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Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera takes on the iPhone 13 Pro’s

Samsung and Apple will always have a heated rivalry, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s natural opposite is the Apple iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max. The camera is a major selling point for both these phones, and even if someone considering the S22 Ultra would maybe never buy an iPhone (and vice versa), it’s always good to know if one is better than the other.

I took a selection of photos over a few days with both smartphones to see which one wins the bragging rights of having the best camera.

Camera specs

The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s headline 108-megapixel camera is joined by a 12MP 120-degree wide-angle camera, a 3x optical telephoto zoom camera, and a 10x optical zoom telephoto. The iPhone 13 Pro is quite different on paper from the Galaxy S22 Ultra. It has three 12-megapixel cameras: A main camera, one providing a 120-degree field-of-view wide-angle shot, and another for 3x telephoto optical zoom.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra and Apple iPhone 13 Pro seen from the back.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

There are a lot more differences when we look at special features. The iPhone has a 15x digital zoom maximum, while the S22 Ultra can reach up to 100x digitally. Apple debuted its Cinematic Mode video feature on the iPhone 13, while Samsung has its excellent Single Take mode, plus both have a pro-level RAW format video-editing mode. Both can also shoot macro photos.

Video performance is different, with the iPhone shooting at a maximum 4K resolution at 24 or 30 frames per second (fps), while the Galaxy S22 Ultra shoots at up to 8K and can manage 4K at 60 fps. Both also use complex stabilization techniques to keep your videos free of blur. It’s also important to note that although I used an iPhone 13 Pro for the following test, the camera on the iPhone 13 Pro Max is exactly the same.

You can also see how the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera compares to the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s and to the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s, and also how the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera performed against the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s.

Main camera: Landscape

There’s a considerable difference between the two cameras here, with the iPhone 13 Pro exposing the scene in a darker fashion than the Galaxy S22 Ultra. Take a look at the tree on the left of the photo. While it’s still obviously green, the S22 Ultra’s tree is less shadowed and the green is much brighter. There’s no real additional detail, just a different treatment of the scene.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra main camera photo.
Galaxy S22 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The sky has been balanced in a similar way, and the blue hasn’t been oversaturated in either, but the S22 Ultraimage has a warmer, more spring-like overall tone than the iPhone 13 Pro’s. I’d also say the S22 Ultra captured the scene more accurately based on what I was seeing. The iPhone 13 Pro makes it less visually appealing than it was in real life.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro main camera landscape photo.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Neither photo is bad or technically superior to the other, and your choice will come down to your own taste. I personally prefer the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s photo, although would be able to change the tone of the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo with a little editing or a filter. But straight off the camera, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the winner here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Main camera: Car

This is an interesting comparison because while the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera did a better job of capturing the landscape scene above, the iPhone 13 Pro takes the superior photo here. The car is black in color, and the iPhone gets the balance and exposure exactly right to show it off. The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s exposure is different, and the reflections are far more obvious than in the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra photo of a car.
Galaxy S22 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The iPhone 13 Pro used an f/1.5 aperture, a 1.1699 aperture value, and a 1/434 exposure time according to the photo’s metadata, while the S22 Ultra shot using an f/1.8 aperture, a 1.69 aperture value, and a 1/185 exposure time.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro photo of a car.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The background is brighter in the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s photo, but because that’s not the focus of the photo, it doesn’t really matter. I took a photo of the car and the iPhone 13 Pro gets the look right, from the inky black bodywork and the black-not-gray tires to the shinier alloy rim and minimized reflections. It goes to show editing may be needed to get the right look for you on either phone, depending on the photo you take, the scene, and the lighting.

Winner: Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Wide-angle: Landscape

This is the same scene as the main camera photo, just taken with the wide-angle camera. The different way both cameras expose the shot is also evident here, with the iPhone 13 Pro still going for a cooler look. The foliage in the forefront of the photo has more color in the S22 Ultra’s photo, and the blue sky has more depth, but the iPhone 13 Pro has more accurate white balance.

Samsunbg Galaxy S22 Ultra wide-angle photo.
Galaxy S22 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

As with the main camera, it’s quite difficult to split the two, and which you consider the best will come down to whether you prefer a warmer or cooler tone. Even zooming in doesn’t reveal much difference in the level of detail in each photo, and there’s a similar level of consistency when comparing the main camera’s photo with the wide-angle photo,

Apple iPhone 13 Pro wide-angle camera photo.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both photos look good, and again, some editing or a filter would make the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo more visually appealing to me personally. However, because the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s photo gets the shareable look right straight off the camera, it has to take the win here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Portrait mode

With these photos taken in average indoor lighting, I tapped on the screen to tell the camera what the focus of the portrait should be on each phone, and pinpointed the side of the cup. The iPhone’s brighter photo shows more detail on the side of the cup, but it doesn’t seem to recognize the object is circular and therefore blurs the top edge and the head of the coffee.

