Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra: which camera phone is best?

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra
The S22 family comprises the Samsung Galaxy S22, S22 Plus and S22 Ultra – but which is the best buy? (Image credit: Future)

This year, Samsung’s flagship series consists of three devices; the standard Samsung Galaxy S22, the Galaxy S22 Plus and the Galaxy Ultra. But this year’s Samsung Galaxy Ultra comes with the added twist of essentially being a Samsung Galaxy Note device, as well as offering the top tier specs that the Galaxy line has to offer.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is one of the best camera phones of 2022 so far –  so should you just buy the Samsung Galaxy Ultra and be done with it? Or do the other devices represent great value for money without compromising too much on features?

Read more: Best Samsung phones

The most obvious difference between the three devices other than size, is the fact that the S22 Ultra comes with a stylus. This gives it an edge in terms of productivity. It also benefits from an extra camera unit and a higher resolution primary sensor, to help it reach 100x zoom, while the others top out at a maximum 30x zoom. But we'll dig into the other differences, just in case zoom and resolution aren’t critical deciding factors for you. Let’s see how the trio stack up against each other…

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra: Camera

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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus has a a 10MP selfie camera, 50MP rear sensor camera, along with a 12MP ultra-wide and 10MP telephoto (Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S22 (bottom) and S22 Plus (top) share the same three cameras (Image credit: Basil Kronfli)

On paper, the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s headline grabbing 108-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and advanced dual pixel autofocus sounds tough to beat. And it has some neat tricks at its disposal, including the ability to combine pixels to create a single image with a large 2.4μm pixel size, more than double the pixel size of the other S22 cameras. Giving it a significant edge in low light. It also has a 40-megapixel front-facing camera.

The camera systems of the Galaxy S22 and S22+ are identical, which simplifies the comparison process. Both have a triple camera setup, based around a 50-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization and speedy phase detection autofocus. The focal length of the primary camera is equivalent to 23mm, with a maximum f/1.8 aperture. It’s a great focal length for general purpose use and that wide aperture handles low light scenarios well. Both the S22 and S22+ have a 10-megapixel front-facing camera.

All three Galaxy S22-series devices share the same 12-megapixel ultra-wide main camera module, offering a broad 120° field of view (13mm, equivalent) and f/2.2 aperture. It’s an ideal option for group shots, landscapes and dramatic portraits. They also share the same lens for their 10-megapixel telephoto cameras. It provides an equivalent focal length of 69mm (3x optical zoom) and it has a maximum aperture of f/2.4. However, the sensor of the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 3x zoom telephoto camera is slightly larger than that featured in the Galaxy S22 and S22+, allowing it to also have marginally larger pixels (1.12 μm vs 1.0 μm). 

Read also: Pixel 6 Pro vs iPhone 13 Pro

It’s not a huge point of difference, however, the Galaxy S22 Ultra extends the gap further with an additional 10-megapixel telephoto camera module. Using a clever periscope configuration, the extra lens of the Galaxy S22 Ultra has a whopping 230mm equivalent focal length for 10x optical zoom and f/4.9 aperture. And through computational photography, the Galaxy Ultra can combine its telephoto lens’ focal length with its large 108-megapixel main camera and deliver 100x “Space Zoom”. 

You’ll know if someone has a Galaxy S21 Ultra or S22 Ultra without seeing the device in their hands, because they will have likely shared a picture of the moon captured on their phone. You’re welcome to be cynical, but the results from 100x “Space Zoom” are impressive; for a phone.

Samsung Galaxy S22 camera comparison

Here's an overview of the Galaxy S22 Series cameras (Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra: Night mode and low-light shooting

Galaxy flagship devices are typically good at “seeing” in low light, and this time around Samsung has been promoting the range using the phrase “Nightography”. So you can expect decent results, whichever device you opt for. However, the Ultra as mentioned above has a couple of extra tricks to help you capture better photos and videos in challenging light. As well as its ability to combine light information from surrounding pixels to double its effective pixel size over its stablemates, it also features laser AF. Laser AF emits beams of barely visible light that bounce back to the device’s sensor, allowing it to calculate subject distance. Coupled with its already advanced phase detection AF, the Galaxy S22 Ultra delivers more consistent focusing performance in low-light compared to the other S22-series devices.

In terms of system image processing, the Galaxy S22-series devices all do a good job of producing cleaner images in low-light compared to the previous Samsung Galaxy flagship series. They handle noise well while retaining an attractive level of detail, without introducing overly biassed color shifts. 

However, some may feel the image processing is a little too intense as the Galaxy S22 devices seem to be able to find light in scenarios where there is very little, regularly turning night scenes into dusk. It would be good if there were some way of dialing down this processing in the settings. However, these devices can capture “Expert RAW'' files if you download the dedicated RAW app from the Galaxy Store. This will give you more flexibility to adjust your images to taste in post.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra: Portrait mode

Portrait mode, which allows you to capture pictures with simulated background blur, is available on all of these devices. The Galaxy S22-series uses what Samsung calls “AI stereo depth mapping” to discern between the subject and the background and it works brilliantly. Galaxy flagships were already best in class in this regard, but there’s a noticeable improvement in the consistency and accuracy of portrait mode in the Galaxy S22-series phones.  

