-frame detail there’s no obvious issues distinguishing the two. However, the S22 Plus is a bit warmer and more saturated, especially on amber brick and red wood trim. That’s not to say the Plus is worse on its own, just perhaps a little less accurate in its color handling.
You really have to look at the pixels in daylight to see the differences in detail between these two cameras. However, in the photo above, we can see slightly better fine detail retention with the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 108MP pixel camera compared to the result of the S22 Plus. Pay particular attention to the trees and wood textures.
Previously, the Ultra series offered higher zoom quality than the Plus. Still, this year’s hardware improvements have evened the playing field at around 3x, although the S22 Ultra retains a slightly larger telephoto lens. Exposure, color and even detail are a virtual match between the two in full frame. Nothing stands out between them in this scene, even on closer inspection. The same goes for the wide-angle camera, which offers the same field of view on all Galaxy S22 phones.
Of course, the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s additional periscope lens leaks out at 10x and beyond. But the Galaxy S22 Plus is competitive on close-range zoom and general daylight photography. We’ll have to pit these phones against each other in more extreme conditions to tell them apart in any meaningful way.
Samsung Galaxy S22 camera test: our first verdict
Eric Zeman / Android Authority
As expected, given the limited hardware changes, we certainly don’t envision a revolution in mobile photography with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Instead, Samsung has focused more on improving software and features, improving image quality and introducing new features like Pro and Nightography shooting modes.
These are all very welcome changes, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra is undoubtedly well positioned to be one of the best camera phones you can buy this year. While stationary hardware presents an opportunity for rivals to close the gap, so we’ll have to see if others can up their game as well.
See also: The best camera phones money can buy
Although the Ultra often eclipses the Samsung Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus, it would be a mistake to consider these two phones as inferior cameras this year as well. Our early hands-on suggest their upgrades closed the gap on the Ultra’s image quality and shooting flexibility, while costing significantly less.
Stay locked up Android Authority for even more detailed Galaxy S22 camera tests in the near future. In the meantime, let us know what comparisons to other camera phones you’d like to see in the comments.