Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Long-Term Review: Part 2 – Camera Test
After a short hiatus from the Samsung squad – dipping my toes into the world of Oppo and Motorola for a few short weeks – it was time to get back on board with an old friend. I’ve been a Samsung user since I made the switch in 2018 and purchased a Galaxy S9. Since then I’ve owned an S10+, S21+, Z Fold 3, and now the S23 Ultra that I have for a long-term review. Let’s just say I know my way around a Samsung.
I had the chance to spend a month with the S23 Ultra after it was released in February. And while I’ve had a few phones on rotation since then, none could stack up to the S23 Ultra. It’s hard to live without the cameras, but looking beyond that it’s the extended battery life, WQHD+ display, and S Pen that gave this phone its rightful position in my pocket for the foreseeable future. They’ve even managed to fix the Instagram Reels uploading issues that made my job rather difficult! Content is king after all.
I’m switching to the Samsung S23 Ultra, and in this long-term review I’ll be testing the cameras again (this time in more detail with supporting video) while also touching on the battery life, S Pen, display, accessories, design, price, and even a little gaming. If you have any questions about the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra I’d be happy to answer them so feel free to get in touch.
RELATED: Samsung Galaxy S23 Australia: Release Date, Price, Features Revealed.
Samsung S23 Ultra Tech Specs at a Glance
|Galaxy S23 Ultra|
|Price||from $1,949 AUD|
|Display||6.8-inch QHD AMOLED|
|Refresh rate||1 – 120Hz adaptive|
|Rear cameras||200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x telephoto, 10MP 10x telephoto|
|Front camera||12MP selfie|
|Chipset||Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy|
|Storage||256GB, 512GB, 1TB|
|Charging||45W wired/10W wireless|
|Size||163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9mm (6.4 x 3.0 x 0.35 inches)|
|Weight||233g (8.2 ounces)|
|Colours||Phantom Black, Cotton Flower, Botanic Green and Mystic Lilac|
As you could probably tell from the tech specs of the Samsung S23 Ultra listed above, it’s a powerhouse of a smartphone. Without taking it to the absolute limits with a bench test, it’s safe to say that this is all the phone you could ask for on a daily basis. If you’re interested in the gaming credentials, I’ll be testing this in part 3 of my long-term review.
It’s worth noting that Samsung has deployed its very own version of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor, and it helps substantially with performance for power users. Compared to the S22 Ultra I tested last year, you’ll really notice the difference when it comes to battery life and video processing. More on that below.
How Much Does the Samsung Galaxy S23 Cost?
Pricing for the Samsung Galaxy range in Australia is as follows.
- Samsung S23 Ultra (12GB/1TB) – $2,649 AUD
- Samsung S23 Ultra (12GB/512GB) – $2,249 AUD
- Samsung S23 Ultra (8GB/256GB) – $1,949 AUD
- Samsung S23+ (8GB/512GB) – $1,849 AUD
- Samsung S23+ (8GB/256GB) – $1,649 AUD
- Samsung S23 (8GB/256GB) – $1,449 AUD
- Samsung S23 (8GB/128GB) – $1,349 AUD
For my long-term review, I’ll be testing the S23 Ultra with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. It’s the smallest storage size and thus it’s the cheapest Ultra model you can get your hands on. Compare the price to the Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max, and that phone starts from $1,899.00 AUD in a smaller 128GB storage size. The equivalent 256GB iPhone will cost you $2,099.00 AUD.
Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra
As is the case with most smartphones these days, you don’t get a lot of stuff in the box. Gone are the days of chargers and the S23 Ultra ships with a sim card tool, USB-C to USB-C cable for merging data off your older device, and some instructions.
Considering I’ll be holding onto this phone for the long term, I also went ahead and got one of the brand’s new silicone cases. It’s slim and looks great, but more importantly, it stops the phone from sliding out of your pocket. I’ve been a “no-case” warrior for a long time, but this isn’t something you’d want happening with your $2000 smartphone.
How Does the Samsung S23 Look and Feel?
This is actually my third time handling the new S23 Ultra. I first saw it at the launch event in Sydney, then spent time with it to test out the cameras, and now I have one in my pocket for an extended period of time.
