The big news in the tech world over the past week has been the launch of the Galaxy S22 series. With every new generation, everyone’s going to be looking at things like the processor, the design and of course the cameras as well. It’s no different with the Galaxy S22 series of course, and so let’s take a look at what exactly Samsung has done to improve the cameras on their flagship smartphones.
Galaxy S22 series spec sheet
Before we can go on to the new features, let’s first take a look at the hardware on board, starting with the base Galaxy S22. The smallest of the lot, the Galaxy S22 has a triple rear camera setup with a 50MP, f/1.8 main camera with a 1/1.56-inch image sensor on top of optical image stabilisation and dual pixel auto focus. This gets you images with a 1.0μm pixel size (2.0μm at 12MP) and a field of view of 85˚. This gets flanked by a 12MP, f/2.2 ultra-wide camera with a 1/2.55-inch image sensor capable of a 120˚ field of view. Lastly, there’s a 10MP, f/2.4 telephoto camera with a 1/3.94-inch image sensor for a 3x optical zoom, with up to 30x digital zoom. As for selfies, you’ll get a 10MP, f/2.2 front camera with a 1/3.24-inch image sensor for selfies.
The Galaxy S22+ shares the same camera setup as the Galaxy S22, so we’ll move on to the Galaxy S22 Ultra instead. For the Galaxy S22 Ultra, we’re looking at a quad camera setup on the rear of the device, with a 108MP, f/1.8 main camera using a 1/1.33-inch image sensor with PDAF and optical image stabilisation too. This gets shots with a 0.8μm pixel size (2.4μm at 12MP) and an 85˚ field of view. You also get a 12MP, f/2.2 ultra wide camera similar to the one on the Galaxy S22, but with the addition of dual pixel auto focus. Lastly, a pair of 10MP telephoto cameras on 1/3.52-inch image sensors provide a 3x and 10x optical zoom, along with up to a 100x digital zoom too.
On paper, they don’t look like major upgrades over the last generation. Taking the Galaxy S22 Ultra for example, when placed in comparison with the Galaxy S21 Ultra, it actually has smaller image sensors for its pair of 10MP telephoto cameras. Specifically, the two 10MP telephoto cameras on the Galaxy S21 Ultra have a 1/3.24-inch image sensor compared to the 1/3.52-inch image sensors on the Galaxy S22 Ultra. There’s also no major changes in the video department, with both the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Galaxy S21 Ultra capable of 8K footage at 24fps, or up to 960fps when shooting in HD.
Meanwhile, for the Galaxy S22 and S22+, its 50MP main camera is a fairly solid upgrade over the 12MP, f/1.8 main shooter of the Galaxy S21 and S21+, while also sharing a similar 12MP ultra-wide camera. However, you might be surprised to see that the 64MP, f/2.0 3x telephoto lens on the Galaxy S21 and S21+ has been replaced with the 10MP telephoto lens on the Galaxy S22 series. And just like the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the Galaxy S22 and S22+ don’t feature any major changes when it comes to video too. However, as we will soon see, sometimes the hardware specs alone don’t tell the whole picture.
Space Zoom has been around for awhile now on Samsung’s flagship devices, having first debuted with the Galaxy S20 series. It’s essentially just a digitally zoomed in shot, with the camera AI enhancing the image so that you’ll have solid pictures, even at 100x zoom. Okay so technically then Space Zoom isn’t a new feature, but judging from some shots we’ve seen already, Samsung has improved the AI enhancement to the point where it’s a noticeable upgrade over the last generation. Take a look at this tweet from Ice Universe below showing Space Zoom shots from all three ‘Ultra’ phones with the feature:
As you can see, there’s much more detail in the 30x Space Zoom from the Galaxy S22 Ultra compared to its older brothers. And it’s not just sharpening the image either; there’s genuinely more detail in the picture as well as more definition between the subject and its surroundings. At 100x Space Zoom, shots do get noticeably worse compared to shots that aren’t zoomed in, but they’re certainly still fairly impressive, with 50x Space Zoom shots looking as good as shots taken with perhaps an entry-level smartphone.
While these shots were done using the Galaxy S22 Ultra, we should also see improvements with Space Zoom on the Galaxy S22 and S22+ as well compared to their last generation counterparts. This is because while the Galaxy S21 and S21+ had 64MP telephoto shooters, they achieve its zoomed in shots using sensor cropping, meaning that instead of 3x optical zoom you’re actually getting a ‘hybrid optical zoom’ instead. With the Galaxy S22 series reverting to 10MP telephoto shooters, despite the lower resolution the 3x optical zoom it provides ought to be better, while going even closer with Space Zoom should be improved too thanks to the upgraded AI algorithm.
Lastly, the new photography feature coming on the Galaxy S22 series is something called Nightography. It basically refers to the cameras’ improved ability to take good images in low light conditions. Samsung even dedicated an entire segment during the Galaxy Unpacked event just to showing off Nightography.
While Nightography features will be available across all of the Galaxy S22 series, the Galaxy S22 Ultra in particular has a special mention from Samsung as the Korean giant showed off how its large sensor captures more light than ever. But it’s not just all about the sensor; Samsung has also fitted out these phones with a new anti-reflective coating on the camera lenses, dubbed as the new ‘super clear lens’. This super clear lens works by cutting out the light flares you tend to see when shooting in low light conditions, typically due to light reflections within the lens itself.
Furthermore, when you take a picture in low light conditions, the device will automatically take multiple shots rather than just one, and via the phone’s neural processing unit will merge the best shots taken into a final image that’s been enhanced to get the best detail and colour. It should be noted though that these Nightography shots only work with the main camera, the selfie camera and the 3x telephoto shooter, so those who prefer ultra-wide shots won’t be able to use it. However, you will be able to use portrait mode with Nightography.
The story is the same when capturing video in low light conditions, with Samsung’s dual-track image stabilisation. It works by using both the OIS of the cameras in tandem with video digital image stabilisation (VDIS). That VDIS on the Galaxy S22 series now takings four times as much motion data compared to the Galaxy S21 series, tweaking each frame to smoothen out footage and prevent blurry videos.
Another trick up the Galaxy S22 lineup’s sleeve is that it can automatically adjust the frame rate of your footage simultaneously as you record. This makes sure that your video will always have enough light in it, and if the framerate ever drops below 24fps, Samsung’s Super Night Solution will use AI to generate up to 12 extra frames per second based on what has been captured, before filling in the blanks. This gets you at minimum a consistent 24fps in your videos, regardless of how bad the lighting conditions are.
Overall, it’s looking pretty good for the Galaxy S22 line up’s photography capabilities, with notable upgrades in low light conditions and for zoomed in shots. We can expect it to be even better too, as with One UI 4.1, Samsung has improved the user experience of the Pro mode of its camera app, allowing users to squeeze even more out of their mobile camera. It remains to be seen if these new features are enough to make it the absolute best in the smartphone industry altogether, but it’s certainly an exciting time for those out there who are into smartphone photography. One thing’s for sure though, we can’t wait to test them out extensively and compare them to other flagship devices too.