Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Camera Comparison : Was 200MP Too Much Too Soon?
Updated: Mar 24
So we’re doing things a little differently this time because we'll be covering more about what "Megapixels" actually mean when it comes to these smartphone cameras. Because from my experience, it doesn't really matter much since these devices are heavily dependent on its image computation anyways.
For instance this Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra has an ISOCELL 1-inch 200MP f/1.3 sensor. In terms of technical advantage, the S23 Ultra SHOULD have an advantage right? But what about something of the likes of another 1-inch 50MP sensor from this Vivo X90 Pro? Or the likes of a 50MP OnePlus 11? And of course, the most popular of all, the 48MP camera from the iPhone 14 Pro.
Well to make things a little interesting, I've tested all of these phone cameras in another extensive comparison review so we can have a better understanding in how it performs for dynamic range, colour science, exposure compensation, how it manages skin tones, low light performance and we'll also touch a little on the video capture performance side of things.
Apart from the ecstatic nature of how the industry goes, theres much to recognise when being reminded of how 2023 had brought us quite a few 1-inch sensor made phones coming out the gate this Q1, including the most recent Xioami 13 Pro with its own big sensor rendition with triple 50MP cameras. But it's also worth remembering the Xiaomi 12S Ultra that came out last year and was only available in in China, the wave of new-gen cameras are finally here.
Nonetheless, if innovation is the name of the game here, Samsung had quite deliberately cut ahead of the curve for fitting as many megapixels as they can into their top-tier flagship. This can only mean excitement to most fans but could also entail some weaknesses that other brands prioritised "finesse" over ever bigger numbers. To which I could stand by when setting the photos side-by-side of the Vivo X90 Pro and the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Yet interesting findings such as the default camera setting only used 19MP wasn't something I was quite hoping for, believing that they could at least slap on a warning first because the differences in 200MP 3:4 mode is huge. It doesn't quite simulate any of the 1-inch sensor without it nor processes these massive photos easily either. Some of these photos had to take a little longer than preferred within the camera app, as well as on my desktop. Which is an insane tradeoff for wanting to capture a casual memory, and not forgetting the file sizes which would eat up any storage in no-time.
But maybe I'm starting to sound pessimistic and not having the correct growth mindset. Maybe it would do better for skin tones and dynamic range right?
Well it's not too convincing when put to the test to VIvo X90 Pro (Right) yet again, crushing most of the highlights, shadows, and even suffers quite a lot when looking at it's white balance. The subject within the photo could not retain skin tones correctly with the S23 Ultra and I'm surprised how the bare necessities here are at the other side of the spectrum.
Understandably, when set against the 48MP iPhone 14 Pro, low-light performance is very close as the iPhone manages shadows a little different than that of the S23 Ultra but somehow suffers most in dynamic range. Brighter parts of the image get overexposed and doesn't retain much information.
For the main event when set against all four phones during these daylight tests, the S23 Ultra seemed to still be one of the weaker link among the rest when it comes to data compression as it crushes most highlights and shadows to compensate for dynamic range. This phenomenon isn't exactly new from the likes of Samsung, but doesn't support the claim for a newer and bigger sensor except for the fact you could zoom-in as much as you'd like into a photo and still retain all the megapixel goodness. Not much of a brag in my books, you've already fit a 10MP telephoto-periscope camera on that phone!
Overall, I think the better findings in this comparison review would be best iterated on the video above, but lets not forget it's going to take some trial and errors before anybody gets it right. Considering that Samsung have become the first to the game with a 200MP 1-inch sensor in their beloved flagship, it wouldn't be a surprise till another android phone were to do the same.
The trend might not be "The bigger the megapixels, the better photos" now, but as everything progresses, maybe soon we can just count on ONE camera at the back of our phones instead of five. If Samsung manages to do that someday, I'll keep my mouth shut.
Written by Fitri Aiyub