When it comes to the best Android phones, Samsung's Galaxy S flagships have long earned their place in my pocket. And with Samsung Galaxy Unpacked having revealed 2024's flagships, my initial reaction was disappointment that the base S24 and size-up S24 Plus retain identical cameras to their predecessors.
That quickly turned to glee, however, when I looked deeper at the top-of-the-tree option, the Galaxy S24 Ultra, which has added a major camera upgrade to the series that I've been wanting for years now. It's a new zoom lens that, for me, sounds like the best balance of how people use their phones and a step forward.
It might not read like that on paper though: the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a 5x optical zoom lens as its longest, which halves the focal length of the 10x optical zoom that can be found on the earlier S23 Ultra. How can less be more? I'm super pleased that Samsung has gone down this route, principally because the sudden jump from 3x to 10x always felt too significant and, from the perspective of most phone users, such lenses are hard to keep steady in use too.
But it's far more than that: the Galaxy S24 Ultra's 5x optical zoom delivers light onto a 50-megapixel sensor, which is also physically larger compared to the ousted 10MP equivalent found in the earlier phone. More resolution means more detail, more potential for dynamic digital zoom, and based on my initial use of the S24 Ultra, greater ease of use.
Elsewhere, however, the S24 Ultra doesn't opt to tweak its camera arrangement further, so while I've been waiting years for that 10x lens to offer a more suitable alternative, it's a smidge disappointing that the 3x optic retains its low 10-megapixel resolution. Check out the quick specification view of those rear four lenses below:
- Main (24mm): 200-megapixel, f/1.7 aperture, 1/1.3in sensor size, optical stabilisation (OIS)
- Zoom (5x, 120mm): 50MP, f/3.4, 1/1.56in, OIS
- Zoom (3x, 70mm): 10MP, f/2.4, 1/3.52in, OIS
- Wide (13mm): 12MP, f/2.2, 1/2.55in
Once upon a time, Samsung was really pushing its extended zoom features as a major sell. Just because the new lens is a 5x optical zoom, however, doesn't mean these features go away. 'Space zoom' is still feasible, so whether you want to digitally pinch into 10x or 100x zoom using the camera interface you still can.
What I really love to see, however, is that despite the S24 Ultra's camera arrangement improving, its price hasn't increased year on year. That's right: the S24 Ultra is available for pre-order from £1,249 / $1,199 / AU$1,949. I won't pretend that's cheap by any means, but for all this quality – not to mention new titanium finish – I reckon we're looking at one of 2024's best phones already...