Last year, we pitted the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra against the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max in what was probably the camera showdown of 2021. It’s been over a month since Samsung’s Galaxy S22 Ultra replaced the S21 Ultra as one of my two daily drivers, along with the iPhone 13 Pro Max. This has given us enough time to put both these shooters through diverse shooting scenarios. Does the newer S22 Ultra make significant improvements over its predecessor? More importantly, can it hold its own against the 13 Pro Max? Let’s begin this epic showdown with the spec sheet:

Samsung Galaxy S22 UltraApple iPhone 13 Pro Max
Primary 108MP / f/1.8 aperture.1/1.33” sensor12MP / f/1.5 aperture1/1.66” sensor  
Ultra-wide 12MP / f/2.22 aperture1/2.55” sensor 12MP / f/1.8 aperture 1/3.4” sensor
Telephoto 10MP / f/2.4 aperture 1/3.52” sensor / 3x zoom12MP / f/2.8 aperture 1/3.4” sensor / 3x zoom 
Periscope 10 MP / f/4.9 aperture 1/3.52” sensor / 10x zoom 
Selfie Cam40MP/ f/2.2 aperture / 1/2.82” sensor 12MP/ f/2.2 aperture / 1/3.6” sensor

Everyday scenarios

Both these devices are evenly matched here. Most flagship phones excel in optimal lighting conditions, so this doesn’t come as no surprise. Whether its colour, exposure, white balance or capturing finer details, both shooters don’t disappoint. We dig the 2021 iPhones’ new shooting modes (from rich contrast to vibrant) that offer extra flexibility. The S22 Ultra has closed the gap in the ultra-wide angle images department. The iPhone held an edge in portrait images when we compared the S21 Ultra with the 13 Pro Max. That’s, however, changed with the S22 Ultra taking Samsung’s portrait game up a notch. 

Lowlight scenarios

Once Samsung’s strong suit and an area where Apple has made significant progress since the 12 Pro Max in 2020. We like the convenience of the iPhone that doesn’t require the extra step of toggling to ‘Night mode’; it automatically switches to night mode and takes a few extra seconds to stitch the perfect lowlight shot together. This was an area where the S21 Ultra and 13 Pro Max were evenly matched but the S22 Ultra inches slightly ahead. Samsung calls it ‘Nightography’ and it’s one of the key improvements in the newest Ultra thanks to computational photography.  

Videos

We’ve leaned more towards the iPhone when it comes to videos. The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra comes with multiple video modes and settings. Samsung has added a cool feature called Auto Framing, where your video stays cantered and in focus, even you move around or people go in and out of frame. There’s also Director’s View that allows you to shoot with the selfie and rear camera at the same time (a feature we’re seeing on quite a few Android devices). We’re also fans of Samsung’s super slow-mo mode. But we’re still going to give this round to the iPhone 13 Pro Max. I find myself using Cinematic Mode (the ability of the device to automatically transition focus while filming in real time) a lot. You can also edit the depth-of-field effect in video even after recording. Both phones shoot remarkably stable videos and iron out the occasional mild shakes. 

Selfie-shooter

The result of this almost always boil down to personal preferences, especially when you have two solid selfie shooters. The S22 Ultra scores with ultra-wide angle portraits and Samsung’s background blur option that looks quite natural. The iPhone 13 Pro Max shoot terrific selfies with warm tones and also offer a host of filters. 

Zoom photography

This is the one reason we’d recommend the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra over the iPhone 13 Pro Max. I enjoy shooting birds and wildlife and the 10x optical zoom opens up a host of options. Things are quite even till you hit the 3X zoom but Samsung hits it out of the park once you cross the 5x threshold where it’s dedicated periscope lens takes over. I also found that the S22 Ultra manages better images compared to the S21 Ultra once you zoom further. In our tests, image clarity was surprisingly good even at 30x for a mobile shooter. 

Verdict

If you expected to see ‘Too close to call’ at the end of this showdown, you got that right. It’s why I almost always travel with both these phones in either pocket. Now there’s also the OnePlus 10 Pro that joins this duo with some clever tricks including an ultra-wide lens with a wider field of view and our favourite fish-eye lens (stay tuned for our next camera showdown with the 10 Pro). The S22 Ultra scores with its zoom photography and versatile appeal, it also offers a price advantage. While the hardware hasn’t changed much over the S21 Ultra, Samsung’s computational photography sees the new Ultra do even better in lowlight. The iPhone 13 Pro Max has the edge on the video front. This choice might boil down to which OS you’re more comfortable with. The S22 Ultra is the Android shooter to beat while the iPhone 13 Pro Max (or Pro) is the best camera on any iPhone.