Now, if you have been on the fence about getting this new S23 Ultra because you wonder if the cameras are really that good, well I have been using the phone for a month and have traveled to Singapore and Bangkok to test out the phone’s cameras in every possible way to let you know if this is worth your money.
Now, keep in mind that all of the pictures were taken in Auto Mode.
And while the Expert Raw feature is truly amazing and is very versatile, I wanted to reach out to the casual shooter – the ones who just take out your phone to take a shot and put them back in your pocket.
High Megapixel Mode
Now, starting from the High Megapixel mode, even without zooming in close, you can already see how sharp and detailed the images are. But of course, if you’re one of those people who wants to take one shot and probably reframe it later, then you can use this mode.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend this all the way because each file size has an average size of 24 to 25 MB per image, which was indeed very huge.
And there’s one very handy time that I took advantage of this mode, which was when I was at the Mahanakhon Skywalk in Bangkok, where it took a few 200 MP shots and zoom in accordingly, instead of paying extra to get that closer observation view using the telescope provided over there.
Next, looking at the 13mm focal length Ultrawide shots, compared to many other smartphones, I found that the images produced were very consistent in quality when compared to the main lens side by side.
It always seems that other smartphones tend to do the best job on the main lens but leave the other lenses as an afterthought, but that was not the case over here because that was the case between Xiaomi’s new Xiaomi 13 Pro’s Ultrawide lens against their main lens, where the main lens was way superior than the ultrawide lens.
I will save that review for another day soon, but yes, that was never the case when it comes to the ultrawide lens and also the main lens on this S23 Ultra.
Then there was no sign of barrel distortion or softness from edge to edge. And in this photo, which was taken towards late afternoon, the skies were nicely lit with proper dynamic range.
And in this particular image, it was almost sunset and the sky gradient was also really well perceived without sacrificing the darker shades of the image.
So overall the ultrawide lens on the phone was truly one of the best I have seen even with just a 12 MP count.
Main & Zoom
Now, switching over to the main lens, on the pixel binned mode, I love how the images maintain the best quality even up to 30x zoom and even up to 100x zoom, where you can see the amazing workers at the side of the building very clearly over here.
And the reason why I call them amazing is because, fun fact, the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore is freaking 679 feet! So, mad respect guys!
And once again, the quality and the dynamic range were maintained perfectly throughout all of the shots.
Then towards the late afternoon, with a ray of sun gazing over the clouds
and towards the evening with the perfect gradient, and the golden hour Sun reflecting on the building as well.
So as usual, the best way to test out the rear portrait mode is with humans and objects.
Portrait – Humans
So let’s take a look at the portrait shots of humans first. In this particular shot of my fellow YouTuber friend, Faiz Zainal, it shows why I really love the portrait mode on the S23 ultra compared to phones like the Google Pixel 7 Pro…
…because not only that the focus was at him, but also since the seat of the bus was literally next to him, or just at the back of the shoulder, the algorithm decided to focus on that too, and to me, that was perfect because if you were to take a full-size camera lens and to get a similar shallow depth of field, it is exactly how it would turn out, as opposed to only focusing on the human subjects. So to me, this is as close as it can get to a real-life portrait mode shot.
Then in this image with another buddy of mine, Kevin
when I was looking through the phone’s viewfinder, the background was totally overexposed but the image processing did a superb job by maintaining the level of exposure and did not have any issues focusing on the subject at all.
Portrait – Objects
Then switching over to the portrait mode on objects, what’s nice is that the camera is able to take good portrait shots even if the object is far away at 1x zoom, and of course, even with an amazing shallow depth of field in the 3x zoom as well.
Now, of course, if you want to really go extreme with the shallow depth of field, you can adjust the effect strength to get that really popping subject image like this image over here.
Now, another place where a lot of smartphones fail is taking good portrait mode shots for glass objects and it did exceptionally well over here, where the focus is super easy to shift between near and far objects, including the glass object as well.
If you guys are regular in the channel, you would know how much I totally despise dedicated macro lenses because it usually sucks on a smartphone.
And even though the S23 Ultra does not have a dedicated lens for all of that, but if you bring the phone very close to the subject, the Focus Enhancer indicator will turn on in the app, hence it will automatically switch to the Macro Mode.
And as you guys can see, the images look really nice from edge to edge compared to those annoying dedicated lens, which usually only focuses right at the middle of the picture and then blurs out the sides completely.
Now, if you like to turn off the automatic Macro Mode, you can always toggle off the Focus Enhancer.
Now, when it comes to day selfies, gone are the days of over-saturated skin tones for every Samsung phone because now the image processing gives you the best natural, close-to-life image they have ever produced. The edge deduction and the sharpness were nicely balanced and on this particular phone, it was the first time that I never needed to adjust the image after it was taken
Then the HDR capabilities were also truly amazing, especially in the background area as seen in this image, where every single detail was kept and the overall image processing was indeed the best that Samsung has ever done on any of their smartphones as of late. There was never a point in time when the shots were not in focus.
Then selfies also work very well at night too, as you can see in this particular image, but before we look into that, let’s check out the new improved night shots for the rear lenses with Samsung’s improved Nightography.
Now, taking a look at the first image for the ultrawide shots, the overall image looked perfectly balanced in terms of the highlights and shadows.
There were no signs of noise in the darker area but if you really pixel peep, you may find the sides to be just a little soft, but only if there is less light around the area.
