Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra is a great overall phone that can function both as a high-end consumer smartphone or a high-end business device, thanks to the integration of the S Pen. Though I found myself using the S Pen considerably less with the S22 Ultra than I ever did with the Note series, the new device effectively means the end of the Note line. I personally welcome this change to Samsung’s portfolio—the Note line was starting to look like the odd-man-out next to the Galaxy Z Foldables and the Galaxy S Series. One of the biggest differentiators in Samsung’s current lineup between the Galaxy S Series and the Z Fold/Flip devices (other than the integrated S Pen) is the S series’ superior camera configuration. In this piece, I will explain why I think Samsung should emphasize the S22 Ultra’s unique camera configuration in its marketing of the next generation Galaxy S Ultra device.
Not all cameras are the same
As it has been for many years, the camera still counts among the top five most common reasons a user purchases a phone across almost all surveys. A smartphone camera needs to be fast, versatile, quality and capable. The reason I find Samsung’s S22 Ultra so compelling is that it checks all four of those boxes. While I don’t believe that the S22 Ultra necessarily takes the best video (that’s the Oppo Find X5 Pro for me) or the best low-light photos (that’s the Pixel 6 Pro for me), it lands in the top five for those those categories. In fact, the S22 is so competitive with the rest of the flagship phones, it has become the industry standard for others to compare their flagship devices against on Android or not. One of the S22 Ultra’s camera features for which there is no competition in my mind is its zoom capability.
The S22 Ultra’s Camera
I have been using the S22 Ultra since launch. While admittedly it had some early availability issues, it has since been extremely popular for people looking to replace their old flagship Note or Galaxy S Series device. I have taken this phone with me everywhere over the last 6 months, and I use it as my primary phone regardless of what other devices I may be reviewing at the time. This also happened with last year’s Galaxy S21 Ultra and it was the first phone that I kept for an entire year. I do this mainly for the camera configuration and, specifically, the phone’s ability to reliably shoot quality photos from 0.6x Ultra-Wide to 30x without any noticeable quality loss. Samsung’s 10x optical and 30x hybrid zoom are both best-in-class. For that matter, Samsung’s 100x ‘Space Zoom’ is also the best of any phone that offers such a feature. Honor offers 100x zoom in the Magic 4 Pro, but it simply isn’t as good as the S22 or S21 Ultra.
The S22 Ultra’s camera quality is in large part thanks to folded optics, a technology which I’ve long thought of as potentially game-changing and have previously written a paper about. This technology uses optics to bend light to fit a camera sensor more tightly, with more lenses and in a smaller package than was previously ever possible. Samsung’s folded optical system has enough lenses (and focal length) to deliver 10x optical zoom, or approximately 240mm equivalent zoom compared to a 35mm camera. That means that with digital enhancements, the 100x Space Zoom can deliver approximately 2400mm of zoom.
Since some of the pandemic restrictions from last year have relaxed here in California where I currently live, it’s been a breath of fresh air to be able to attend sporting events and concerts in person again.
While the pandemic has certainly affected some companies’ marketing messaging and focus, especially people’s smartphone camera use cases, I can’t help but think that Samsung could be better positioning the Galaxy S Ultra series better. The S21 Ultra launched last year during the height of the pandemic and I can understand not wanting to focus on the benefits of a telephoto camera at a concert, but to ignore it with the S22 Ultra as events start to come back feels like a wasted opportunity. The S22 Ultra improves upon last year’s S21 Ultra with slightly better telephoto performance. This camera delivers photo experiences that people previously could only dream of, yet many are still unaware of its capability even as they go back to attending baseball and soccer games and concerts and prepare for the upcoming NFL season.
Real World ApplicationsI have attended my fair share of the Padres’ games here in San Diego at Petco Park. While admittedly my seats are quite good, none of my friends have been able to capture really close shots of the players in action, except me. In the time that I’ve had the S22 Ultra and the S21 Ultra, the photos I’ve taken with the devices have never ceased to amaze friends, family and bystanders. With the S22 Ultra, you can get great pictures or even excellent video, regardless of how bad your seats at an event might be.
I’ve also taken the S22 Ultra to the newly built Rady Shell (where Apple ‘launched’ the iPhone 13) to photograph concerts and taken amazing pictures of nature and the animals at the World-Famous San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. All of this has demonstrated to me that the S22 Ultra is simply unmatched as a device for this moment as people start to go back to traveling and enjoying the world that we live in. The S22 Ultra is also great for any kind of bird or plane spotting, as I have dozens of pictures of different birds and planes I’ve only been able to capture thanks to the Zoom in the S22 Ultra.
I should offer the disclaimer that, despite all of its amazing capabilities, it still isn’t a perfect camera. Some days I wish it took better portrait mode photos and pictures of food, on the level of what is possible with the Pixel 6 Pro and OnePlus 10 Pro 5G. But no phone’s camera can be perfect, and not everyone values the same capabilities and features. That’s why we’ll always need smartphone and camera reviews. All of this said, I still believe Samsung is vastly underselling the capabilities of the S22 Ultra’s zoom camera and is missing out on a very big opportunity to sell new phones and even upsell people from the S22 and S22+.
A lot of people know that Samsung’s S22 Ultra is the company’s flagship ‘candybar’ phone. They also know that the company just announced a new line of Z foldable phones this month on August 10th. However, very few people, including myself expected that Samsung would pull off a miracle and ship the exact same camera configuration in the Galaxy Z Fold4 that it did in the S22 Ultra. It didn’t happen with the S21 Ultra and Z Fold3 and didn’t happen this year either. That means that if you care about having the best camera that Samsung has to offer, the S22 Ultra will still likely be your best bet until next year when Samsung launches the S23 Ultra. That also means that Samsung should lean more heavily into raising awareness of what sets the S22 and S22 Ultra apart from the Z series and, for that matter, Samsung’s competitors’ flagship devices. The one obvious feature to do this with, in my opinion, is the S22 Ultra’s still unmatched zoom capabilities.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.