Camera Comparison: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Apple iPhone 14 Pro #GeekLeap

With its superior telephoto capabilities and an fascinating 200-megapixel primary digicam, I wished Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Extremely to show Apple a lesson in how a flagship telephone ought to deal with digital images. Not as a result of I need Apple to lose, however as a result of I need competitors to enhance all people’s smartphone images.

However regardless that the S23 Extremely digicam specs look higher than the iPhone 14 Professional’s in some ways, I am not going to declare it the higher possibility for photographers. Neither is Apple the clear chief. After capturing tons of of photographs and pixel peeping for hours, this race comes all the way down to what you worth most in smartphone cameras.

If telephoto attain are necessary to you, the $1,200 Samsung Galaxy S23 Extremely is the higher digicam, as you’ll be able to inform from the photograph beneath, and it handles night time photographs higher. If you happen to’re sticking with daytime pictures and are OK with a most 3x zoom, I choose Apple’s iPhone 14 Professional and Professional Max, which begin at $999 and $1,099, respectively, for extra pure photographs and a cleaner, sooner digicam app.

Learn on to dig into the small print.

Apple and Samsung have succesful wide-angle primary cameras

Regardless of your telephone, likelihood is good that you’re going to spend most of your time utilizing the principle, wide-angle digicam, the perfect one for photographing close by individuals. These are the cameras with the perfect sensors and optics, for good motive, and Samsung and Apple did not skimp on the {hardware}.

Each telephones’ cameras can seize considerable element and, with immediately’s computational images know-how, an inexpensive vary of brilliant and darkish tones. Beneath odd circumstances, neither telephone is head and shoulders above the opposite.

I choose the iPhone, although. Frankly, each firms are responsible of overprocessing, however Apple much less so. Samsung’s intuition is to crank up the saturation so colours are tremendous wealthy so skies look unnaturally blue and grass unnaturally inexperienced. Samsung typically made the clouds of overcast skies too gloomy and grey. The Galaxy telephone sharpens edges so tree leaves, blades of grass and different areas with a lot of element are a crispy, jittery mess. Within the photograph of the boats beneath, the S23 Extremely suffers from synthetic wanting edges across the palm bushes and jittery street particulars within the foreground.

If you happen to’re photographs on a telephone display, these vivid, punchy pictures look extra eye-catching. However I typically look on laptops too, the place the photographs look like an exaggerated model of actuality. I choose a bit extra reality to my photographs.

Samsung’s face detection on the Galaxy S23 Extremely zeroed in on topics nicely for good focus. The iPhone appeared to do what I wished in some difficult photographs higher, although. In a single comparability, it accurately centered on a toy block building, not the kid who created it who was sitting within the background. In a wide range of comparable scenes, the Samsung went for the faces, each time.

One other AI-boosted know-how is portrait mode, and right here I most well-liked Samsung’s know-how for higher separation of foreground and background. The iPhone generally would blur components of the topic whereas preserving different components in focus.

I just like the S23 Extremely’s skill to take 50-megapixel photographs, not simply the 12-megapixel default. Apple shoots solely 12-megapixel photographs which can be simpler in your iPhone and iCloud storage limits however that do not supply as a lot element.

The S23 Extremely has a considerably wider area of view, which is good for indoor photographs and a few landscapes. Nevertheless, I choose Apple’s area of view. Each telephones have ultrawide cameras, in spite of everything. On this courtyard photograph, it is good to have a large area of view, however Apple provided a extra real looking rendering of the scene.

Low gentle: The sting goes to Samsung

When the going will get darkish, although, I most well-liked Samsung’s computational images abilities. The Apple photographs suffered extra from muddines in darkish areas, and Samsung typically did higher preserving particulars and boosting shadows that may have been misplaced to shaky fingers. Be aware the sharper stenciled textual content and brighter shadows within the Samsung photograph beneath.

Beneath, the iPhone 14 Professional tried brightened the scene extra, however the particulars are far muddier than with the S23 Extremely. Normally the iPhone had extra real looking photographs, however not this time.

