Samsung in February introduced its latest high-end flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S22 Ultra. We picked up one of the new Samsung devices, and thought we'd compare it to Apple's top-of-the-line smartphone, the iPhone 13 Pro Max, to see how the two premium phones compare to one another when it comes to camera quality.
Comparatively, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has a 12-megapixel Wide lens, a 12-megapixel Ultra Wide lens, and a 12-megapixel Telephoto lens that supports 3x optical zoom. On paper, Samsung certainly wins out when it comes to raw specifications, especially in the optical zoom department.
In practice, though, both smartphones take incredible pictures and from photo to photo, it can be hard to pick a favorite as you can see in the photos from our video and from this article. Note that all of the photos we're showing were captured in RAW, and are straight out of the camera using the default settings of the smartphone, no edits involved.
You'll mainly see differences in color temperature, depending on the scene. The Galaxy S22 Ultra tends to have a cooler tone, while the iPhone 13 Pro Max is warmer. The S22 Ultra also tends to elevate highlights, and while it can sometimes appear sharper, some may find the images to be a bit too washed out because of it.
In some situations, the iPhone offers up more natural lighting for skin tones than the S22 Ultra, but the contrast that the iPhone uses can make dark areas darker, causing images to lose out on a touch of detail. The iPhone images tend to be more vibrant and can be more aesthetically pleasing, but it does really vary based on subject matter.
In Portrait Mode, there's a lot of similarity. Samsung has improved the edge detection and bokeh of its portrait photos, and both the iPhone 13 Pro Max and the S22 Ultra take great images. The iPhone is of course more vibrant, and in some images, it's a little sharper. Unfortunately, Samsung is still not great at skin tones and the S22 Ultra does not do as well at preserving skin texture.
When it comes to telephoto capabilities, the 10x optical zoom, the 30x digital zoom, and the 100x digital zoom offered by the S22 Ultra are leagues ahead of the iPhone with its 3x optical zoom and 15x digital zoom. 100x zoom is fun to see how close you can get, but even at 30x, you can get some fairly usable photos out of the S22 Ultra.
iPhone has the edge because it supports Dolby Atmos and ProRes for higher-quality video but for everyday videos, both are more than adequate. Cinematic Mode is better than Samsung's Live Portrait video option because Samsung restricts the feature to faces only, and the iPhone also wins out when it comes to stabilization. The Galaxy S22 Ultra does support 8K video unlike the iPhone 13 Pro Max, but the lack of good stabilization affects the quality.
It's unlikely that most people are picking their smartphone based on the camera capabilities alone, and ecosystem plays a huge role. Someone who owns multiple Apple devices probably isn't going to go out and buy an S22 Ultra, nor is a regular Samsung owner likely to swap out of that ecosystem for an iPhone.
In day to day use, these smartphones are incredibly similar and really both take gorgeous, high-quality photos that rival those you can get with high-end point and shoot cameras, especially when lighting is good. What iPhone users can glean from the S22 Ultra is what we might see Apple do in the future. Will Apple rival that 10x optical zoom lens?