We took over 200 photos with the Galaxy S24 Ultra vs OnePlus 12 — here's the winner

OnePlus 12 and Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra cameras
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

This part of the year is often considered downtime in the world of phones, but the new year kicked off with two amazing flagship devices. The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra started things off by showing us that Galaxy AI can help to save on time with its useful features, while the OnePlus 12 followed soon after that by setting benchmarks for flagship phone battery life. But like many consumers out there looking to buy a phone, we’re most interested in how their cameras compare.

That’s why we’ve been snapping up photos with the two ever since we got them, so much so that we’ve taken over 200 photos with the Galaxy S24 Ultra and OnePlus 12. These are two top-notch best camera phone contenders, benefiting from large main cameras paired with optically enhanced telephoto ones. In our OnePlus 12 vs. Galaxy S24 Ultra face-off, Samsung’s prized flagship ended up winning the checkered flag.

However, we’ll be focusing strictly on their cameras in this head-to-head comparison by analyzing the over 200 photos we captured between the two. There’s certainly a lot of appeal with the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s set of cameras, which consist of a 200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x telephoto, 50MP 5x telephoto, and 12MP selfie cameras. In contrast, the OnePlus 12 is accompanied by 50MP main, 48MP ultrawide, 64MP 3x telephoto, and 32MP selfie cameras. 

We’ll focus our detailed descriptions around one set of snapshots for the following categories below, but you can see all the other relevant ones in the corresponding galleries. Here’s how they fared against each other.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. OnePlus 12: color reproduction

This particular shot of these grocery produce items on display may be dominated by reds and greens, but the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s delivers a more robust set of colors — particularly how the red peppers have a more distinctive red tone, whereas the OnePlus 12’s reds exhibit a slightly more orange tone. Meanwhile, the green cucumbers and pickles, along with the blue colored packaging appear nearly identical.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. OnePlus 12: dynamic range

Times Square is a perfect location to test out the dynamic range performance of the OnePlus 12 and Galaxy S24 Ultra. Most of our Tom’s Guide editors preferred the OnePlus 12’s shot, which makes sense because it looks realistic with its stronger looking contrast. However, when it comes to dynamic range in photography, it’s balancing out the entire shot by drawing out the details that would otherwise be lost in the highlights and shadows. The S24 Ultra showcases this by toning down the clouds in the sky, while boosting the shadows in the building that’s being constructed on the right side — resulting in a more uniform exposure throughout the scene.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. OnePlus 12: ultra wide angle

That superior dynamic performance is the driving force that makes the S24 Ultra’s ultra wide angle camera better than the OnePlus 12. Both manage to capture the same range in this shot of the ice rink at Bryant Park, but you can see how the shadows in the far off skyscrapers are brighter with the S24 Ultra — revealing details that are tougher to discern with the OnePlus 12’s shot.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. OnePlus 12: telephoto zoom

On paper, there’s clearly an advantage for the S24 Ultra because it has a longer ranged telephoto camera. We captured the same set of photos at 3x, 6x, 30x, and also 100x zoom.

While there’s little difference in terms of detail up to 6x zoom with these skyscraper shots, the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s superior dynamic range performance simply catches our eyes a lot more. When we punch into 30x and 100x zoom, it’s apparent that both phones apply their own set of image processing techniques to sharper the details, but Samsung does it better. Likewise, there's more detail with the S24 Ultra's zoom shot at night. No surprise here!

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. OnePlus 12: selfies

Another cruising victory for the Galaxy S24 Ultra is its better selfie captures. What’s most apparent is the over-sharpening effect that draws out the details in the fabric of the jacket in the first set of comparison images. The OnePlus 12’s selfie shot look convincing too with its realistic color tones, but the entire image has this softness over it.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. OnePlus 12: portrait mode

In the handful of portrait photos we captured between the OnePlus 12 and Galaxy S24 Ultra, we can see that Samsung does a better job of distinguishing the background elements from the subject. There are a few nuances where the OnePlus 12 doesn’t blur out the appropriate stuff in the background, while the S24 Ultra does a better job of it — while also having a brighter picture.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. OnePlus 12: macro mode

Macro mode is automatically initiated the moment you put the camera super close to an object. We took a bunch of macro photos between the two and unanimously gave it to the Galaxy S24 Ultra, mainly for how more of the subject is in focus and its stronger details. In a more subdued lighting setting indoors, the OnePlus 12’s flat colors are a distraction when compared to the more vibrant tones of the S24 Ultra.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. OnePlus 12: low light