Part of the testing process for Samsung Galaxy S22 reviewers involves comparing the phone to other devices in its price range, and seeing if it beats or falls short of anything else out there. Since the Galaxy S22 starts at $799, that means the iPhone 13 and Google Pixel 6 are included in those comparisons. The iPhone 13 costs the same as the S22, and while the Pixel 6 beats both phones, with a starting price of $599, its capabilities are in the same ballpark.
My review of the S22 and Galaxy S22 vs. Pixel 6 showdown gives more detail on how the different phones compare — Samsung wins some and loses some, which isn’t surprising given how closely this trio of phones fit together. But there is one area where the Galaxy S22 outperforms both of its potential competitors, and you see it the moment you flip the phones and look at the rear camera arrays.
The Galaxy S22 has a dedicated telephoto lens. The iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 don’t.
We only single out the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 because they rank among the best camera phones. The truth is, it’s hard to find a phone with a telephoto lens that costs less than $800. Last year’s OnePlus 9 didn’t have one, for example, and while the upcoming OnePlus 10 Pro features a telephoto camera, it will likely cost more than the Galaxy S22 when it debuted in the US
To make sure your phone has a telephoto lens between the rear cameras, you have to pay for the privilege. The iPhone 13 Pro has one, but that one costs $999. At $899, the Pixel 6 Pro is less expensive, although that’s still a bigger price tag Samsung is asking for the S22.
So the Galaxy S22 has a huge hardware advantage over other phones that you are likely to consider when considering a smartphone purchase. Samsung made sure to take advantage of this feature to all its value.
Samsung Galaxy S22 telephoto lens: what’s different
Previous Galaxy S models have included a telephoto lens. But with the S22, Samsung has made a major improvement that improves upon the already impressive zoom capabilities of its flagship phone.
The Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus both support 3x optical zoom. This is an improvement over their predecessors, as the Galaxy S21 and S21 Plus can only manage a 3x hybrid zoom. This means clearer and more detailed results when zooming in on a topic.
It also reduces the S22’s reliance on digital zoom, which uses zoom technology to enlarge the area of the image you’re taking. The result can often be less good than a shot taken with optical zoom because you reduce the number of pixels in the shot, which can add background noise.
Apple and Samsung make up for this with their camera phones by resorting to computational photography to clean up their digital zoom. The results can actually be quite impressive, as anyone who has looked at a nearly clear zoom that’s been enhanced by the Pixel’s Super Res Zoom capabilities.
Whiz battle: Galaxy S22 vs Pixel 6 vs iPhone 13
You can see the results as we stack the zoom shots taken by Galaxy S22 and other feature phones. Let’s start with the Pixel 6 to see if this Super Res Zoom feature can match the optical zoom.
the answer? It kind of works as long as you don’t zoom in twice as much. I hit auto zoom in the camera app on both phones – that’s 2x Zoom for the Pixel 6 and 3x Zoom for the Galaxy S22 – and the results are fairly similar. The Pixel 6 captures a great view of the Auckland skyline without the visible blur you might sometimes see with a digital zoom. I think the colors aren’t dim in the S22 shot, which makes it more realistic, but either the primary zoom produces a solid image.
The Pixel 6’s maximum zoom takes you to a 7x zoom, which is where things start to get murky for the Pixel 6. You can’t read the lettering on the Tribune building, and the sharp lines that outline the buildings in the previous shot are visibly more cluttered. These details are still sharp in the S22 shot, particularly the name of the Tribune building.
You don’t have to stop at 7x on the Galaxy S22 if you don’t want to – Samsung’s Super Resolution Zoom feature supported by both the Galaxy S22 and Galaxy S22 Plus supports 30x zoom. The resulting shot brings you very close to what you’re photographing – I’m standing on the opposite shore of a canal running through downtown Auckland – but the amount of noise increases in the final image. It also has to frame the shot when you zoom in on that shot. Connecting your Galaxy S22 to a tripod will help with some of these issues, but don’t expect crystal-clear clarity from Super Resolution Zoom.
What about the iPhone? Testing the iPhone 13 against the Galaxy S22 on the same site, we see a very similar result for the Pixel 6 / Galaxy S22 comparison. The iPhone 13’s optical zoom, aided by computational photography, looks decent, although it lacks the detail that a Samsung phone can capture. The image quality of the iPHone 13 deteriorates more quickly when we zoom in – the iPhone 13 maxes out at 5x – while the S22 is better able to maintain a sharp image.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Predictions
The telephoto lens alone is not enough to shift your smartphone preferences to the Galaxy S22. The iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 cameras outperform Samsung’s latest flagship in other ways, including how they handle colors, skin tones, and selfies. We note that low-light photography has been improved on the S22, but we still think Apple and Google are making phones with a better camera.
However, when it comes to zoom shots, the Galaxy S22 has a clear advantage over these other phones. And while your buying decision will take a lot of other factors into consideration, the S22’s zoom prowess is another sign of Samsung’s favour.