The Galaxy S22 Ultra takes good pictures in daylight with its main camera, though we wouldn't say they have much of a wow factor to them. Dynamic range is okay, but not really what you'd call flagship-grade wide and there is more of a sharp transition into clipped highlights and black shadows than a gradual rolloff. Exposure is accurate and reliable, no issues there, and color rendition is pleasingly lively without giving grounds for complaint about oversaturation.
On a pixel level we're seeing plenty of detail but also uncharacteristically high noise levels even at base ISO and in well-lit scenes. The way random detail is rendered, on the other hand, is rather typically overprocessed-looking.
We're willing to give Samsung the benefit of the doubt and speculate that it's the early firmware that is to blame for some of the imperfections in these images. That would make sense, particularly since the output of the S21 Ultra, a phone in its maturity, is less noisy and with better developed tonal extremes - we'll show you some comparisons on the coming pages.
The ultrawide camera is a capable performer and delivers sharp and detailed images, if not quite the best that you can get (that would be the ones from the Mi 11 Ultra). Sharpening has been dialed a notch up, coming from the S21 Ultra, but it's still acceptable, while the extra noise seems to be e general thing - the ultrawide on the latest ultra produces grainier shots. We're seeing slightly improved dynamic range, though that too isn't class leading.
Zooming in to 3x, we're in for a bit of a surprise then, since the new short tele is noticeably cleaner than the old short tele. Detail is good, dynamic range is wide enough, colors look well matched to the other cameras' pleasing rendition.
The 10x periscope module is perhaps best appreciated for the unique perspective and the extra reach that it gives you thanks to the long focal length. Still, even at 1:1 we're seeing respectable detail levels, though we're back to a slightly noisier look when examining from up close. The good contrast and colors sure helps its case too.
The number of samples we'll give you of the 30x and 100x zoom levels should be telling of what we think of them.
In low light the S22 Ultra applies its Night Solution automatically on the main camera, the ultrawide and the 3x telephoto, giving you almost Night mode level results without the need for switching modes.
The main camera captures impressive images at night with excellent detail - if still a bit noisy, but it's the good kind of noise. Highlights are nicely contained, shadows are well developed and colors haven't lost one bit of their pop.
The full-on Night mode brings some changes, most notably intensified and warmed up street lighting, which we don't necessarily like better. Pixel peeping reveals heavier sharpening and reduced noise. The difference in dynamic range is minimal and most visible in the boosted shadows in particularly dark scenes.
Most of the above applies to the ultrawide camera's results too. The Photo mode images are already plenty good enough with wide dynamic range and lively colors. There's a fair amount of noise, but also very good detail.
Night mode makes a good thing better, cleans up the noise and brings out detail lost in the shadows in the previous shots. It's the shadows that get a real kick indeed and make the manual switch to Night mode well worth it for ultrawide shots.
At 3x zoom the S22 Ultra isn't quite as dependable in full auto and even though it does produce decent images, there's is often a general softness to them.
Night mode sharpens things up significantly and gives shadows a much appreciated boost, making for overall superior photos. It also helps ensure that you'll be using the 3x module, since the might opt for the main camera in certain situations.
At 10x zoom, the Ultra may similarly decide to use digital zoom from the next in line camera, the 3x, but most of the time you do get the periscope's output. And most of the time photos will look okay, despite the prevailing softness and the occasional blotches of chroma noise.
Night mode is a real gamechanger here and there's really no aspect where it doesn't make a significant positive impact. We're talking improved sharpness, reduced noise, boosted shadows, the lot.
Once you're done with the real world samples, head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra stacks up against the competition.
The S22 Ultra can shoot portraits with its main camera or the short telephoto. The pros and cons of each have been stated on these pages countless times, so another one wouldn't make a dent. The main camera will get get you better light gathering, hence improved results in adverse light conditions, but makes for an unflattering, overly wide perspective. The tele, in contrast, gets you a very portrait-friendly perspective, but will suffer in all but the best light.
On the S22 Ultra subject isolation is properly great regardless of focal length and, simulated as it may be, the blur has a very natural look at both zoom magnifications. As expected, the 1x mode shot on the main camera will get you the higher quality shots - sharper and with finer detail - even in broad daylight. But then head-and-shoulders type of framing with a 23mm equivalent lens will mean unnaturally large noses and possibly missing ears.
The telephoto addresses the perspective woes nicely, and it offers pretty decent per-pixel quality in good lighting. We'd say that during the day the 3x portraits are the better choice.
Low-light portraits on the S22 Ultra aren't half bad either, particularly when taken at 1x zoom and with Night mode kicking in. Subject isolation is great, dynamic range is superb and detail is... well, alright, given the circumstances. Things aren't quite so great with the Night mode off, with dynamic range taking a hit, noise being more prominent and detail lost in the darker areas.
At 3x zoom, the results are a lot more underwhelming, with the actual telephoto routinely failing to focus (with Night mode off), while the main-camera sourced Night mode shot is way too soft, even at fit to screen magnification.
Selfies on the S22 Ultra are nothing short of superb. Dynamic range is nice and wide, colors are accurate and skin tones are on point. The 10MP resolution offers plenty of detail too, and even though there's some grain to be seen from up close, it's not a dealbreaker.
The 40MP mode can maybe give a few extra pores (or wrinkles, sigh) to stare at, but that's only in abundant light and at base ISO, with softness taking over above that.
Portrait mode does a remarkable job with subject isolation, though stray strands of hair against a contrasting background may still end up looking odd on occasion.
In low light, you'd be better off avoiding the 40MP mode as it will just give you more bad-looking pixels, plus it's pretty challenged in terms of dynamic range.
Photo mode will give you usable pictures, whether Night mode kicks in, or not. Even though they're quite soft, you can still make out your mug and exposure and dynamic range are pretty good under the circumstances.
Portrait mode shots are pretty much the same, but with a blurred background, and the dim conditions haven't introduced blunders in the subject detection.
Forcing on Night mode will make a subtle difference in the tonal development in scenes where it otherwise wouldn't engage automatically. Generally, Night-mode enhanced shots will have stronger sharpening, less noise and less finer detail, whether you got there manually or with the auto kicking in.