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra portrait mode

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S22 Plus vs Galaxy S22 Ultra: Video

All three devices have identical video specs on paper, they can all record up to a maximum of 8K resolution video at 24fps. Mysteriously there’s no 30p option, which will disappoint some. They also have an Auto Frame Rate mode that will lower the frame rate to allow more light into the sensor when shooting videos in low light situations. But in use there are some differences between how each device handles 8K video. 

If you’re using the Galaxy S22, there’s a small crop when you switch to 8K. However, there’s a much larger punch in when using the Galaxy S22 Ultra as it crops into the centre 33-megapixels of its 108-megapixel sensor. This will have advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation, so it’s worth keeping in mind when considering; which Galaxy S22 device should I buy?

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S22 Plus vs Galaxy S22 Ultra: Screen & design 

Samsung Galaxy S22 screen (Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Samsung Galaxy S22 Plus screen (Image credit: Basil Kronfli/Digital Camera World)

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra screen (Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)

Perhaps screen and display are the most noticeable differences between the S22-series devices in everyday use. The first thing that strikes you about the S22 Ultra is its stunning 6.8in Quad HD+ display that curves into its edges. It’s a truly mesmerizing panel that elevates photo and video content viewed on it. 

It’s also easy to enjoy in direct sunlight, thanks to having a maximum brightness of 1750 nits. Despite being slightly smaller at 6.6in and FHD+ resolution, the S22+ matches the Ultra for brightness. The base Galaxy S22 is the same resolution as the S22+ but it’s only a 6.1in display and offers a lower 1300 nits max brightness. All three have a maximum 120Hz refresh rate for smooth motion in use.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra. Image not to scale (Image credit: Samsung)

In terms of design, the Galaxy S22 and S22+ look identical and resemble their predecessors, keeping things sleek and attractive. The S22 is slightly smaller though, with a 6.1-inch screen compared to the 6.6in display of the S22+. Both devices sport a neatly segmented triple camera housing, which makes for a two-toned color scheme that is subtle, yet eye-catching. 

Each camera in the S22 Ultra’s quad camera setup sticks out individually rather than being housed together like its stablemates. And its display has edges that curve into its chassis, rather than laying flat. Finally the S22 Ultra also houses an S-Pen, despite boasting a large 5,000mAh battery. In general, the S22 and S22+ are easy on the eye, whereas the Galaxy S22 Ultra sports a distinctly different look that may divide opinions.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra: Battery and capacity 

If you plan on capturing a lot of pictures and videos, battery life is going to matter a lot. Fortunately, despite featuring slightly smaller batteries than their predecessors, with 3,700mAh and 4,500mAh cells respectively, the S22 and S22+ still deliver all day battery life. 

As mentioned above, the S22 Ultra has a huge 5,000mAh battery, which is necessary to support its best in-class display. There’s also a notable difference in the charging capabilities of the devices, the S22 only supports 25W charging, while the S22+ and S22 Ultra support faster 45W charging. All three devices use USB-C connections and support reverse wireless charging.

The S22/S22+ both come in 8GB RAM and 128/256GB storage options. But if you want more power or more storage, the Galaxy S22 Ultra offers either 8GB or 12GB RAM configurations with 128/256/512GB/1TB onboard storage available.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs S22 Plus vs S22 Ultra: Price

Now we get to the meat of the discussion - pricing. If you’re uncomfortable paying around £1000 for a phone, the Samsung Galaxy S22 is the obvious choice. It matches the Galaxy S22+ for camera capabilities and costs $799/£769 if you go for the 8GB/128GB base model. 

However, if 128GB storage isn’t enough you may want to opt for the S22+ 8GB/256GB model. Costing $1049/£999, you’d get double the storage, a larger battery and a better display for an extra $170/£180. 

If you’re the type who doesn’t want to compromise, then the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is truly the king of the pack. You would have to shell out around an extra $200/£200, but you get a lot more device for your money, including double storage, more ram, a stylus that can be used for notes and to remotely trigger the camera, as well as a significantly greater zoom range.

Samsung Galaxy S22 vs Galaxy S22 Plus vs Galaxy S22 Ultra: Conclusion 

Samsung Galaxy S22 series

Which is the best Samsung Galaxy S22 series for you? (Image credit: Samsung)

This year’s flagship devices from Samsung are all brilliantly refined with solid specifications and features across the board, so there isn’t a bad choice to make. But if you’re struggling to choose between the three and budget isn’t a concern, you need to consider if you need the larger display, extra zoom lens and S Pen functionality. 

There’s no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra will be in the running for phone of the year. With a huge battery, stunning display, note features and top tier camera, it justifies its “ultra” moniker in every way. If taking pictures and videos is a priority for you, the Galaxy S22 Ultra is the obvious choice. Of the bunch, the Galaxy S22+ seems to be the less sensible choice, while if you're on a budget you can’t go wrong with the Galaxy S22.

Read more:

Best camera phones
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Jon Devo

Jon is a gadget reviewer, content creator and influencer. He spends his time reviewing products, covering technology news, giving talks on content strategy and creating content in partnership with a wide variety of forward-thinking brands. He also contributes to commercial radio, as well as in national print newspapers and magazines.

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