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Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra — these photos show how far Samsung is behind Google

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Google Pixel 6 Pro cameras
(Image credit: Future)

I want to be super clear about this. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is a great phone. And as you’ll see in our Galaxy S22 Ultra review, we call it the best Android phone for a reason. You get a superb display, fast charging, great performance and improved cameras in a stunning design. But these improved cameras still can’t beat the Pixel 6 Pro.

Recently I took Samsung’s new phone out for a couple of photo sessions with the latest Pixel for my Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Pixel 6 Pro face-off, and in general the S22 Ultra fared pretty well. In fact, Samsung’s phone delivered a better Night mode photo outdoors and its food photo looked more delicious.

But Samsung still falls behind in one big areas: portraits. Yes, the bokeh effect is convincing, thank to a new AI Stereo Depth Map. But the S22 Ultra suffers from the same issue I’ve seen on the best Samsung phones for the past few years. The cameras tend to struggle in bright sunlight, often blowing out the subject’s face.

That’s exactly what happened to me as you’ll see in this portrait taken with the Galaxy S22 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro side by side. The Pixel 6 Pro delivers a more natural, warm-looking complexion — and it's almost too warm. But the S22 Ultra's shot looks overexposed on the left side of my face. 

As a result, the S22 Ultra's image doesn't capture as much detail in my face and neck. I'd say that the Pixel 6 Pro's computational photography is simply smarter and does a better job compensating for the sunlight.

While I think this one photo is convincing enough, I wanted to show you a couple of other examples where the S22 Ultra seems allergic to the sun.

Take this photo of a fountain in Bryant Park. While I do like the contrast in the S22 Ultra's photo, the left side of the fountain where the sunlight is strongest looks blown out once again. The Pixel 6 Pro picks up those intricate details, and they're impossible to add back in with editing on the S22 Ultra shot.

You can make a case that the Pixel 6 Pro's photo looks too evened out and not sunny enough, but even the building behind the fountain in the S22 Ultra's pic gets overwhelmed by sunlight.

In this last photo taken of Times Square on a sunny day, you can see the Pixel 6 Pro's superior HDR performance at work. The SUV in the foreground and the people in front of it are much more visible, and Google's camera does a better job rendering the surrounding buildings and billboards.

If you look in the distance on the Galaxy S22 Ultra photo, you'll see that the billboard on the left side is overly bright and the buildings against the blue sky run too hot. The Pixel 6 Pro just delivered a better exposed image overall.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra does have some other photo advantages, such as its Super Clear Lens for less lens flare when shooting nighttime videos, and it's 10x optical zoom and 100x Space Zoom beat the 20x digital zoom on the Pixel 6 Pro. But when it comes to overall image quality, I give the nod to the Pixel 6 Pro. 

Mark Spoonauer is the global editor in chief of Tom's Guide and has covered technology for over 20 years. In addition to overseeing the direction of Tom's Guide, Mark specializes in covering all things mobile, having reviewed dozens of smartphones and other gadgets. He has spoken at key industry events and appears regularly on TV to discuss the latest trends, including Cheddar, Fox Business and other outlets. Mark was previously editor in chief of Laptop Mag, and his work has appeared in Wired, Popular Science and Inc. Follow him on Twitter at @mspoonauer.