If you take a look at this photo over here, the image looks stunning from edge to edge and extremely sharp as well, where even the light reflected towards the building in the middle was clearly seen, with perfect color accuracy in what I saw in real life.
Now, I have to say that I love how this next image turned out too because I did remember that the skies were completely black without any clouds present when I took the shot outside of Icon Siam Mall in Bangkok, but the sides were very similar to the first image earlier as it was sharper in the middle, where once again, this is only the case if you really pixel peep.
Then finally, the picture over here once again shows the perfect balance of the highlights and shadows, showing proper detail of the clouds in real life, not making it bluish like some phones tend to do.
And what’s extra nice is that towards the bottom left, you can see that there is a long structure in the water without any presence of noise at all.
Night Main Lens
Then switching over to the night shots of the main lens, here’s where you can really see how the Nightography mode really worked very well because this, my friend, is some of the best night shots that I’ve seen on any smartphone and it was sharp from edge to edge once again, where everything from the lights, shadows, and even reflections were perfectly matched to real life, probably even brighter to the human eye.
Then in this particular shot, not only everything was perfectly balanced but even the words “Marquee Nightclub” towards the left of the lamp post were very minimal when it comes to the glare and even lesser in real life.
And I just love how the image really brought out all the different colors of the plants to life and again, matching every texture and color perfectly.
Next, this particular photo was taken with very minimal light at the indoor market in ICONSIAM. And once again, it was balanced really well and there was barely any loss in sharpness for even the 3x and even up to 10x zoom, and this is definitely because of the dedicated telephoto lens.
And if you’re taking portrait mode shots at night, you are totally gonna love the portrait mode at night on this particular phone because in this image the subject-to-background blur was truly amazing and the details were extremely well pronounced, even the tiny blue light reflection at the chin of the elephant structure, which was clearly seen in the shot.
And similar to the day shots, you can get excellent portrait mode images even when a subject is far away, where the images look flawless in this particular second image.
Then this next shot has to be the best night portrait mode shot that I’ve ever seen on any smartphone because I just love how it did not compromise on the dark reflection on the face and it didn’t soften the skin tones, and speaking of skin tones, the skin tones was also as natural as it gets.
Like the day selfie shots, the selfie photos at night were just super effortless and you can even see my slightly sweaty forehead instead of softening everything to make it a bit more beautiful.
I even intentionally went outside to take some selfie shots with barely any light on my face, and yes, it still turned out magically well.
[Check out my YouTube video for the sample video footages]
All right, switching over to the video side of things, the biggest difference firstly is that the 8K video can record up to 30 frames per second instead of just 24 and because of this, the footage looks more crisp and stable as well.
Now, speaking of stabilization, this is the most stable 8K footage that I’ve seen on any smartphone, where in this video I intentionally walked while taking the shot and still the footage was extremely usable, whereas it was almost unusable for other 8K smartphone footage, or heck, try using the RED 8K V-RAPTOR and walking with it and see whether that expensive fella does this kind of stabilization.
8K Turn Around Video
Then I decided to try something a bit more different by using the 8K lens to do a shot of myself, in what I call the “Turn Around Video” where I take the phone and turn around like this…
…and because of its bigger sensor, there was a natural shallow depth of field of the footage and of course since it was in 8K, it was extremely sharp too!
4K Ultrawide Quality
Now, since the quality for the 8K was massively good, you can only imagine how great the footages were on the 4K video recording, and once again, it maintained the amazing quality throughout the ultrawide lens.
4K Ultrawide Stabilization
Stabilization on this particular lens on 4K was also very gimbal-like as well.
4K Main Quality
And the same could be said for the main lenses on 4K, where it was definitely sharper than the ultrawide lenses, but still maintain the same dynamic range, color, and contrast.
4K Main Stabilization
Then the stabilization was not only great for the main but also for the 3x zoom video as well, something that, once again, other smartphones do not do well on.
Next, taking a look at the 8K video at night. Firstly, the natural shallow depth of field was present and looked high in quality, and the sensor did handle the highlights on the signage like a champ.
And there are no signs of shakiness when I was taking parallax type of shots in this mode as well.
8K Night Stabilization
Now, as for stabilization, I was extremely pleased with the 8K stabilization at night, even when I was walking in this mode, where I was not only stable but the quality was very great too, definitely thanks to its bigger megapixel count.
4K Night Ultrawide Quality
Then the ultrawide lens quality during low light was clear, both on the highlights and shadows, but you can expect a little noise in the darker shades area, but only if you pixel peep in this 4K night ultrawide video.
4K Night Ultrawide Stabilization
And if you have some decent amount of light in this particular video, you can find that the video stabilization was very nice indeed.
4K Night Main Quality
Then the main 4K footage at night was great as expected, and everything was balanced very nicely and rack focus very well too. And the way it focuses the light at the back was also extremely seamless as well.
4K Night Main Stabilization
And of course, the stabilization during this time was also great and was very similar to the ultrawide lens.
4K Night Main 3x Zoom
But of course, you can expect a little noise if you happen to use that 3x zoom, so I wouldn’t recommend using this unless you really need to use the 3x zoom at night.
4K Night Selfie Video
Then the night selfie video was also very stabilized, with very minimal noise in the video footage.
8K Turn Around Video
Then I did a similar 8K turnaround mode to use the 8K recording for the selfie shot, and yes as expected, the quality was superb indeed even at night.
All right, so that’s my in-depth camera usage after a month, and if you haven’t checked out my full video review of the S23 ultra, do check it out over here and stay tuned for my tips and tricks video on the S Pen coming soon as well!