Each telephones failed on the difficult process of capturing at night time towards a brilliant streetlight, with huge, multicolored lens flare artifacts distracting from something within the photograph. Sadly, that is the cutting-edge for smartphone images as of late, and never simply with these to producers.

Telephoto photographs: Samsung is means higher, clearly

Not everybody ventures far past the principle digicam, however in my thoughts, giving individuals extra photographic freedom is necessary. It is the principle motive these flagship telephones price a lot extra. And I simply love the Samsung’s S23 Extremely’s 3x and 10x telephoto cameras. Telephoto photographs can tightly body distant objects, spotlighting particulars and views that may be extra shocking and fascinating.

Photo of a dog in deep snow

Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Extremely’s 10x telephoto took this this photograph of my canine within the snow. With my iPhone 14 Professional’s most 3x zoom, it will have been a protracted snowshoe trudge to attempt to get shut sufficient.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

I took dozens of photographs to match the iPhone 14 Professional’s photographs upscaled to 10x with the Galaxy S23 Extremely’s native 10x photographs. After all there is no comparability. Again and again I acquired photographs of my canine off the crushed monitor in deep snow, my child operating away from waves on the seaside and different topics I could not simply stroll nearer to {photograph}, like this speaker at a convention.

A comparison of photos of a woman's face taken at 10x zoom

The Galaxy S23 Extremely’s native 10x telephoto digicam produced a much better shot than the iPhone 14 Professional’s digital upscaling from its 3x digicam. This exhibits cropped variations.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Given how exhausting Apple promotes its merchandise as inventive instruments, the shortage of an enormous telephoto digicam on iPhones is embarrassing at this level.

Samsung, like Google and different rivals, will get the lengthy attain with a “periscope” lens method that makes use of a prism to angle gentle 90 levels contained in the telephone physique. That sideways bend accommodates the in any other case impractically lengthy telephoto optics. It is a good method, and one Apple ought to mimic.

I used the Samsung at 10x lots and fewer generally with its digital upscaling know-how, at 30x and 100x. The 30x photographs might be helpful when considered small and may also help with jobs like figuring out birds. 100x is generally a novelty except you are limiting your photographs to postage stamp measurement.

S23 Extremely’s 200-megapixel photographs are a gimmick

One of many S23 Extremely’s headline options is a 200-megapixel mode. Sadly, as carried out, I see it as lower than helpful. By means of a picture sensor know-how known as pixel binning, Samsung assigns every 4×4 group of pixels to seize a single coloration in, successfully, one bigger and extra delicate pixel. The method works nicely when taking low-light photographs at 12.5 megapixels. However that does not seize as a lot element when capturing at 50 megapixels or 200 megapixels, which requires the telephone to extrapolate coloration data.

Certainly, at 200 megapixels, the sensor makes use of AI know-how to attempt to reconstruct the colour information. That, mixed with sharpness limits of tiny lenses, implies that 200-megapixel photographs actually did not appear to be any higher. In a single take a look at, I could not inform a lot distinction between a 200-megapixel shot and a 50-megapixel shot blown as much as 200 megapixels in Photoshop.

The 200-megapixel photographs photographs are additionally humongous. For ones shot of a snow-covered cedar, the 200-megapixel JPEG is 57MB in contrast with 21MB for the 50-megapixel shot and seven.3MB for the 12-megapixel shot.

The iPhone makes use of solely 2×2 pixel binning for 48-megapixel photographs, and with immediately’s telephone tech, that is a superb most. I would love for iPhones to supply 48-megapixel JPEG or HEIC pictures, although, to catch as much as Samsung. 

Selfie time: iPhone takes the prize

For selfies, it was an in depth matchup. I most well-liked the iPhone for its extra real looking rendering of colours and particulars like hair and beards. Each telephones struggled with my shadowed face within the instance beneath, however the Samsung turned the sky a bizarre, flat grey.

