Galaxy S22 Ultra vs S21 Ultra: Camera Comparison

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After capturing hundreds of photos with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, we can say that it has cameras that sometimes just blew us away with the quality, but also a few times, it felt like Samsung was way too aggressive with the processing and left us a bit confused.

But can it actually beat its predecessor, the Galaxy S21 Ultra?

On paper, the cameras on this new S22 Ultra have almost the same specs as the S21 Ultra: main camera with the same 108 megapixel sensor, identical ultra-wide camera, and also very similar dual zoom cameras, one at 3X zoom and a periscope 10X zoom lens (the S22 Ultra actually uses slightly smaller sensors).

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S22 Ultra vs S21 Ultra Camera Specs:

But the reality is that it’s mostly about the software and the processing these days, and for that, we need to take a look at the actual photos.

Main camera - day photos

Samsung has been using the same 108MP sensor since the S20 Ultra, so some people may be upset about that, but the reality is that it’s the software and the processing these days that counts, and this year you can see some very noticeable changes.

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In the first picture, you can already easily tell the S22 Ultra by the wider perspective, but the other thing that’s changed is again the colors look colder on the S21 Ultra, while the S22 has these warmer tones that work better on this shot.

In the second shot, you again get warmer colors and darker blues in the skies, but take a closer look at the tree branches, they have this strange glow on the S22 Ultra, which you don’t get on the S21. The reason for that is excessive sharpening, and this is our one complaint: we actually prefer the more balanced sharpening on the S21 Ultra, this new thing looks kind of fake.

On the third shot, you can notice quite a bit of sun flare on the S21 Ultra, while the new Clear Lens on the S22 Ultra definitely helps get rid of that, a very nice improvement.

The next photo of the road, you get a brighter exposure and warmer colors out of the S21 Ultra, while the S21 Ultra photo might actually be more true to life, but that S22 Ultra image has that pop. Still, it’s hard to say which one is better, notice that far away building at the center, it looks blown out.

And sometimes, the S22 Ultra just goes a little crazy with exposure and on this photo with Copernicus holding a gyroscope, the S21 Ultra has done a much better job with a proper exposure. So summing it all up, during the day, you often can get a nicer look out of the S22 Ultra, but the camera definitely has a few kinks too and sometimes the older S21 Ultra actually has the better image.

Main Camera - night photos

But this all seems to change at night where the newer Ultra just consistently delivers excellent shots.

Look at these pictures and you’d notice something common: S21 Ultra photos all have a kind of a light pollution that almost invisibly layers on top of photos in the form of flare or color pollution. And with the S22, Samsung has managed to get rid of all of that in one fell swoop.

Night shots from the new Ultra look impressively clean, detail is plentiful. Lens flare is incredibly well controlled, and yes, colors are still warmer and sure, this sometimes results in exaggerated colors, with whites looking a bit too orange, but it’s just how clean these shots are that impresses.

Samsung says this is thanks to a new coating on the glass of the lens, so light reaches the sensor with fewer reflections.

We also love how the skies are now rendered a darker shade of blue compared to the S21 Ultra, which gives night images a much more authentic feel.

Samsung explains the night photo magic is thanks to a new Night Solution algorithm, with the camera capturing multiple frames, removing the blurry ones and merging the rest with a splash of AI color enhancement. All of this happens in the background without you even noticing.

Zoom cameras

But what about zoom quality, the signature feature of the Galaxy Ultra phones recently?

Just look at that electric scooter, again highlights are blown out, while the new Ultra has it captured perfectly, a good illustration of the improvements made to the 10X zoom lens.

We were impressed with the previous-gen Ultra, but this new edition brings an even cleaner detail and more vibrant and lively colors. In fact, photos from the S21 Ultra often look pale and bleak in comparison with the newer S22 Ultra.

At 3X zoom, there is a bit of a difference in color processing, again with a consistently warmer look from the newer S22 Ultra. And yes, the S22 can definitely go a bit overboard sometimes.

During the day, 10X zoom photos are definitely cleaner and the camera just feels better stabilized in the app. Take a look at a few street signs, whites were commonly blown out on the S21 Ultra, and now you get a much improved dynamic range, sharper detail and more pleasing colors.

The processing is also interesting, the new Ultra aggressively cleans up noise in night photos, while the S21 has a lot more noise.

Ultra-wide camera

Switching to the ultra-wide camera, you get a similar field of view on both phones, but come night and our mind was blown away by the S22 Ultra.

First, simply because it actually uses night mode with the ultra-wide camera which brings a world of difference. You get a ton more light and color out of ultra-wide photos at night, it really is a night and day difference.

Images from the older Ultra appear washed out and lacking in clarity, while the S22 gets very sharp detail and beautiful colors.

Notice in the first day photo of the building how you get this weird HDR halo effect over the tree branches, while you get a much more natural photo out of the S21 Ultra. That is oversharpening, one of the kinks that we mentioned earlier about the new Ultra.

In other cases, like the photo of the road, the more vibrant look of the S22 Ultra looks a bit better and has more pop.


And here are a few selfies, you can choose between a wider view for a group of friends or a close-up view if it’s just you, and you can notice a similar processing as with the main camera: warmer colors on the S22 Ultra are definitely a thing!

Samsung is traditionally great at selfies, it has absolutely incredible processing with beautiful colors and plenty of detail, the skin tone often looks just right, and you have an excellent dynamic range in the background.

You can also use portrait mode for selfies to blur the background, and that works well too.

Look a bit closer, and you'd notice that Samsung applies a more aggressive "bokeh" effect in portrait mode on the newer phone.

For the night selfies, we'd say that the S22 Ultra is more often able to capture a sharp photo, while some selfies we took with the older Ultra are a bit blurry.


So, time to draw the proverbial line in the sand... is the S22 Ultra the perfect camera?

The answer is "no", but it’s above all a strange camera. It can absolutely blow you away with some shots, especially at night where Samsung has stepped up big time and also with the 10X zoom camera, plus it can finally stand neck to neck with the iPhones in video quality, but in some rather simple shots during the day, it underperforms with bleaker colors and artificial, oversharpened detail.

Nothing is perfect, and we do hope some of the issues we mention can be fixed in software, Samsung has proven it can do that with last year’s S21 Ultra, which received a few big camera updates.

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