Robert Triggs / Android Authority
We’re still diving into everything new with the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra. Still, we couldn’t wait to see what implications the hardware changes and new AI processing have for the handset’s camera setup. We’ve taken a few snaps against the competition, namely the Pixel 8 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro, to see how they stack up.
As you’d expect, you won’t spot any obvious issues with these phones in bright lighting. There are some key differences, though. The Pixel 8 Pro is the most conservative when it comes to exposure and color. It also has the warmest white balance, while the iPhone is cooler. This subdued look is less ideal for quickly sharing but is handy for editing and ensures the Pixel’s snaps seldom offend.
Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro plays much looser with exposure, pushing highlights and saturation up for a punchier look. I find it overdone, but some may like how Apple’s pictures stand out. The newer Galaxy S24 Ultra sits somewhere in between, offering a little more punch without dialing it up too far. However, it’s the only phone to exhibit highlight clipping, which you can spot on the trees in our third picture and on the white car in the first.
Samsung goes hard on image cleanup at the expense of fine details.
Zoom in to a 100% crop on our first image, and you’ll spot more key differences. The Galaxy S24 Ultra is the most heavily denoised and sharpened, producing mushy foliage textures, harsh lines on the fenceposts, and halos along strong edges.
The Pixel 8 Pro retains a softer level of detail. It’s not quite ultra-realistic but does help to preserve finer details in bright light. The iPhone 15 Pro is even better at avoiding overprocessing this image. However, despite its 24MP output compared to 12MP default from its rivals, there are no meaningful finer details to make out here, and some fine edges actually appear blurrier.
We see some greater discrepancies when comparing the same scenes but with the ultrawide angle lenses. The iPhone shifts warmer but also slightly dips its exposure and saturation, resulting in a very different picture of the woodland. The Pixel 8 Pro also shifts its white balance, this time cooler in the woodland snap, but it’s more consistent in the town scene.
The S24 Ultra has a narrower field of view than its rivals and has less distortion at the frame edges as a result. Details are still quite oversharp (all three ultrawides are far less clean than the main cameras), and there’s again some highlight clipping here. However, it’s probably the most consistent at matching the color profile between its two wide lenses.
Clipped highlights are an issue for the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Let’s try the phones out in trickier lighting conditions.
When it comes to extreme HDR, all three phones do an excellent job of exposing a brightly lit background. Samsung’s Galaxy S24 Ultra performs best at exposing a dark foreground subject. The Pixel’s effort is solid enough, while the iPhone struggles the most, washing out the foreground slightly.
Apple makes a comeback in low light, providing the brightest exposure when the lights go down without relying on long exposure times. However, the white balance is a bit off, and there’s not a lot of dynamic range or color here. The Pixel 8 Pro is too dim for the actual lighting level; it’s the worst of the bunch here.
All three phones hand in much more similar results with a two-second night mode exposure enabled. Apple and Samsung do the best in terms of color saturation and white balance, though the iPhone has a purple hue. The Pixel 8 Pro’s night mode is a little on the warm side. Still, these are three very well-exposed pictures, given the lack of light.
Turning to zoom, the obvious differences are few and far between when seen on a small screen. However, you will spot the familiar saturation differences, particularly with the Galaxy and iPhone. But peep in closer, and you’ll see much bigger differences.
At 3x, there’s not a lot between any of these cameras in terms of detail in daylight, as all three make use of optical zoom. The Pixel 8 Pro is the most interesting at 3x; it fuzes images from its 5x camera with the main lens, producing a stronger natural bokeh but not always giving the sharpest details.
Extend to 5x and the Pixel 8 Pro and Galaxy S24 Ultra pull ahead owing to their optical zoom capabilities. Both provide realistic colors and exposure, but the Ultra is again a little oversharp. Apple’s 5x effort is passable, but it certainly lacks fine detail at a 100% crop, and the saturation level is off base in this picture.
The iPhone 15 Pro falls further behind at 10x, with far less dynamic range and washed-out colors. The level of detail isn’t awful, given the lack of optical hardware, but it’s not very good on more intricate textures. Samsung’s 10x image is again the sharpest, giving the appearance of finer details at the expense of halos around hard edges. The Pixel 8 Pro is softer but is otherwise eerily similar in dynamic range and exposure. Both are solid 10x shooters.
The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s new 5x camera provides a more balanced zoom.
Tired of pixel-peeping? Well selfies are a pretty open-and-shut case; the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a clear winner in my eyes. While its colors are oversaturated, the S24 Ultra hands in good selfies in harsh lighting, with pleasing skin tones and textures.
The Pixel 8 Pro struggled with the correct subject exposure in both selfie pictures, resulting in overly dark features and washed-out skin tones. The iPhone 15 Pro falls between the two, performing better in the indoor shot but still struggling to provide the right level of contrast with strong outdoor backlighting.
A quick portrait shot produces similar results. The Pixel 8 Pro’s skin textures are too harsh and shadows too dark, but the phone does a much better job at providing the correct exposure this time. The iPhone again struggled with brighter lighting. The S24 Ultra’s portrait is again a little over-saturated, so skin tones are the most realistic, but the overall balance is the best.
Galaxy S24 Ultra vs Pixel 8 Pro vs iPhone 15 Pro: which is the best camera?
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
Which phone takes the better pictures?
As is always the case, each phone has its strengths and weaknesses. Out of these three, the new Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra performs very well with selfies, HDR, and zoom versatility across a wide range of levels. However, the phone has a few issues with highlight clipping and oversharpening that take the edge off some of its pictures. Furthermore, we’ve had problems with motion blur on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which can mean some snaps don’t come out as crisp and clean as the pictures we have here.
By comparison, the Pixel 8 Pro is a more consistent shooter with its main camera, but its selfies and portraits look second best here. Likewise, Apple’s iPhone 15 Pro suffers more when pushing the zoom and HDR capabilities but offers perhaps the most solid low-light pictures.
Picking the best camera phone out of the three depends on the type of pictures you take, and we haven’t been able to test every scenario just yet. Clearly, all three of these phones hand in very good results most of the time, and I’d say go with the Galaxy S24 Ultra if you’re an avid selfie snapper who needs the versatility of the extra zoom lens. Otherwise, the Pixel 8 Pro is a great pick and costs slightly less than its competitors. The iPhone 15 Pro just isn’t versatile enough to compete with these two at range, so it might be worth checking out the Pro Max instead.