I took over 200 photos with the Galaxy S24 Ultra vs Galaxy S23 Ultra — here's the winner

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and Galaxy S23 Ultra in hand showing cameras
(Image credit: Future)

Soon after the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s release in January, I put it through a quick zoom test to see whether or not its 50MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom was a downgrade against the S23 Ultra’s 10MP telephoto shooter with 10x optical zoom. This was one of the biggest controversies when the S24 Ultra was released, mainly because on paper it seemed like a downgrade.

In my Galaxy S24 Ultra review, I ultimately came to the conclusion that the S24 Ultra’s long range camera wasn’t as good as the S23 Ultra’s. But things have changed in the months since then, like how Samsung took the Galaxy AI features first introduced with the Galaxy S24 series and brought it to older devices with its One UI 6.1 update.

I got to try out all those new Galaxy AI features on my S23 Ultra, so much so that I said it essentially felt like a totally new phone — so I wondered if all the updates released after February (including One UI 6.1) would do anything to improve its camera performance even more. Phone makers are constantly releasing updates that tweak and optimize the camera performance in their phones, so perhaps the results could turn out differently.

Just as a refresher in case you have forgotten, the Galaxy S24 Ultra features a quadruple camera setup that consists of a 200MP main camera, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom, and 50MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S23 Ultra packs a 200MP main camera, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP telephoto with 3x optical zoom, and a 10MP 10x telephoto with 10x optical zoom.

In this Galaxy S24 Ultra versus Galaxy S23 Ultra camera shootout, I’ll categorize the images I captured and inspect their differences on a computer to see which is the winner.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra: main camera

There are minimal differences between their main cameras, and frankly, I think they both do a fantastic job. It’s nearly a deadlock apart from the slightly oversaturated green colors of the trees and surrounding seagrass of the Galaxy S23 Ultra in the comparison shots above, while the S24 Ultra paints a more realistic look of what the scene is actually like. Details are nearly identical, especially when I zoom into the construction vehicles on the left side — with no clear winner between both. This one’s tough, but I’ll give it to the S24 Ultra.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra: color reproduction

Again, it’s going to come down to personal preference because you might prefer the slightly saturated colors that the Galaxy S23 Ultra produces. You can see it most in the red hues in the coffee packaging littered throughout the shots above I took inside of a CVS, whereas they’re truer to life with the S24 Ultra. I will admit, though, the color gamut range is really excellent with both — so they have no problem producing different hues in the same shot. For me, I think the natural colors of the S24 Ultra wins it, but it’s by a very narrow margin.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra: ultra wide camera

Their ultrawide cameras behave slightly differently in how they handle dynamic range. In the foreground with the paved walkway closest to me, it’s obvious that it’s brighter with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. That’s surprising to me considering how a newer phone is expected to have better dynamic range performance. Beyond that, the details and 120-degree field of views of both snapshots look identical.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra: dynamic range

Speaking of dynamic range, I’m most shocked by the apparent difference between the two. I had to look back at the snapshots I took between the two soon after the S24 Ultra’s release. That’s because back then, the S24 Ultra consistently delivered the stronger dynamic range performance.

However, it’s now the S23 Ultra doing the better job. I made sure to keep the focus and exposure centered in the shots above of the tree in my backyard, but the Galaxy S23 Ultra boosts the shadows to draw out more detail than the S24 Ultra. While I will admit that the S24 Ultra looks more true-to-life, my eyes take notice how the shadows get a boost with the S23 Ultra — which is most in the tree’s branches and bark.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra: macro

Before I do a number on the weeds around my yard, I took the macro shots of the dandelion above. Luckily, both phones automatically kick on their respective macro modes — which is indicated by an icon while capturing the photo.

When I close into a tighter view, I like the amount of definition captured of the dandelion, so much so that I can clearly make out the individual fibers sprouting from it. The only difference I’m able to visualize is how they blur out the background, with the S24 Ultra doing a slightly better job at it. In other macro photos, however, the S23 Ultra draws out better detail — like the closeup of the leaf in the gallery below.

Winner: tie

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Galaxy S23 Ultra: zoom

Zoom photos are without a doubt the most interesting comparisons between them. Starting off at 5x zoom, there are differences in how the sign above turned out. On one hand, the S23 Ultra seems to pull off the better dynamic range performance — evident in how the plants almost glow in the shot. However, the Galaxy S24 Ultra pulls in more detail when I zoom into parts of the photos, like the yellow badge in the bottom right corner of the sign. But this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since the S23 Ultra is doing a bit of digital zooming with its 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom to reach 5x zoom. In contrast, the S24 Ultra is leveraging its 50MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom.

Moving onto 10x zoom, this is where it gets interesting because in past photo shootouts, the Galaxy S24 Ultra was the better between the two. Taking the same shot of the sign at 10x zoom, I’m puzzled because this time it’s the Galaxy S24 Ultra producing the better results. Not only is there a warmer color temperature with the S24 Ultra, but it seems to pull in more definition as well. When I look into the blue area in between the seagulls, I can see the grain pattern better with the S24 Ultra.

Whatever updates that came in between when I first pitted the cameras against each other to now, it’s clearly giving the Galaxy S24 Ultra the edge in the zoom department.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra