If Samsung’s recent release schedule has anything to offer, we’re only about three months (or less) away from seeing the brand new galaxy s23, Galaxy S23+ and Galaxy S23 Ultra. For better or worse, we already know pretty much everything about the hardware on the new one Galaxy S23 series, including their camera systems. But we’re here to talk about the Galaxy S23 Ultra in particular!
But wait a minute… Why is in the world? Samsung is giving us a 200MP camera while the rest of the phone world is moving towards different and better… camerastuff? Is Samsung targeting the wrong aspect of camera hardware here, and would the South Korean company regret this move?
Galaxy S23 Ultra comes with a 200MP camera, but that’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds…
So, here’s the thing…
Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo (and probably other phone makers) are expected to launch their new flagship phones in the next 1-2 months. They will have one thing in common, because they will use the IMX 989 mobile camera sensor that we first saw in the Xiaomi 12S Ultra earlier this year.
According to reports, the IMX 989 is a creation that: Sony and Xiaomi has invested in it and developed it together, but the key variable here is that this is the very first 1-inch sensor ready to be mass-produced and used in mainstream flagship phones… and it will be! Just not by Samsung.
I can’t emphasize this enough, but this is a big problem for the world of smartphone cameras. A 1-inch sensor, just like the ones used in virtually all pocket cameras, has been the goal of phone manufacturers for years and the dream of phone camera enthusiasts (like me)!
The benefits of the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 200MP camera may pale in comparison to the benefits of the 1-inch sensor that will be used in the Xiaomi 13 Pro and other Android flagships
The benefits of a larger 1-inch camera sensor are too great to ignore
- A larger camera sensor allows for better bokeh/background separation, which is one of the most important (if not the most important) photography features that makes photos taken with a phone look like they were taken with “a real camera”
- A larger sensor gives you more light, which is essential for phone cameras, which already struggle in low light; more light means less need to use software processing which (as we’ve seen a million times already) can often make photos look, well… over-processed
There are some benefits of a high-resolution 200MP camera, but they are unlikely to make a difference to the average user
On the other hand, more megapixels give you two major benefits that, in my opinion, aren’t nearly as crucial to the average user’s photo/video experience…
- With more megapixels, you can… take higher megapixel shots that you can then zoom in on (but that’s the job of zoom cameras on phones)
- Higher megapixel counts allow manufacturers to use a technique called “sensor cropping” — phones are intelligent enough to crop the center portion of a high-megapixel sensor and give you lossless zoom quality at 2x magnification ( an example is the iPhone 14 Pro which gives you optical quality photos with 2x zoom thanks to its 48 MP primary camera)
Is a 200MP camera really what the Galaxy S23 Ultra needs? Probably not…
But that’s where the benefits of a super high resolution camera end and also where the more confusing part begins…
The Galaxy S23 Ultra will have a 3x telephoto camera for close-range zoom and portrait shots, as well as a 10x long-range optical zoom, reducing the need to crop the sensor.
In addition, the 108 MP camera in the Galaxy S22 Ultra already delivers a lot of detail (when used in full-resolution mode) that many people will never even use, unlike a 1-inch camera sensor that you’ll literally use all the time (duh!).
Samsung hasn’t faced tougher camera competition since Huawei’s dominance in the camera phone market and Xiaomi comes in (very) hot
Watch out, Samsung! Xiaomi is the new Huawei.
Well (p), of course we can’t judge a book by its cover, especially if we haven’t seen the cover, let alone read the book. Forgive the ridiculous analogy – I didn’t have lunch.
So sure… I can’t tell you that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is going to lose out to the Xiaomi 13 Pro/Ultra, Vivo X90 Pro and Oppo Find X6 Pro until you’ve seen what all these cameras can do. But one thing’s for sure, and it’s that the current evidence (read: the Xiaomi 12S Ultra and Galaxy S22 Ultra camera results) isn’t exactly in favor of Samsung.
Making things even more exciting is that after a long hiatus from the global phone market, Xiaomi’s super-premium Ultra flagship phone is now expected to be sold in markets other than China.
Aside from that, somewhat surprisingly, the more modest Xiaomi 13 Pro is expected to have the same Sony IMX 989 1-inch sensor, which means two things: Samsung’s more affordable Galaxy S23 and S23+ models will face tougher camera competition and The Xiaomi 13 Ultra (expected mid-2023) will certainly hide even bigger camera surprises (for the Galaxy S23 Ultra & Co).
So, the game is over! Apple and Google won’t be releasing new phones anytime soon, but the big three from China (Xiaomi, Vivo and Oppo) could make life difficult for Samsung. The last time Samsung was put under Chinese camera pressure, the company didn’t exactly win. Huawei’s P and Mate series phones dominated the Galaxy for years before the US trade embargo…
Is history going to repeat itself?