Samsung has a fresh new camera setup for the Galaxy S22 trio. Actually, the S22 Ultra has a pretty different set of cameras, whereas the S22 and S22+ share the exact same set. A quick comparison with last year's S21+ does, however, show that Samsung is carrying forward two of its cameras - the 12 MP, f/2.2, 13mm, 120-degree, 1/2.55" 1.4µm ultrawide, as well as the 10 MP, f/2.2, 26mm (wide), 1/3.24", 1.22µm, Dual Pixel PDAF selfie cam. We expect to see familiar and hence solid performance from these two.
The biggest new addition, both figuratively and literally, is the 50MP main camera, replacing the well-established 12MP camera used in numerous previous flagship phones. The newcomer is based on a Samsung ISOCELL GN5 (S5KGN5) sensor - not the biggest sensor Samsung has ever made, by any stretch of the imagination, but at 1/1.56" or 10.19 mm, it is still notably bigger than that in the S21+.
The sensor is ISOCELL 2.0, which is a step up from last year's ISOCELL Plus and promises a higher light sensitivity on smaller pixels by further refining the grid between the color filters in the sensor. These were entirely metal in the original ISOCELL design and absorbed some of the light coming into the sensor. ISOCELL Plus partially remedied this, and the current ISOCELL 2.0 has replaced the lower portion of the color filter barriers with a more reflective material, further reducing light loss.
Even so, the 50MP GN5 is still a Tetracell sensor, which means that it is meant to combine four pixels into one and produce 12.5MP photos by default, which the Galaxy S22+ transforms to 12MP for simplicity.
The main cam on the S22+ is quite wide at 24mm. In terms of extra features, it has Dual Pixel PDAF and OIS. Samsung has an f/1.8 lens in front of its main cam, just like last year, though Samsung does advertise a new glass for the camera lenses on the S22, called Super Clear Glass. It promises to reduce lens flare from light sources in low-light conditions by a whopping 98%. Not that lens flare in particular was ever a huge issue on a flagship smartphone camera.
Samsung has seemingly focused a lot of its camera efforts this generation on low-light performance. This includes a whole category of improvements, affectionately titled "NIGHTOGRAPHY", and it includes things like the aforementioned Super Clear Glass, improved low-light portraits, as well as automatic frame rate for low-light video capture to maximize light capture. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The other new camera on the Galaxy S22+ is the 10MP telephoto and uses a S5K3K1 sensor. The sensor is 1/3.94" type with individual pixels at 1.0µm. The f/2.4 aperture is par for the course as well.
In terms of optical zoom, the new 10MP telephoto is now rated at 70mm or 3x optical zoom, which means it's a very diffent system compared to last year's S lineup. Back then the camera had 1.1x optical zoom lens and all the extra zooming (up to 3x as advertised) Samsung pulled off through cropping of the high resolution 64MP sensor behind the lens.
In terms of extra features, the 10MP telephoto has OIS and PDAF, just like last year.
Before we get to some actual camera samples, we should talk about the camera interface briefly. The camera app is the same you'd find on every Samsung phone these days. Swiping left and right will switch between all available modes, and there's an option to re-arrange or remove some of the modes from the viewfinder. Vertical swipes in either direction will switch between front and rear cameras.
You get a whole bunch of interesting options in camera settings, including the Auto FPS toggle for video, HEIF and HEVC encoding, RAW support and some experimental things like HDR capture.
All cameras support Night Mode. There's also a Pro mode, which now works across all cameras, including the telephoto, which was previously not the case.
ISO can be adjusted between 50 and 3200, shutter speed can go from 1/12000 to 30 seconds, exposure compensation is on a scale from -2 to +2, and white balance goes from 2300K to 10000K. Beyond these, you also get a set of level adjustments - contrast, highlights, shadows, saturation and tint. You can also a few types of metering and a few focus modes, including manual focus. Pro mode is quite in-depth by any account.
Let's kick things off with the main 50MP camera. As we mentioned, it uses a Tetracell (or Quad-Bayer) sensor, and basic math dictates that it should produce 12.5MP images by default. The S22+ actually saves these stills in 12MP. This is sort of the "unified" resolution that all of the rear cameras produce.
Straight off the bat, the S22+ captures solid, flagship-grade photos. There is a solid amount of detail, and colors look great - not too dull and not oversaturated either, just with a bit more "punch" here and there. Dynamic range is also stellar.
Despite our overall positive opinion on these shots, they are definitely not without issues. The biggest one is arguably softness. Many surfaces, particularly in the shadows, are soft and even show signs of noise, which is uncharacteristic for Samsung. It's not a deal-breaking amount of noise, but the softness is still there nontheless. To counteract that, the S22+ appears to be oversharpening a lot of finer details all throughout the frame. Again, it's not too bad, but also rather uncharacteristic.
We took the liberty of shooting with the Samsung Galaxy S21 alongside the S22+ for easy comparison. We will be sprinkling in these shots as we go through the different cameras.
While it is hard to confidently and quantifiably crown one of the two main cams as better than the other, we do tend to personally like Samsung's older 12MP snapper a bit better.
The main camera on the S22+ can shoot in its full 50MP resolution as well. This mode takes a few extra moments to produce a still but is still quite snappy. 50MP shots look quite similar to the regular 12MP one in pretty much every aspect, like colors and dynamic range. It's great to see such level of consistency. You do tend to get a bit more fine detail as well.
That being said, skipping the binning process can have some downsides beyond the obvious one of big file sizes. Fine patterns in the frame often experience Moiré fringing.
