With 2022 coming to a close, the industry is starting to look forward to starting the phone release cycle all over again. Samsung will lead us in the US, where it will launch the Galaxy S23 series in the first quarter.
While we currently believe we will see the upcoming devices of the Korean phone maker near the early February time frame, the rumors about these phones are starting to gain quite a bit of momentum. The biggest revolves around the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Samsung’s upcoming flagship, and its supposedly 200MP main camera.
But as we know, the megapixels do not fully indicate the quality of the phone’s camera. Look at Google and Apple, both of which have been using 12MP main sensors for years to incredible effect. Granted, both have moved up to higher resolutions — 50MP for the Pixel 7 Pro and 48MP for the iPhone 14 Pro — but Samsung shouldn’t rely on 200MP alone.
So what can the Galaxy S23 Ultra do to beat Apple and Google to claim the title of best camera phone? It’s about Samsung reordering things a bit.
Samsung has always tended to seriously increase the color saturation of its photos. This leads to overly colorful fantasy images that don’t really reflect reality. The place that Google and Apple have historically led is due to the calibration of color and dynamic ranges.
Samsung started lowering the saturation with the Galaxy S22 series, but when you compare photos from those phones with the Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro, you can spot just how unnaturally vibrant everything is.
The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 200MP sensor should bring a lot of color detail, so let’s hope Samsung tweaks its post-processing algorithms to get rich, realistic and natural colors.
Working alongside saturation issues, Samsung also struggles with strong exposure compensation. This results in overly bright images that can fade in some cases, especially when the sky or clouds are involved. The Galaxy S22’s exposure algorithms work well indoors at times, but I find that they like to backfire outdoors.
Out of the top three camera phone companies, I think Google does the best in terms of exposure control and compensation. If the sun is in the picture, for example, the Pixel 7 Pro does a better job of calculating the sheer range of brightness levels. This makes the image completely non-destructive.
The iPhone 14 Pro isn’t too far off, but I’ve noticed that Samsung struggles noticeably in harsh lighting environments, even on the Galaxy S22 Ultra. If the Galaxy S23 Ultra wants to have a chance, it needs to adjust exposure control and compensation.
Of the three areas mentioned here, I think Samsung has the best chance of beating Apple and Google. The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s night mode is pretty good, so it can outperform the iPhone 14 Pro and Pixel 7 Pro in some scenarios. It’s where Samsung’s penchant for strong exposure comes in handy.
Both Apple’s Night Mode and Google’s Night Sight are impressive, but Samsung may come out on top next year — until the iPhone 15 and Pixel 8 launch. But I have little doubt that if the Galaxy S23 Ultra had a strictly main sensor 200 megapixels, it will let in a lot of light.
In fact, it was rumored that the Galaxy S23 Ultra would be the biggest leap forward for night photography from Samsung, at least in the past five years. If true, both Google and Apple could stop working on them in the second half of 2023.
Galaxy S23 Ultra overview
Never trust rumors and leaks, but it looks like the Galaxy S23 Ultra might have a 200MP main sensor. It won’t be the first phone with this honor by any means, but I can’t help but wonder if this is the most effective app we’ve seen so far.
But Google and Apple are giants when it comes to smartphone photography, and Samsung has always fallen behind in most respects. But the Galaxy S23 Ultra might change that. I think Samsung could pull it off if they are serious about their algorithms.
200MP is a massive resolution, possessing the power for a lot of detail and light, but it’s the software that will determine the end result. This bulky sensor could be revolutionary — or it could be worthless.