Is Samsung's S23 Ultra the world's best camera phone?

Finally an iPhone killer?’s tech writer ROB WAUGH reviews the new Samsung S23 Ultra — which has plenty of camera tricks up its sleeve… but is it too gimmicky?

  • Samsung’s high-end handset features a stylus and 200-megapixel camera
  • Top-end handset – which can take high-res images of moon – has a top-end price 
  • What are some of the other craziest features available on Androids these days? 

Being able to pull out a stylus and use it as a remote to take photos is undoubtedly cool — and just one of the new Samsung S23 Ultra’s many party tricks.

In terms of talking points, this handset definitely has you covered, and most of the features revolve around its camera. 

Take the phone’s ‘astrophotography’ mode, for example, which allow users to take high-res 100x zoom image of the moon. 

A demonstration of this feature elicited a ‘Wow’ from Elon Musk, although whether or not the average person would actually use it is another matter. 

Too many Android handsets feel boringly similar these days. The S23 Ultra (the spiritual grandchild of Samsung’s huge, discontinued Galaxy Note phones) definitely does not.

The S23 Ultra has a mind-boggling 200-megapixel camera – which puts the iPhone’s mere 48 megapixel to shame

The stylus fits nearly into the bottom of the handset (Samsung) 

You’ll need to be a fan of plus-sized handsets to enjoy it: the screen’s 6.8 inches, and even ‘big’ phones like Google’s Pixel 7 Pro feel positively dainty next to it – only Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro Max is in the same heavyweight bracket as the S23 Ultra. 

So there’s more to love here, although Samsung hasn’t ripped up the rulebook since last year’s S22 Ultra, looks-wise.

There’s plenty of upgrades under the bonnet, though – notably the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, the fastest Android one out there, and a 200 megapixel rear camera, a component so over-the-top it puts the S23 Ultra in a class of its own.

To put that in context, the iPhone 14 Pro Max (Apple’s top-end device) boasts a mere 48 megapixels.

The build quality is solid and high-quality, with a metal finish and the latest Gorilla Glass Victus 2, which I accidentally tested by dropping the handset face-down on concrete while setting it up (it was fine).

In terms of talking points, this handset definitely has you covered, and most of the features revolve around its camera

The latest Samsung S23 allows users to take high-resolution images of the moon zoomed in a hundred times 

The 120Hz screen is absolutely gorgeous, making videos look unbelievably crisp: for our money, it’s at least the equal of anything out there at present, including the latest iPhones.

The real reason you’d buy this is the high-powered array of cameras on the back.

How to shoot an 100x zoomed photo of the moon 

Ideally you’ll need a tripod for this: to capture an 100x Zoom moon photo, just pinch out on screen in the normal camera app to 100x zoom.

The camera app will do the rest.

For other astrophotography effects, you’ll need Samsung’s Expert RAW app – you can access it via Samsung’s own app store, or download it from within the camera app (go to Modes to access it).

Once you’ve got the app go to Modes > Expert Raw > the star icon top left, and you can set the duration and turn the sky guide on and off.

This is pretty much the ultimate camera phone on the market at present, certainly in terms of the different functions on offer.

Samsung Electronics America describes it as ‘the most advanced camera ever on a Galaxy device’, and it’s streets ahead of the competition on Android.

As well as the main 200 megapixel camera, there’s a 12 megapixel ultrawide and two 10 megapixel telephoto lenses – it’s fantastic for zooming in shots.

Google’s Pixel 7 Pro, with its machine-learning-boosted powers, probably (just) tops it for amateur or bad photographers, as it can salvage pretty mediocre photography.

But if you’re looking to stretch your creative wings, the S23 Ultra is in a class of its own – download Samsung’s Expert RAW camera app and you’re looking at an array of controls that wouldn’t shame an SLR camera.

In standard shooting mode, the 200-megapixel sensor combines 16 pixels into one 12.5 megapixel shot – this makes the end result highly colorful and bright.

But you can shoot in no-holds-barred 200 megapixel mode, so you can crop and zoom to your heart’s content.

Night photography is a great deal better, with AI boosting the shots – overall this is definitely the ultimate Android camera phone, and it offers a lot of modes that even Apple’s mighty iPhone 14 Pro Max can’t match.

Being able to trigger the shutter remotely adds another feather to the S23 Ultra’s cap – basically, if you’re looking to try out new ideas in photography on a phone, it’s very hard to match this.

It can shoot video in 8K resolution (four times sharper than Ultra HD TVs) should also make it appealing to film-makers (or just people who want to ensure their holiday videos look great in 20 years time).

Naturally, there is a ‘but’.

Unlike Google’s top-end Pixel, the price here strays off out where the buses don’t run – into Apple country.

It’s $1199, which is very, very expensive for an Android device (Google’s flagship Pixel 7 Pro is $899 for comparison).

If you’re a keen photographer, or just a die-hard stylus aficionado, this more than justifies the price tag – but there’s no question it’s a hefty one.

The S23 Ultra outperforms just about every Android out there (Supplied) 

You can write messages or doodle on screen with the stylus (Supplied) 

The stylus slots into the bottom (Samsung) 

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