Portrait photo taken with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra.
Galaxy S22 Ultra Portrait mode Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn’t suffer from the same problem and gets the top of the coffee in sharp focus, along with the rim of the cup. It also captures the top of the spoon and includes it in the focus area, unlike the iPhone 13 Pro, which blurs it out a little.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro portrait photo of a cup of coffee.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

When taking a portrait photo, you want the subject in focus and the background out of focus, and the entire photo must work as a cohesive whole to complete the illusion. The Galaxy S22 Ultra has succeeded better than the iPhone 13 Pro here.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Selfie portrait mode

Using Portrait mode on the front camera shows where the iPhone’s skills lie, and that’s in isolating faces and then expertly balancing the exposure and tone. Apple’s algorithm almost fully understands that the lens of my glasses is part of the foreground, and blurs most of what’s seen behind it apart from the edge of my face. The Galaxy S22 Ultra doesn’t do this at all.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra selfie.
Galaxy S22 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The S22 Ultra’s photo has more shadow and a warmer tone overall, while the iPhone more effectively lights up my face, and that’s before using one of its various lighting filters. The color of my top and cap are more accurate than the S22 Ultra’s, although I do think the Samsung camera captured a little more detail in the fabric.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro selfie camera.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Apple’s selfie camera took the photo I’d be willing to share with minimal editing, while the S22 Ultra’s photo would force me to make more extensive changes. However, it’s the natural portrait effect that makes the iPhone 13 Pro the winner here.

Winner: Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Night mode

Samsung has said it worked hard to make its Night mode on the S22 Ultra better than ever, but put up against the iPhone 13 Pro, it can’t quite meet the challenge from Apple. I shot a series of photos on a rainy night using both phones, and almost across the board, the iPhone 13 Pro produced the more atmospheric photos.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Night mode photo.
Galaxy S22 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The picture of the monument here is a good example of why the iPhone 13 Pro wins the Night mode comparison. The stone monument and wall around it have texture. You can see the weathering through excellent balance and exposure, but a lot of this is missing in the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s photo, where the monument and wall have limited texture, making them look far newer and less realistic than in the iPhone 13 Pro’s photo.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Night mode photo.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Apple’s camera also handles color better, making good use of the available light. And while the sky has less of a blue tint in the S22 Ultra’s photo, you can see the rainclouds in the iPhone’s photo, which adds to the more emotive and accurate atmosphere. The two cameras performed in a similar way throughout the night test.

Winner: Apple iPhone 13 Pro

3x zoom

The Galaxy S22 Ultra has two optical zoom settings, 3x and 10x, while the iPhone 13 Pro shoots at 3x optical. I’ve compared the two here, as the iPhone’s 10x digital zoom will never be able to match the 10x optical zoom capability on the S22 Ultra. However, it can do pretty well against the 3x zoom mode.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 3x zoom photo of rooftops.
Galaxy S22 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

At a glance, the two photos are very similar, but like other photos in this test, the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a warmer tone and does expose more color in places while the iPhone increases detail. There’s more obvious detail in the weathered roof tiles and chimneys in the iPhone’s 3x zoom than the S22 Ultra’s. Zoom right in, and there’s more edge enhancement in the S22 Ultra’s photo, too.

Apple iPhone 13 Pro 3x zoom photo of rooftops.
iPhone 13 Pro Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

One thing to note — throughout my test I got inconsistent results shooting at 3x zoom on both phones, with some photos coming out well and others either blurry or lacking detail. Something to consider, as I needed multiple photos to find one that was of similar quality across both phones.

Winner: Apple iPhone 13 Pro

Apple takes the overall win?

Technically, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro took four wins to the S22 Ultra’s three wins here, but it’s hard to call it the absolute winner as the two are not only quite evenly matched. for example, the Galaxy phone took wins in the two most important categories — main and wide angle. You’re most likely to use these more often than the Night mode or 3x optical zoom, so good performance here is crucial. However, the iPhone 13 Pro won in categories where Samsung says it has made big strides forward with the S22 Ultra: Night and 3x zoom.

The iPhone 13 Pro wins our test, but it’s not a comprehensive win, with Apple’s decision to alter the tone of photos taken with it costing it in primary categories. Meanwhile, Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra has become more refined than some older Galaxy phones, with a pleasing tone for both its main cameras, resulting in it becoming a great everyday camera.

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