The main camera on the S22+ is impressive in low-light conditions. Arguably even more so than in daylight. The slightly overprocessed look is a lot more palatable in this light, and the camera has excellent level of detail to show for its work. Dynamic range is also great. Noise levels, while not perfect, are very good too.
We took the Galaxy S21 with us for this photoshoot to get some low-light comparative photos as well. Its 12MP photos, while overall comparable in quality, seem a bit softer. Perhaps more fine detail is lost as well or rather not restored as well as on the S22+.
In any case, the difference between the two phones is not major.
50MP mode on the main camera in low-light is not a particularly good experience. You don't stand to gain any measurable amount of extra detail.
Enabling Detail Enhancer is a bit of a gamble. Depending on the particular shot and lighting conditions, it can occasionally capture a bit more fine detail. In other cases, its algorithm inadvertently smooths over certain surfaces, removing any noise but also any texture and detail that was there. On occasion, Detail Enhancer also boosted overall exposure and clipped some highlights.
Our recommendation is to steer clear of 50MP mode in low-light altogether.
As expected, the Galaxy S22+ has Samsung's AI-driven Scene optimizer on board and enabled by default. We captured all of our samples with it enabled since it is consistently competent and never actually ruined a shot. Even when it detects things like a piece of paper, it merely suggests cropping the shot rather than doing that itself. There is an automatic Night mode, which kicks in on its own, but beyond that, you can toggle a manual one as well, which generally sets its automatic exposure and stacking timer considerably higher. A manual Night mode shot from the main camera usually takes three to four seconds to capture, which is perfectly reasonable.
Night mode tends to fix-up shots from the main camera a fair bit. It exposes more detail in the shadows and contains highlights better, preventing blowouts and odd color hues from stray light sources. Generally, exposure tends to get equalized better, and in areas where there isn't necessarily any extra detail, the one that is already there gets sharpened up considerably.
This extra sharpness does, however, make for a more aggressively-processed look, which might not appeal to everybody. Depending on the scene, it is a worthwhile sacrifice in our mind.
The new 10MP telephoto is a bit of a wild card. As we mentioned, it has the benefit of native 3x optical zoom rather than a hybrid one. On the flip side, its lens is considerably darker than the S21's, with an f/2.4 aperture. On the other hand, pixel size on the new model is larger, too.
At 3x, shots from the telephoto look solid. Detail is good, and so is dynamic range. The photos are nice and bright. Color rendition is mostly faithful.
While detail is generally good, these shots are quite noisy. That's probably our biggest complaint.
To be fair, though, the S21 and its 64MP telephoto don't do much better. The two phones mostly trade blows back and forth. One scene seems to be a bit softer on the S22+, while the S21 looks slightly worse in another. It's a toss-up.
Night mode works great on the telephoto camera. It effectively gets rid of most of the softness while also salvaging some detail in both shadows and highlights. The shots do look quite aggressively processed when pixel-peeping, but the trade-off is unquestionably worth it.
Shooting at above 3x zoom at night is a bit of a gamble, but with enough patience, you can get surprisingly-clean shots all the way up to 30x. Granted, most of the detail in these shots is computer-generated rather than actually "photographed" at this point, but depending on your needs, these could be usable.
Naturally, Portrait mode is available in low-light as well. As before - both on the main and telephoto cameras. As before, subject detection and separation were great on both cams. The same goes for the quality of the bokeh.
While telephoto low-light portraits still look good, our main criticism of these, like in daylight, is the relative softness of facial features.
You can enable Night mode for portraits if the S22+ deems the lighting dim enough. Its effects can be rather dramatic, brightening up the entire scene and bringing some much-needed life into the background and the facial features.
While you can't expect to get some actual skin texture back using Night mode, even on the main camera, which fairs a lot better by default, you do consistently get sharper faces on the telephoto, which is reason enough in our book to wait a few seconds for it to do its stacking magic.
Predictably, the S22+'s ultra-wide cam didn't impress in low light. Darker scenes render it incapable of exposing brightly enough, though if you do present it with some well-lit streets, you could get usable shots.
Since last year's S21 has the exact same ultrawide hardware at its disposal, any potential difference in quality would need to be attributed to different processing. That is not the case, and the two phones predictably produce nearly identical photos.
Enabling Night mode on the ultrawide has a profound effect. You get better shadow development and actual texture where previously there was just mush, and noise is thoroughly removed as well.
The end results are still far from perfect but much more usable for sure.
In another expected development, the S22+ captures great low-light selfies. Detail is plenty, colors look natural, and dynamic range is good, though not perfect, and you get little noise. The autofocus is impressively accurate in sparse lighting as well.
Seeing how the Galaxy S21 has the exact same selfie hardware, it is hardly surprising that it captures basically identical low-light selfies. Hence, our earlier anticipation.
