Galaxy S23 Ultra's all-new 200MP camera - a big mistake letting the competition get ahead?

Galaxy S23 Ultra’s all-new 200MP camera – a big mistake letting the competition get ahead?

Going by Samsung’s recent release schedule, we’re about three months (or less) away from laying eyes on the all-new Galaxy S23, Galaxy S23+ and Galaxy S23 Ultra. For better or worse, we already know pretty much everything about the hardware of the new Galaxy S23 series, including their camera systems. But we’re here to talk about the Galaxy S23 Ultra in particular!

According to renowned tipsters Yogesh Brar and Ice Universe, the The Galaxy S23 Ultra will bring an all-new 200MP main camera, but will retain the same 12MP ultrawide camera and dual 10MP telephoto cameras (with 3x and 10x optical zoom).

But hold on… Why in the world is Samsung gives us a 200MP camera as the rest of the phone world moves towards different and better solutions… camerathings? Is Samsung focusing on the bad aspect of the camera hardware here and would the South Korean company regret the decision?

Let’s talk…

The Galaxy S23 Ultra brings a 200MP camera but it’s not as exciting as it sounds…

So here’s the thing…

Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo (and probably other phone makers) are all expected to show off their new flagship phones over the next 1-2 months. They will have one thing in common, as 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 and developed together, but the most important variable here is that this is the very first 1-inch type sensor ready for mass production and use in consumer flagship phones… and it will be the case ! But not by Samsung.

I can’t stress this enough, but it’s a big deal for the smartphone camera world. A 1-inch sensor, like those used in virtually all pocket cameras, has been the goal of phone makers and the dream of phone camera enthusiasts (like me) for years!

The benefits of the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 200MP camera might pale in comparison to the benefits of the 1-inch sensor that will be used in the Xiaomi 13 Pro and other Android flagships

Times are different now, though! Judging by the absolutely outstanding photo samples of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra lurking on the internet, the phones are now 100% ready to upgrade to 1-inch type camera sensors. So I guess you can understand my sheer disbelief when Samsung seems to focus on something as different and simple as pixel count, instead of sensor size.

The benefits of a larger 1-inch camera sensor are too great to ignore

  • A larger camera sensor gives you better bokeh/background separation, which is one of the main (if not the main) photography trait 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) can often make photos look… over-processed

A 200MP high resolution camera has some advantages, but they are unlikely to make a difference to the average user.

On the other hand, more megapixels give you two main benefits that I think aren’t as crucial to the average user’s photo/video shooting experience…

  • More megapixels let you take…more megapixel photos 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 smart enough to be able to crop the central part of a sensor with high megapixel counts and give you zoom quality without loss at 2x magnification (an example is the iPhone 14 Pro which gives you optical quality photos at 2x zoom thanks to its 48 MP main 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 most confusing part begins…

The Galaxy S23 Ultra will have a 3x telephoto lens for close-range zooms and portraits, as well as a 10x optical zoom for longer ranges, which will reduce the need for sensor cropping.

On top of all that, the 108MP camera found in the The Galaxy S22 Ultra already offers 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 be using all the time (duh !).

For example, in our tests (as you can see above), the The iPhone 14 Pro’s brilliant 48MP mode spins around the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 108MP mode, delivering better and cleaner detail. The iPhone 14 Pro excels even against Manufactured by Motorola Moto X30 Pro, which is the first phone with a 200MP sensor (ironically, made by Samsung). For the record, the Galaxy 23 Ultra is expected to use a different 200MP sensor, along with improved processing thanks to the unreleased Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chips. So there is no doubt that Samsung’s flagship will do better than other 200MP phones in the market. But how much better?

Samsung hasn’t faced tougher camera competition since Huawei dominated the camera phone market and Xiaomi is coming (very) hot

Well (p), of course, we can’t judge a book by its cover, especially when we haven’t seen the cover, let alone read the book. Pardon the ridiculous analogy – I didn’t have lunch.

So, of course… I can’t tell you that the Galaxy S23 Ultra is going to lose to the Xiaomi 13 Pro/Ultra, Vivo X90 Pro and Oppo Find X6 Pro until we see what all these cameras can do. But one thing is for sure and that’s that the current evidence (read: Xiaomi 12S Ultra and Galaxy S22 Ultra camera results) doesn’t exactly go in Samsung’s favor.

What makes things more exciting is that after a long absence from the global phone market, Xiaomi’s ultra-high-end flagship phone is now expected to be sold in markets other than China.

Other than that, somewhat surprisingly, the humbler Xiaomi 13 Pro is also expected to feature the same 1-inch Sony IMX 989 sensor, which means two things: Samsung’s more affordable Galaxy S23 and S23+ models will face a tougher competition when it comes to cameras, and the Xiaomi 13 Ultra (due to arrive in mid-2023) will surely hide even bigger camera surprises (for the Galaxy S23 Ultra & Co).

So the game is on! apple and Google isn’t going to release any new phones anytime soon, but China’s big three (Xiaomi, Vivo, and Oppo) could make Samsung’s life difficult. The last time Samsung came under pressure from Chinese cameras, the company didn’t really win. Huawei’s P and Mate series of phones dominated the Galaxy for years before the US trade embargo…

Will history repeat itself?

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