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Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is the 200MP Camera Just a Publicity Stunt?

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is the 200MP Camera Just a Publicity Stunt?

by Aiman MaulanaMarch 3, 2023
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With the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra now out, many people have seen how capable the camera is but is the 200MP sensor just a publicity stunt? Let’s break it down, shall we?

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: 200MP ISOCELL HP2 Sensor

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Review -

To be able to understand the 200MP camera in the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, we have to understand more about its technical details. For starters, it’s the ISOCELL HP2 image sensor with a size of 1/1.3-inch, which pretty much puts it at the same size as last year’s Ultra. While it doesn’t look much different, it does bring a notable number of upgrades.

For starters, we get the new Dual Vertical Transfer Gate, which adds a secondary voltage transfer gate in the pixel and allows it to store more electrons to be moved to the logic layer. In simpler terms, it will help reduce overexposure while also giving picture more vibrant colours in bright shooting conditions. Then we have Super QPD, a step up from the 2×2 phase detection autofocus as it uses all 200-million pixels, grouped up by four adjacent pixels, for a faster and more accurate focus, even in low-light conditions.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is the 200MP Camera Just a Publicity Stunt?

Back to the 200MP figure on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, this wouldn’t mean much for a lot of consumers as most pictures that are taken will result in 12MP pictures. Even 8K resolution, which is being promoted heavily for video recording, only takes up about 33MP for a picture. Why is that, you might ask?

Pixel Binning

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is the 200MP Camera Just a Publicity Stunt?

Pixel binning isn’t new in the world of smartphone photography. It essentially combines data from multiple pixels and treating it as a larger superpixel. This is the technique that allows smartphones to capture those so-called “pro-grade” or “DSLR-like” photos without having a superbly large sensor on it. A large sensor such as the ones found in DSLRs and mirrorless cameras allow it to take in more light which will yield better photos, but having it on a smartphone would make the device too bulky.

With the ISOCELL HP2, Samsung is bringing their own pixel binning technology to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Tetra2pixel, which is capable of simulating different pixel sizes based on lighting conditions. For instance, it can simulate either a 1.2μm 50MP or 2.4μm 12.5MP image sensor in low-light conditions, resulting in a brighter, better picture with less noise. The aforementioned 1.2μm 50MP simulation is also used in 8K video recordings so there’s less cropping, allowing you to capture more of what’s in front of the camera.

This makes the camera on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra much more versatile to use as it can accommodate a wider range of shooting conditions. At this point, some of you might be thinking if this means it can’t actually take 200MP photos, and no, it actually can take photos in higher resolutions as it has a dedicated 50MP and 200MP modes.

50MP and 200MP Shooting Modes

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is the 200MP Camera Just a Publicity Stunt?

12MP VS 50MP VS 200MP: It gets slightly darker from left to right

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is the 200MP Camera Just a Publicity Stunt?

12MP VS 50MP VS 200MP: Same picture as above, can see clearer details for the higher pixel shots when magnified. 12MP one looks like paint.

If you’re not familiar with camera technology, you might be wondering why you should limit yourself to 12MP when you can take photos in either 50MP or even 200MP on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. After all, more pixels mean better photos, right? Adding more pixels will certainly bump the picture’s resolution up but it doesn’t do anything about the general quality.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is the 200MP Camera Just a Publicity Stunt?

12MP VS 50MP VS 200MP: Higher resolution shots have more noise in dark areas

If anything, it just make the file size bigger so your storage will be filled up much faster. Smaller pixels take in lesser ambient light, which can result in grainy photos, which is why pixel binning works great as the combination of pixels essentially make them bigger, thus allowing for more light. This also means that both the 50MP and 200MP modes will be noticeably weaker when it comes to low light shots, and it will also be using a slower shutter speed to take in more light.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra: Is the 200MP Camera Just a Publicity Stunt?

12MP VS 50MP VS 200MP: Moving objects

The latter point is important to take note of as it means that it’s not ideal to capture moving subjects so the more still they are, the better the pictures will turn out. In fact, it’s ideal to use this mode either with a tripod or really steady hands. Does this mean that the 50MP and 200MP modes are useless? Of course not, it’s just not versatile like the standard shooting mode. Only use it in brightly lit conditions, like during a bright sunny day, with little to no movements like landscape shots.

However, if your purpose for taking photos is either for sharing on social media or sending it to friends / family members, then it would be useless as both social media and messaging apps would heavily compress the photos to the point where finer details within pictures would be impossible to see.

“JUST THE TIP” FROM THE EDITOR: If you want to share pictures without compression, you can use Flickr for easy public sharing, Samsung Quick Share if the person is physically near you, send to people on Telegram as attachments, or just email it to them.

So, Is the 200MP Camera on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Just A Publicity Stunt?

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Review -

Now that you’ve heard the explanation and saw some sample photos we took, let’s go back to the original question. Is the 200MP camera on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra just a publicity stunt? The short answer is no. The long answer here is that while we’re certain there was an emphasis on the 200MP figure to attract the crowd as if it’s a huge step forward for smartphone cameras, it is capable of taking 200MP photos, and it can do so well but only under select conditions and purposes.

If you want to look forward to a substantial evolution for smartphone cameras by the Korean giant, then look forward to when they finally implement a 1-inch sensor to their devices. It’s a big enough step that would put the nail in the coffin for standalone compact cameras. Next up, we’re going to be talking about the two telephoto cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra so stay tuned to for that.

Check out our Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review by clicking right here.

About The Author
Aiman Maulana
Jack of all trades, master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one. YouTuber, video editor, tech head, and a wizard of gaming. What's up? :)