If you’ve come to this Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra review to hear about its photography performance, we’ll make your research job easier. This is the best camera phone of 2022, and it’s just as great for working professionals as it is for passionate amateurs - we spent over a week straight going on photo shoots and trips with the thing, and the novelty of the device never wore off. In short: Samsung is one of the biggest phone makers in the world, and when it puts the word ‘Ultra’ on one of its devices, you know it means business!
Samsung isn’t selling this phone on its camera prowess alone, though, and this is one of the best smartphones in general thanks to its powerful chipset, fantastic-looking screen and plenty of storage space – we found it just as great for gaming as we did streaming TV.
Of course, you’re not getting this for cheap – it’s an expensive phone with a price that matches that of the iPhone 13 Pro Max. But with a better camera experience, more vibrant screen and a stylus, this takes the lead for creatives or any kind of user.
To test out the phone, we used it as our everyday smartphone for several weeks, which included taking it on several photoshoots (using the default camera app), using it for normal tasks (as you would your personal mobile), played games like Call of Duty Mobile and streamed films using Prime Video and Netflix on it too. This gave us a good glimpse into the phone's battery life both when used as creative tool and a standard phone.
We primarily tested the camera by going through each mode in different settings to see how they performed, but we also just brought the phone on trips and worked out which of the modes we naturally gravitated towards.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: price
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra starts at $1,199 or £1,149 for 128GB storage and goes up to $1,599 or £1,499 for 1TB, so it’s an expensive phone.
The closest rival here is the iPhone 13 Pro Max, and depending on how much storage you want, one or the other is the better phone. That mobile starts at $1,099 or £1,049 for 128GB and goes up to $1,599 or £1,549 for 1TB.
So for creatives, who need lots of space, the Samsung is the cheaper buy (except in the US where they're equal), but if you're fine with relying on cloud storage, the iPhone is the more affordable alternative.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: S Pen
The Samsung comes with a stylus, which brings a range of uses for creatives.
You can use the S Pen for sketches, writing notes or annotating documents – it’s also got a button on it, and pressing this while in the camera app takes a photo, making it a useful remote shutter.
It's easy to summon the note-taking apps when the muse hits you – withdrawing the S Pen from the body automatically brings up a menu of the most useful apps. Even drawing on the blank screen lets you take a note.
Because the phone alerts you when the stylus is far from the phone, you’re never at risk of leaving it behind somewhere.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: display
The Galaxy S22 Ultra has a large 6.8-inch screen with a 2K resolution, 1750 nits max brightness and 120Hz refresh rate - if you’re wondering how those specs compare to competitors, we’ll save you some time: the Galaxy is almost always better.
That kind of display is great for creatives who deal with images: images are vibrant and the contrast is crisp, making videos you edit or photos you capture look fantastic. Plus, the large size is a bonus as you’ve got more real estate with which to view, type or scribble with the stylus.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: camera
The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is a photography powerhouse - anything other phones can do, it can do better. Well, apart from perhaps the S21 Ultra which has the same hardware, but software tweaks here give the newer phone the edge.
The main camera has a 108MP sensor and f/1.8 23mm sensor, and it takes colourful and sharp pictures whether you’re photographing a near or far subject. One could argue that 108MP is overkill, but it allows for pixel binning which lets the phone capture great low-light photos.
The ultra-wide camera gets a 12MP sensor, which is paired with an f/2.2 13mm lens that takes images with a 120-degree field of view. Thanks to its wide field of view it’s good for reference shots of locations, but it’s not ideal as a photographic tool, due to the fact images are a little distorted around the edges.
There are two telephoto cameras: the first has a 10MP sensor and a f/2.4 70mm lens for 3x optical zoom. Even this comparatively limited zoom is useful for closing the distance with medium-range subjects. This camera is also used for Portrait shots which are second to none in the smartphone photography game, with natural-looking background blur.
Finally, we come to the super-zoom camera - this has a 10MP sensor and f/4.9 230mm sensor for a whopping 10x optical zoom. This is used for closing the distance on really distant subjects, like individual buildings in a wider vista. We also found it wonderful for nature photography - we could take snaps with artistic-looking bokeh of creatures that’d scarper if we got too close.
You can zoom digitally up to 100x, but this doesn’t really get you usable pictures - they’re incredibly grainy, and it's also hard to frame them up, as even the slightest shake of a hand can have you photographing something completely different.
The front-facing camera hits 40MP with an f/2.2 26mm wide lens - thanks to the S Pen’s remote shutter function, this is pretty useful for artistic selfies. Snaps look bold and bright, with the Portrait mode just as impressive here as on the rear cameras - it balances the highlights and shadows well, and adds realistic-looking bokeh.
Video recording goes up to 8K at 24fps or 4K at 60fps, though you’ll find the former does have its drain on battery life and heats the phone up too.
You may be familiar with smartphones’ Pro photography modes, but there’s also one for videography too - this lets you tweak all the usual Pro settings like focus and white balance, and some extras like which exact lens you’re shooting on, and what range the microphone is recording in. The phone could be really useful for mobile filmmakers thanks to the extra settings.
This joins a few classic Samsung modes: primarily there’s Single Take, which lets you record a moving video of a subject, and the phone will pick out the best images from each lens. This mode is mainly useful for less-confident photographers, letting AI pick the best shot, but we still found it useful for considering alternative framings for snaps. There’s also Food mode, which lets you pick a limited area of focus (intended for taking artistic snaps of your dinner), though we found the pictures from this looked oversaturated. As with most smartphones, there’s also a Night mode, which changes the shutter speed to take well-lit and balanced photos of low-light settings.
The real strength of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s camera array is versatility, as it’s just as great for wide snaps as it is for super zoomed-in ones, and can record a great video as well as an artistic selfie. It’s great for any kind of creative who deals in the visual arts whether you’re a photographer or videographer, or a location scout, architect or marketer looking to take great reference images.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: performance
In the UK, the Samsung comes with the Exynos 2200 chipset, which is incredibly powerful, though it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 or Bionic A15 that some other devices enjoy.
For games, video or photo editing and rendering, the handset will give you all the processing power you’ll need though. Its ability to connect to 5G networks lets you use super-speedy networks too, as long as you’ve got a compatible contract and live in a covered area.
The phone’s Harman Kardon-tuned speakers are some of the best we’ve heard in a smartphone - but you should still use headphones if you want the crispest possible audio for creative tasks.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra: battery life
From our weeks of testing, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 5,000mAh battery will keep it ticking for a full day, but its big screen and powerful chip stop a second day being possible. For bouts of shooting lots of video or photos, you won’t even get one day, and should buy a power bank.
Charging is done at 45W, which isn’t fast compared to lots of Android rivals, so you won’t be able to quickly power up the phone in a pinch - it’ll take over an hour to get the phone from empty to full.
Should you buy it?
If the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra fits in your budget - and your pocket - we’d recommend buying it. It’s fantastic for photography and also great for watching films, playing games or just scrolling through social media - honestly, there’s little that it can’t do well.
If you don’t want to spend over £1,000 on a phone, then you probably want to avoid this phone - though it doesn’t carry the ‘Pro’ suffix, it really is a mobile designed for professionals who need a creativity powerhouse.
But if your smartphone is important for photography, videography, video editing or anything else like that, this is the phone to buy. In our testing period, we were always looking forward to the next photoshoot or image edit session, to see just what else we could do with it.