Just as we were ready to call the 50MP mode on the S22+ mostly unremarkable and write it off, Samsung's new Detail Enhancer feature managed to step in and change our opinion quite a bit. It is a feature making its debut on the S22 family and is available within the 50MP camera mode on the S22 and S22+ and the 108MP mode of the S22 Ultra. What it offers is a more sophisticated AI-driver picture stacking that combines multiple shots to resolve the most detail possible. We have to say the results are impressive. The extra detail is there as promised while also maintaining consistency in other quality aspects.
Detail Enhancer does take a few seconds to capture a shot. Not more than Night Mode, though, and its toggle is kind of easy to miss within the camera interface unless you know to look for it. Other than these minor issues, we can wholeheartedly recommend it for its results. If you are going to shoot in 50MP mode on the S22+ for the extra detail, you need this enabled.
It is easy to judge just how much Detail Enhancer helps in our standard test poster shots. We captured these with the main camera on the S22+ in its default 12MP mode, as well as regular 50MP mode and 50MP with Detail Enhancer. Pixel-peep away!
Moving on to the other interesting new camera on the S22+ and S22 this year - the 10MP 3x telephoto. Just like for the main camera, Samsung apparently wasn't content with leaving its output at native resolution. Instead, shots are saved in exactly 12MP (4000 x 3000) resolution. This does mean that there is some upscaling at play, which is not ideal. Then again, Samsung has been doing this for years now.
Nitpicking aside, at its native 3x optical zoom, the new 10MP telephoto captures very sharp and detailed photos. Impressively so, in fact. There is certainly less sharpening applied compared to the main cam. Noise is kept at a minimum. Colors look great and are well-matched to the main camera. Samsung has always been particularly diligent about this kind of consistency, which we very much appreciate.
Here is a quick set of identical photos from the Galaxy S21 and its 64MP telephoto camera to compare.
Last year's telephoto technically offered just 1.1x optical zoom with its default 3x mode achieved through "hybrid zoom" or otherwise croping from the sensor output. While these photos still hold up well, as we said, we tend to like the sharpness and detail of the new S22+ telephoto a bit better.
The S22+ offers up to 30x digital zoom beyond its optical 3x. We have to say that even at 30x, shots remain impressively usable. Sure, softness is an issue, and a lot of the lines are clearly "filled-in" algorithmically. Even so, these shots are perfectly usable.
For the sake of thoroughness, here are some of the same shots as captured by the Galaxy S21 and its telephoto, which also goes up to 30x. As we said, these shots look a bit softer, particularly at higher zoom levels. We also noticed that the older telephoto technically offers higher magnification, although not by a lot.
Before we move on to other cameras, the S22+ can capture portrait shots from both its main camera as well as the telephoto. Subject detection and separation and the quality of the background blur are excellent across both snappers. The consistency in colors and the overall look are just as impressive as with normal stills.
Subjects tend to look noticeably softer on telephoto portraits, though, so unless you really need to capture a portrait from pretty far away, we would stick to the main camera.
Portrait mode works just as well on non-human subjects.
The 12MP ultrawide camera is carried forward from the S21 generation. It is the same familiar 13mm, 120-degree field of view, f/2.2 unit, with fixed focus. The S22 Ultra is the only one out of the S22 trio that gets autofocus on the ultrawide, and the same was true from the S21 Ultra last year. That unfortunately also means that the S22+ skips on the ability to capture macro shots with the ultrawide.
This time around, the ultrawide is being labeled as 0.6x in the UI instead of 0.5 simply because the main camera on the S22+ is quite a bit wider. So much so, in fact, that we found ourselves reaching for the ultrawide a lot less for walk around shooting.
S22+ ultrawide shots are reasonably sharp and detailed for an ultrawide. Colors look great and match the main and telephoto cams very well. There is a consistent bit of a "pop" to the color pallete, but not an overwhelming amount.
Both noise and oversharpening are visible but also expected on an ultrawide and far from excessive. By default, distortion correction is enabled, and it only takes away a small portion of the frame. There is a toggle in the camera settings to disable it if you're specifically seeking out the bulging barrel look for creative purposes.
The 10MP selfie camera is another bit of hardware Samsung deemed good enough to simply carry forward from the S21 generation, and we have to agree. The selfie continues to impress with its very detailed and sharp shots. The autofocus works consistently well, even if the focus indicator in the UI can be a bit finicky and disappears on occasion. Dynamic range is great too.
We like the color science Samsung has on this selfie cam as well. However, we wish colors were more in line with the main cameras. That's a long-standing issue, though and likely a deliberate decision on Samsung's end.
Another long-standing deliberate decision we still refuse to fully accept is Samsung's continued insistence on a rather confusing implementation of a "wider" and "narrower" FoV mode on the selfie cam. While we like having the choice, we still advocate for the "wide" mode to be the default, even if you can tell the camera app to remember your last choice.
And speaking of minor annoyances, Samsung is still saving the "wide" selfies in 3648 x 2736 pixels (10MP), while the "narrow" ones end up in 2944 x 2208 pixels (6.5MP). We get it - you just crop away as much as you want and save in whatever resolution you end up with. That is honestly the better approach. It kind of clashes with the S22's insistence on saving all of its photos from the three main cameras in exactly 12MP. But, we digress.
While not quite as proficient as on the main cameras, Portrait mode for selfies on S22+ still does a fine job.
We're seeing the occasional mishap along the border between subject and background if we look closely, but no proper blunders like clipped ears or the likes. Dynamic range is as wide in portraits as in regular selfies, which is nice too.