Has the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra reached peak camera?

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is a powerful smartphone with a camera that ticks every box, so where do we go from here?

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
(Image credit: Samsung)

Watching the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked presentation, it's impossible not to be impressed with the features that these new models offer. None more so than the flagship Galaxy S23 Ultra, a phone Mike Lowe says could be the ultimate smartphone. 

The thing that impressed me most about the S23 Ultra though was the camera, and not just for that huge pixel count. Having 200 million pixels on a camera phone is something of a marketing ploy. Yes, it's a big number, but those pixels are used in groups of 16 to create a 12MP image, though a 50MP or 200MP image is possible. 

The camera has improved nightography – Samsung's low light system – which uses all this data from the sensors to create effortless nighttime shots. Then you have a choice of lenses: ultra-wide, wide-angle, 3x zoom and 10x zoom. That's a better focal range than most DSLR users have in their camera bag, and it's all at the touch of a button or a pinch of the screen. 

Once you could have dismissed smartphones for having tiny sensors and questionable quality but images from cameraphones now look so good, it's difficult to justify carrying any other kind of camera. And I suspect, with the Galaxy S23 Ultra, that's truer than ever.   

Filming with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Filming with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

Samsung leaned in hard with professional movie producers using the Galaxy S23 to create cinematic quality feature films. In the presentation, we saw legendary film director Ridley Scott using the camera for a captivating tale, and South Korean director Na Hong-Jin push the limits of the camera's low light abilities – actually having to darken the result at the end. 

We know that these phones aren't about to replace professional video cameras any time soon, but with the help of some professional rigging, monitors, filters and lighting, it can create something that looks pretty damn close. That's incredible. The Galaxy S23 will shoot at up to 8K resolution, or up to 120fps at 4K. Plus there's even greater optical stabilisation. 

As with the still photo capture, 8K is more than most users need and will see the footage compressed down to something more manageable for social sharing. The fact that it's able to reach these levels of quality though, is seriously impressive. 

So here, in essence, you have an incredibly powerful smartphone with a camera system far beyond the demands of most users. So where do you go from here? How do you continue to top this kind of performance, year after year? In the early days of digital cameras, there was always more pixels and bigger sensors. But what if you've got all you need right here? 

Arguably, the phones announced today would be good enough that you may never need a better one. That is until next year when Samsung adds another stand-out feature to the lineup. Though I can't imagine what. 

Mat Gallagher

As T3's Editor-in-Chief, Mat Gallagher has his finger on the pulse for the latest advances in technology. He has written about technology since 2003 and after stints in Beijing, Hong Kong and Chicago is now based in the UK. He’s a true lover of gadgets, but especially anything that involves cameras, Apple, electric cars, musical instruments or travel.