When capturing portrait mode selfies — the place synthetic bokeh blurs the background because of computational images — neither selfie digicam dealt with flyaway hair nicely. However I assumed Apple’s iPhone did higher total.

Ultrawide: Apple wins on sharpness

I give the sting to Apple right here for its extra pure rendering of colours and for significantly higher sharpness towards the periphery of the body, however principally the cameras are an in depth match. As normal, the Galaxy S23 Extremely made the skies too blue and the grass too inexperienced, although, and each telephones struggled with excessive lens flare capturing towards the solar.

The ultrawide lens can be used for macro photographs. I am glad macro images has arrived on smartphones, however on each cameras, picture high quality degrades considerably past the central portion of the photograph, so do not get your hopes up. I assumed Samsung stored its sharpness higher throughout the body, although, as within the birthday pie photograph beneath. Each cameras overprocessed the wonderful construction of the flower beneath, however the Samsung went additional overboard.

Shoot uncooked if you would like the perfect picture high quality

Uncooked photographs protect extra of the unique photograph data for higher modifying flexibility relating to coloration and publicity, and I like to recommend capturing uncooked if you would like the perfect photographs. Each the Apple and Samsung uncooked photographs — taking a web page from Google’s digicam playbook — make use of a “computational uncooked” method that truly merges a number of photographs into one shot, profiting from the picture processing strategies that underpin standard JPEG and HEIC photographs.

Capturing uncooked sidesteps most of my issues with standard Apple and Samsung photographs, particularly oversaturation, plasticky pores and skin and an excessive amount of readability — the distinction enhance to a shot’s center brightness tones. I choose much less sharpening too, and the uncooked photographs let me dial it again, although not so far as I would like with the S23 Extremely. I think Samsung is performing some sharpening in its computational uncooked processing.

On the subject of capturing uncooked, Apple’s expertise is significantly better. You have to allow the uncooked possibility within the digicam app’s codecs setting and, optionally, allow the complete 48-megapixel decision possibility for photographs taken with the principle digicam.

Samsung, in distinction, treats uncooked photographs as one thing of an afterthought. It’s a must to obtain its separate Skilled Uncooked app from its Galaxy Retailer. It is a helpful app if you wish to fiddle with publicity, shutter pace and different settings whereas capturing, however it’s extra work for these of us preferring to simply take the photograph and fiddle with it later in Lightroom or different modifying software program. There isn’t any fast launch possibility for Skilled Uncooked, both.

You may set Skilled Uncooked to avoid wasting each JPEG and uncooked variations of your photographs, however the JPEG’s rudimentary processing is much worse than the photographs from the common digicam app, with tear-inducing oversaturation and apparent halos ringing topics in contrasting brilliant and darkish areas. Follow uncooked solely.

A comparison and dog photos taken in raw and JPEG formats by the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra shows a halo around the JPEG

If you happen to use Samsung’s Skilled Uncooked digicam app, you get uncooked photographs with way more versatile management over white stability and publicity, although sharpening seems to be baked in. The telephone processes the accompanying JPEG pictures crudely, as proven by the intense halo glow across the canine on this shot.

Stephen Shankland/CNET

Extra annoying are the decision settings within the app. If you happen to set the digicam to shoot in 50-megapixel mode, you’ll be able to solely use the principle digicam. If you wish to use the telephoto or ultrawide cameras, it’s a must to step again all the way down to 12 megapixels earlier than they’re accessible. There isn’t any possibility simply to shoot on the highest decision accessible with every digicam.

There’s additionally no 200-megapixel uncooked possibility. Given its marginal picture high quality advantages, I am unsure that is an enormous downside.

Conclusion: No clear winner

The Galaxy S23 Extremely’s telephoto cameras are costly parts, however price it if you wish to categorical your self creatively. Apple’s extra pure photographs and sooner, extra succesful digicam app are a significant asset, although.

Both smartphone is a succesful photographic device, however neither is such a transparent chief that it is price transferring from Android to iOS or vice versa. If you wish to get probably the most out of your telephone’s digicam, the simpler determination is to begin capturing uncooked.

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