First and foremost, I love the design of the phone. The squared-off edges and flatter screen profile are worlds apart from the Galaxy phones of old and I think it aids with the premium look. I prefer the layout of the camera module over that of the iPhone 14 Pro Max, and when you combine it with the silicone case it completely flattens out the back of the phone which prevents it from rocking on flat surfaces.
The case also deserves a special mention, it’s really well-made. You’d expect it to be flimsy and ‘cheap feeling’ but it’s really quite sturdy and premium in the hand. If you’re thinking about buying an S23 then this is a must-have at $39 AUD and I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Overall, the Samsung S23 Ultra is a very large phone. It measures 163.4 x 78.1 x 8.9mm (6.4 x 3.0 x 0.35 inches) and is larger than the iPhone 14 Pro Max in every metric 160.8 x 77.5 x 7.9mm (6.33 x 3.05 x 0.31 inches). I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s “too big” but it barely fits in a standard jean pocket and the silicone case only adds to that. If you have smaller pockets, this phone will be living in your back pocket.
On the other hand, if the phone was any smaller it wouldn’t fit the S Pen that’s been neatly tucked inside the device itself. You also need a bigger screen to make S Pen functions truly useful.
How Good Are the Cameras on the Samsung S23 Ultra?
Looking at the cameras and the main one to call out is the telephoto lens with 10x optical zoom capabilities. This is the one I’ve focused on in my video compilations below, but before we get into that, let’s check out the stats side-by-side with its main competitor, the iPhone 14 Pro Max.
|Samsung S23 Ultra||iPhone 14 Pro Max|
|Main camera||200MP, f/1.7||48MP, f/1.78|
|Ultrawide camera||12MP, f/2.2||12MP, f/1.78|
|Macro cameras||3x 10MP, f/2.4
10x 10MP, f/4.9
|2x 12MP, f/2.8
3x 12MP, f/2.8
|Selfie camera||12MP, f/2.2||12MP, f/1.9|
You can see from the stats above just how close they’re on paper. Where the Samsung S23 Ultra outdoes the iPhone 14 Pro Max in sheer megapixels for the main camera, the iPhone has the upper hand in the megapixel department for the macro lenses at 2x and 3x zoom.
However, that’s hardly the full story because the Samsung S23 Ultra has a trick up its sleeve in the form of a telephoto lens that offers 10x f/4.9 optical zoom where the iPhone can only muster 3x. To explain the advantage in simple terms, using the zoom function on the iPhone simply crops in a shot taken from the 3x lens. In the case of the Samsung, it’s capable of up to 10x without cropping which equals quality.
Of course, it’s worth mentioning here that the S23 Ultra can “zoom in” all the way up to 100x, however, use cases for this are fairly limited outside of the Astrophotography mode that takes great photos of the moon. Now, let’s check out the video features.
Video is a Standout Feature of the Samsung S23 Ultra
In terms of video capability, the Samsung S23 Ultra is capable of filming up to 8K footage from its main sensor at 30fps, gone is the sub-par 24fps. From there, all five of its cameras have the ability to film 4K footage at 60fps with stabilisation available across the board. If you’re shooting for Instagram Reels or TikTok, you’ll want to shoot in UHD30 or 4K30 to keep the frame rates the same as the social platforms for maximum quality.
As mentioned, the 10x Optical Zoom capability is outstanding, but I’ll let the video above do the talking. I shot this video in portrait 4K30 before cropping it down for YouTube.
Other features to highlight include Super Steady when you need a little more stabilisation, tracking auto-focus, slow motion, portrait video, director’s view, and pro video if you want to take things into your own hands.
How Does That Translate to Social Media?
In the past, Samsung devices have struggled with uploading videos to social media apps. Well, I’m glad to say that they’ve fixed it and you can check out the video above and link below to prove it! I shot these in 4K30 before compressing them down to 1080p for sharing across the apps.
Check out the Instagram Reel Check out the TikTok
Samsung S23 Ultra Photo Samples
Sample photos were taken on our Samsung S23 Ultra, most (but not all) were taken at 200MP.
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