Thehas the best camera Samsung ever put into a phone. But how does it stack up against its biggest rivals, the and ? Samsung’s latest flagship superphone has a potent processor, a big, beautiful screen and the S Pen stylus, lifted from the old Galaxy Note range. But it’s also got a hefty camera setup on the back, including a 108-megapixel main sensor, as well as an ultrawide lens and two telephoto lenses offering up to 100x zoom levels.
The S21 Ultra — the S22’s predecessor — was one of our top camera phones. So are the iPhone 13 Pro and Pixel 6 Pro, both of which can take stunning images in both daylight and at night. To see which takes the best photos, I walked an exhausting distance around the streets of Edinburgh, Scotland, to get as many pics as possible to compare. You’re welcome.
All shots you’ll see here are taken in JPEG with the default camera settings, unless otherwise stated. Let’s dive into our tests.
The iPhone is not off to a good start here with a cold, dark-looking shot that looks much better in the S22 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro’s shots. There’s little to choose between the two Android images as both shots have great colors and tons of detail.
All three phones have done a solid job at capturing plenty of detail inside this shopping center, but it’s the Galaxy S22 Ultra that’s taken things further by capturing much more highlight detail in the sky outside. Its shot has a much richer blue seen in the roof, without sacrificing any of the tones inside the building. That’s some good HDR work right there.
Switching to the wide lens, the iPhone’s shot hasn’t really changed much with a pretty much empty white sky seen outside. But both the S22 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro have achieved much more balanced images, with vibrant blue skies on show.
Moving back outside to this lovely street scene, the difference in colors is particularly evident in the strip of sky above the buildings. The S22 Ultra’s has been given an almost cyan tint, while the iPhone’s is a more natural, vivid blue. The overall exposure and contrast is spot on with all three shots, but for the colors alone I’d give this one a win for the iPhone.
Shooting with the ultrawide lenses, the colors are again less natural on the S22 Ultra. I do like the warmer, lighter tones on the building and the road, however.
At 3x optical zoom on the S22 Ultra and iPhone 13 Pro, both shots are pin-sharp and packed with detail, but I prefer the iPhone’s deeper tones, particularly on the big green door. The Pixel 6 Pro has a 4x optical zoom, which gives a closer view than the iPhone can manage and I think its shot here is superb, with great exposure and detail.
But the zoom is where the S22 Ultra plays its real trump card, taking its optical zoom right up to 10x and easily beating the reach of its competitors. Here I’ve been able to get much closer into this scene, and while there’s a shift in the colors, I’m impressed with the overall exposure and detail.
And it really is that zoom that sets the S22 Ultra apart from any of its rivals. It gives you a view that you simply can’t get with the other phones. While you might not want to shoot with it all the time, I really enjoy making use of it sometimes. I’m a photographer myself and having this 10x zoom is the same as carrying a big telephoto zoom with you on a DSLR. It allows you to find totally different compositions in the scene in front of you — ones that your friends with their wide-angle lenses simply won’t be able to capture.
I’ve used it here to get this glorious shot overlooking the suburb of Leith, with the snow-capped hills in the background.
And here, to capture this dreamy scape overlooking the city.
In this view of Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags, I’ve been able to fill the frame with the rocky outcrop on the S22 Ultra, while the iPhone and Pixel just show the crags as a distant bit of geology.
Then there’s this scene overlooking Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens. Very little to choose between the three shots.
But hitting that zoom lens and the S22 just destroys the competition, giving a glorious up-close view of the towers and turrets that I love so much in this beautiful city.
Fair to say, then, that the S22 Ultra has impressed me with its zooming abilities. But these are all daylight shots taken when the sun is shining and everything looks gloriously colorful. So what about when the city falls into darkness?
The differences between the phones’ regular lenses become a lot more noticeable, for one thing. Both the S22 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro’s images are plagued by this brown patch toward the bottom of the frame which doesn’t exactly look beautiful, but that’s not an issue on the iPhone’s shot, which is crisp, vibrant and with spot-on colors.
The S22 Ultra has done much better here, with a nicer-looking shot than it managed in that boat scene. It’s got a generally similar color balance and exposure as the iPhone 13 Pro, but zooming right in on those details shows that the iPhone 13 Pro’s shot has better clarity on those tiny night time details.
Whether you’d notice that difference in your everyday shooting is unlikely. But hey, if you’re spending over $1,000 on a phone you’d be right to nitpick things like this.
None of the phones are great when it comes to ultrawide night shots. Sure, the images are just about bright enough, but the details are much fuzzier than from the regular lenses and there’s a lot more image noise. They’ll probably do in a pinch, but you shouldn’t rely on any of them for truly captivating wide-angle night time images.
Night mode works much better with the various zoom lenses however, with the S22 Ultra’s 3x optical lens and the Pixel 6 Pro’s 4x optical lens both capturing bright and detailed shots. Not a great effort from the iPhone here, however.
You can take that zoom up to 10x optical on the S22 Ultra even at night. I’m impressed with this shot, especially considering how much more it needs to stabilize the image when using such huge zoom levels.
So which phone has really wowed me with its images in this test? To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed in the iPhone in some of these shots, with quite cold and dark images which look much better taken with either of its Android rivals. The S22 Ultra’s shots have been consistently bright, vibrant and its zoom has no competition. The iPhone 13 Pro does take the lead in some nighttime situations, and generally its color balance is a bit more natural.
Much of this will come down to personal preference, and while I might criticize Samsung’s phone for inaccurate colors, you might prefer the way its shots look. But the S22 Ultra has generally put in a stellar effort here and it’s a superb phone to consider if you’re looking for an amazing all-round photography experience from your phone.