The Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 is defined by its folding abilities, but its other features still have to measure up to non-folding rivals, given how much Samsung's latest device costs. It's why in previous years, I've been frustrated to see how far behind the Z Fold line's photography has been compared to its rivals.
Cameras are one of the biggest selling points on top-tier phones, but on previous Z Folds, Samsung turned to some rather underpowered hardware, especially in light of how much the foldable phone cost.
Now though, we have the Galaxy Z Fold 4 — its refinements include the same cameras on the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus. Thanks to this trio of effective sensors, Samsung's finally given the Galaxy Z Fold the photography abilities that it always needed to compete with top flagships.
Camera comparisons: Galaxy Z Fold 4 vs. iPhone 13 Pro Max
We've got the shots to prove it too. Just take a look at the comparisons with the iPhone 13 Pro Max, such as this photo of a garden shed. The Z Fold's image looks sharper than the iPhone's, and has a more realistic coloring on top of that.
And there's this fruit tart, which looks a little... off in the Galaxy Z Fold 4's photo, especially with how warm the image is. Because the iPhone 13 Pro Max captured the proper colors and lighting, it produced the better shot. Still, the tart looks very appetizing in the Fold 4's rendition.
Surprisingly in this shot of some flowers, the Galaxy Z Fold 4's attempt was dimmer than the iPhone 13 Pro Max's. The latter has a brighter and more vibrant image. At least the focus is nice and sharp in both pictures.
I also compared the telephoto lens capabilities of each phone at their respective max zoom levels — 30x in the Galaxy Z Fold 4's case and 15x for the iPhone 13 Pro Max. The Fold 4's image loses a ton of detail in the fringes around the building, but the GWR sign is still legible. The iPhone has some better detail, but 15x is a far cry from 30x.
Look at this night mode comparison. The Galaxy Z Fold 4 produced a brighter image overall, even if the iPhone 13 Pro Max's looks a lot more artistic. The Fold 4 also lost some detail in the reflection on the mug.
As for this ultrawide image looking over a park, Samsung went a little overboard with the saturation. However, it's still an attractive shot.
The iPhone 13 Pro Max's status at the top of our best camera phones guide is safe, even after we tested Samsung's new foldable. But the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is now a contender at the very least, something its predecessors certainly were not.
Going up against the Galaxy S22 Ultra
Interestingly, the Galaxy Z Fold 4 also produces some shots that are superior to the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung's top camera phone. While the Z Fold lacks the S22 Ultra's excellent 10x optical zoom camera, and only has a 50MP main sensor instead of the 108MP shooter on the S22 Ultra, the resulting shots are still within spitting distance of each other in terms of quality.
Take the shot below of Christ Apostolic Church in Kentish Town, north London, which I captured using the main cameras on each phone. The Z Fold 4 managed to avoid the classic Samsung oversaturation that we see in the S22 Ultra's shot. As a result, you can appreciate the detail in the brickwork better.
In this 3x telephoto camera shot looking down Kentish Town Road, we can see it's another close contest. The Z Fold 4's shot is a touch brighter, while the S22 Ultra offers richer colors, but I'd be happy with adding either image to my photo collection.
I don't expect the Galaxy Z Fold line to become Samsung's main photography flagship phone going forward. That's the Galaxy S series' job for the time being. But I think it's only fair for users spending $1,799 to get something that can at least compete with the best camera phones while performing all its folding tricks.
And the good news is the Galaxy Z Fold 4 has finally met that expectation. If you're as bothered about photos as you are about productivity and screen size, there's never been a better time to upgrade to a foldable.