Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review | The best premium camera phone

by W. Andrew Powell
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is Samsung’s best camera phone to date, and it delivers impressive upgrades, quality, and new features that make it irresistible.

The phone is packed with features, all the way from the 200 megapixel sensor, to the S Pen, Galaxy Super HDR selfie camera, UI updates, and the extended battery life.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra is realistically one of the more expensive Android phones, but for photographers, videographers, and savvy social media professionals, it’s also impossible to beat.

Prices start at $1,649.99 in Canada for the 256 GB model, $1,889.99 for the 512 GB model, and $2,209.99 for the 1 TB model from Samsung. Samsung also offers special colour options to pick up the phone in Lime, Graphite, Red, and Sky Blue, beyond the standard colours, Green, Phantom Black, Lavender, and Cream.

Galaxy S23 Ultra camera, photos, and video

Samsung once again delivers the best cameras with an impressive array of options from the 200 MP main lens, the 12 MP ultrawide, 10 MP 3x telephoto lens, and the 10 MP 10x telephoto.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra portrait photo
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra portrait photo

The trio of core cameras work very well together for a wide range of uses and no other phone competes with the quality of Samsung’s 10x zoom. The phone also wins in low lighting conditions for quality, depth, and contrast.

Speaking of low light, the Galaxy S23 also adds improved nightography, including for video, and reduces noise thanks to AI. Colours are also vivid, even in dark conditions, and I liked the details the phone captures compared to other phones.

Selfies, autofocus, and HDR quality with the S23 Ultra were impressive overall, however I will say that Samsung does tend to over-saturate photos. I was pretty happy with portraits shot with the phone, but in normal lighting, landscapes can be very intense.

One way around that is using Samsung’s Expert RAW app, which I enjoy when I’m trying to get the best shots. Exporting a RAW image from the camera and editing in Adobe’s Lightroom app always delivers the best results.

For astrophotography, I didn’t get the opportunity to shoot anything worth showing off because of conditions when I had the phone to review, but using the Astrophoto features you can get some truly awesome results.

Overall I’m very impressed with the photos and video that I captured, and while the 100x zoom is a fun feature sometimes, what really sets the phone apart is the quality and sharpness of the 10x zoom, portraits, 8K video (now offering 30 fps over the previous 24), and all of the tools people will use more frequently.

For content creators like myself, the whole package here makes it very enticing over other phones.

Processor and performance

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra with S Pen

The Galaxy S23 Ultra runs on Samsung’s One UI 5.1, and with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, plus 8 GB of RAM, the phone is lightning fast with performance that’s one of the very best on the market. For even more power, the 512 GB model comes with 12 GB of RAM.

Video editing is one of the big, CPU-intensive things that I do frequently, and while that takes a lot out of most phones, the Galaxy S23 Ultra handled it well, it didn’t overheat, and it didn’t take a long time.

Photo editing, gaming, and jumping between multiple tasks was smooth and effortless, and it’s especially impressive when shooting a RAW image, and popping into Lightroom to edit the photo. Some of my other favourite phones take a little bit longer handling tasks like this.

The best compliment I can give the phone is that it was so fast I didn’t have to think about performance. As apps get more demanding, a lot of phones slow down, but the S23 Ultra is a powerhouse.

Display, battery and design

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Samsung delivers the best display on the market today with the S23 Ultra. The phone offers a 6.8″ screen that’s vibrant and sharp, with a refresh rate up to 120 Hz thanks to the QHD+ Dynamic AMOLED 2X display.

The phone also supports real-time ray tracing, and that’s a big deal for gamers and more realistic graphics that are coming to phones.

Samsung is using the Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 on the phone, for improved durability, and it features an Armor Aluminum frame, with an IP68 rating for dust and water. It’s an excellent overall design, with the same layout from last year’s Galaxy S22 Ultra.

The S23 Ultra also has a 5000mAh battery, and it’s very dependable for a full day of power. Next to all of the other phones that I’ve reviewed recently, the S23 Ultra has great battery life, and the only complaint I have is that I wish it charged faster. It takes just under an hour to get a full charge from 0% with a 45w fast charger.

Final Thoughts

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra checks off my main requirements for a great camera phone, and content creators will appreciate the extra RAM and storage space with the 512 GB model. There’s also no beating the phone’s crisp 10x zoom photos, Samsung’s impressive 8K video quality, and the entire suite of features, including RAW photo mode.

The performance is excellent, the display looks incredible, and the battery life makes a big difference in your day when you don’t have to think about charging.

If you don’t mind spending a little more, and you want the performance and quality, this is the best phone you can find right now, especially for Android, but even against Apple.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra sample photos

All photos by W. Andrew Powell/The GATE.

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