You now have the option to enableNight mode on the selfies as well, and depending on how low the ambient light is, the benefits can range from small to substantial. You should expect to end up with a more processed-looking shot, though.
The Galaxy S22+ can capture up to 4K@60fps video across all of its cameras. That includes the ultrawide, which is not particularly common. The main camera can actually go beyond that and capture 8K@24fps. By default, video is captured in an AVC h.264 video stream with stereo 48 kHz audio inside an MP4 package. You can choose to use h.265 HEVC instead to save space, but you might be losing some quality. The one exception to this 8K video capture, which is always done in HEVC.
Let's start with the 8K footage. Unlike the S21 generation that used its big telephoto to capture 8K video, the S22+ does that from its main camera, which we count as a plus. 8K is theoretically supposed to offer the best possible quality. However, that's not really the case. What you actually get is a roughly 80Mbps video stream in HEVC that actually looks nearly identical in terms of detail to the 4K (~50Mbps h.264 @ 30fps) one despite getting saved in four times the resolution. Also, it's roughly twice the file size as the 4K one.
We won't get into the question of whether 8K, in its current state, even makes sense on a smartphone since that's a rather lengthy discussion. But, the lack of tangible improvement sort of speaks for itself.
The 4K footage from the main camera on the S22+ is impressive all-around. Detail is solid and sharp. Perhaps even a bit oversharpened in certain areas. Colors are generally true to life, though reds and blues seem to have a slight extra "pop". Dynamic range is also nice and wide. We pretty much have no complaints to speak of.
Here are our posters as shot by the main camera of the S22+ in both 8K and 4K resolution.
The same is generally true for the ultrawide camera as well. Detail is great, especially for an ultrawide. Fine moving detail, like leaves, does display small amounts of fringing, which is hardly a major issue, though. Colors are well-matched with the main camera. Dynamic range is naturally a bit narrower than on the main camera, but still very impressive.
4K video from the 3x telephoto camera is honestly a highlight on the S22+. Detail is stellar, and everything looks remarkably clean. Arguably, even more than videos from the main camera since there is less sharpening applied here. Dynamic range is stellar, and so are colors, even if they have a bit more punch than the main and ultrawide cameras and are not as well matched.
The selfie camera captures amazing 4K footage too. It is super clean and very detailed. Dynamic range is solid, and so are colors. Again, we have virtually no complaints.
The Galaxy S22+ offers video stabilization across all of its cameras. There is a basic stabilization toggle in camera settings that works on all cameras. It works quite well. So much so, in fact, that we would probably shy away from using Samsung's "Super steady" video mode on anything short of active sports. You can see all of the samples in the following playlist.
Super Steady only works on the ultrawide and main cameras and at 1080p resolution, which does take a noticeable toll on the level of detail. On the other hand, you can use the basic stabilization even at 8K on the main camera. Impressive!
Samsung's "Nightography" understandably extends to low-light video as well. Let's 8K out of the way first. Like in daylight, it looks as good as 4K forage, but it takes up a lot more space. That about covers it.
4K footage from the main camera is nothing sort of flagship-grade. Detail is great, and so is dynamic range. There is clearly a whole lot of real-time HDR stacking going on here. Also evidenced by the superbly boosted shadows and well-contained highlights and light sources. Noise is also impressively low. We're struggling to find complaints here.
The ultrawide camera expectedly struggles a bit and produces noticeably softer images, especially when compared to the main cam. That's not exactly a fair comparison, though, since, in absolute terms, these are really solid ultrawide low-light videos. Detail is on point, and surfaces are not too noisy. Even lit-up signs and billboards are legible, and the road has texture. Great job, Samsung.
The 3x telephoto camera manages to shine even in low-light conditions. Granted, the footage is a bit dark, and dynamic range is nothing to phone home about, but detail is on point, and everything looks very sharp.
Finally, we couldn't skip mentioning another newfound aspect of Samsung's "Nightography" on the Galaxy S22 lineup - Auto FPS. Samsung, unfortunately, did not go into too much detail regarding the feature and exactly how it works, but it is supposed to automatically adjust FPS in low-light conditions, lowering it to get the most light possible and all of the detail at the expense of smoothness.
As we said, Samsung's official info on the feature is scarce, but according to its promo videos, the S22 series should be able to automatically go down from 60fps to 30, then 24 and 15 according to the available light. Samsung also mentions that "Super Night Solution runs in the background at 24FPS or below." We can only imagine that's what they are calling the frame stacking feature. Auto FPS, in general, turned out pretty impossible to demo, but we did manage to see it in action. Capturing a video while going from good lighting gradually down to almost no lighting did, in fact, result in a change in the FPS in the resulting video clip from 60 to 30 and then 24. We never actually saw 15, and we can't exactly judge how well the stacking works or whether or not there is some frame interpolation without a frame of reference or a more specific and scientific test scenario. At least we can say with certainty that turning Auto FPS on results in variable refresh rate in a predictable, light-based manner.