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.

  • Paradroid888
    I really want the Pixels to do well because Samsung needs the competition, but to my eyes, almost all Pixel 6 Pro photos look yellowish and artificial. There's no way I'd choose the P6P over the S22U for the camera.
    Reply
  • NateV83
    Interesting analysis. Strangely enough, the fountain and cityscape images shown here were the two in particular (from the S22 review) that made me choose it over the pixel 6 pro. The HDR processing is absolute overkill on those two shots. I agree on the portrait, and dislike blown highlights in general... But high contrast scenes should be high contrast.
    Reply
  • RubyMouse
    I have neither of these phones but these fake drama comparisons irritate me. In the first photo there is an entire building not included in the s22 photo so framing is not accurate. In the others, anyone who knows enough about photography can adjust exposure very easily whereas the extreme hdr- reminiscent of an iPhone from 2011 - cannot be edited out post pro.
    Reply
  • Clabe1331
    I certainly would not say that. Yes I agree on the light thing but the fountain photo an the city photo you can see far more detail with the s22 ultra. On the fountain look how much better the water coming off the fountain looks, you cannot even see the water droplets on the Google 6. An in the city the buildings with writing don't look as clear as the s22 either. Honestly this forum kind of is a joke. The s22 took better pictures in detail other than the portrait picture.
    Reply
  • Clabe1331
    I'd say your wrong on multiple levels. Yes the Google 6 is better with the lighting wow cool, the s22 picture of both the fountain and the city has far better detailed photos. For instance look at the Google photo you cannot even see the water droplets coming off the fountain, which you can see clearly on the s22. Also in the city the writing on the building is more blury an not as detailed as the s22.
    Reply
  • Roger68
    Paradroid888 said:
    I really want the Pixels to do well because Samsung needs the competition, but to my eyes, almost all Pixel 6 Pro photos look yellowish and artificial. There's no way I'd choose the P6P over the S22U for the camera.
    I call it the iPhone effect. Everything is yellow
    Reply
  • BrodaFett
    I honestly agree with the author. I have the 22 Ultra and so far have big time buyers remorse. I switched from the 21 Ultra to the Fold 3, but I honestly thought the 21 Ultra took better photos than this new galaxy phone. My wife has the iPhone 13 pro max and her photos are generally better than the ones I've taken with the 22 Ultra so far. Hey I can take moonshots and she can't so I guess that's something. Between the camera being less of an upgrade than everyone was led to believe, and Samsung cheating for higher Geekbench scores I have a very strong feeling I will be selling this phone and giving OnePlus a shot at the end of the month. I figure at least that phone charges twice as fast, and can take photos at least in the same ballpark as the pixel and galaxy. If I don't like it then I'll switch to the iPhone 14 when it comes out. One thing for sure if I ever have to deal with Samsung's pathetic customer support again it will be way too soon. I've already switched to Garmin watches and Sony buds and barring some earth shattering update by the end of the month this galaxy 22 Ultra will be next on the sale/trade block.
    Reply
  • Jvanwi
    BrodaFett said:
    I honestly agree with the author. I have the 22 Ultra and so far have big time buyers remorse. I switched from the 21 Ultra to the Fold 3, but I honestly thought the 21 Ultra took better photos than this new galaxy phone. My wife has the iPhone 13 pro max and her photos are generally better than the ones I've taken with the 22 Ultra so far. Hey I can take moonshots and she can't so I guess that's something. Between the camera being less of an upgrade than everyone was led to believe, and Samsung cheating for higher Geekbench scores I have a very strong feeling I will be selling this phone and giving OnePlus a shot at the end of the month. I figure at least that phone charges twice as fast, and can take photos at least in the same ballpark as the pixel and galaxy. If I don't like it then I'll switch to the iPhone 14 when it comes out. One thing for sure if I ever have to deal with Samsung's pathetic customer support again it will be way too soon. I've already switched to Garmin watches and Sony buds and barring some earth shattering update by the end of the month this galaxy 22 Ultra will be next on the sale/trade block.
    'Honestly'? 😂
    Reply