Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is among the best camera phones available in the market right now. In fact, it would be easy to call him the best in the world. But do you really deserve this title?
The Xiaomi 13 Ultra is the kind of phone that would make Samsung shiver if it were sold outside of China. Packed with all the key features of an essential smartphone, plus a powerful quadruple camera array on the back and color-handling assistance from camera maker Leica, the 13 Ultra is perhaps the true world-class photography smartphone.
To see how the Galaxy S23 Ultra matches up with Xiaomi’s beast of specs, I pulled both out to take several sample photos. The difference between the first and second phones is not great, but which phone on which site? You will have to read on to find out.
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Xiaomi 13 Ultra: Camera Specifications
Before we see some pictures, here’s a quick spec sheet for the camera arrays in both phones. We can see that while the Galaxy S23 Ultra wins in main camera resolution, aperture size (smaller is generally better), and overall optical zoom range, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra offers larger sensors in all its rear cameras, superior megapixel count and larger apertures of all cameras except for the main shooter. , as well as a slightly higher maximum zoom range, both outward and inward.
|Row 0 – cell 0||Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra||Xiaomi 13 Ultra|
|main camera||200MP (f/1.7), 1/1.3″ sensor||50.3 MP main (f/1.9 or f/4.0), 1-inch sensor|
|Ultra Wide Camera||12MP (f/2.2), 0.6x, 1/2.55″ sensor||50MP (f/1.8), 0.5x, 1/2.51″ sensor|
|Telephoto camera #1||10MP (f/2.4), 3x, 1/3.52″ sensor||50MP (f/1.8), 3.2x, 1/2.51″ sensor|
|Telephoto camera #2||10MP (f/4.9), 10x, 1/3.52″ sensor||50MP (f/3.0), 5x, 1/2.51″ sensor|
|maximum magnification||100 times||120x|
|selfie camera||12 MP (f/2.2)||32MP (f/2.0)|
Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra vs. Xiaomi 13 Ultra: Photos
I started with some selfies, which I think Samsung managed to do better. Not only did my glasses cut more precisely with their vertical effect (something I’ve commended before), but they brought out more detail in my face; Xiaomi has smoothed my features a lot. I prefer Xiaomi’s picture colors in a way, as they are a bit less artificial.
Now we have a series of zoom photos of the entrance to Paddington Station. The first is the 3x / 3.2x comparison, which turns out to be quite similar other than Xiaomi’s more muted color palette.
Moving to 5x, we see more divergence. Since that’s the zoom Xiaomi has by default, and Samsung isn’t, detail is sharper on the 13 Ultra than on the S23 Ultra, which had to rely on digital zoom to make up the difference.
This effect is reflected in the 10x shot, where Samsung managed to take the lead due to the original 10x zoom lens, with Xiaomi adding a lot of extra noise from having to crop.
Finally, we have the two phones as their maximum zoom levels: 100x for Samsung and 120x for Xiaomi. Xiaomi gets bonus points for being able to zoom in much tighter at this part of the top, but it’s a bit blurrier than Samsung at its maximum zoom.
We’re finally done with the telephoto lenses, so it’s time to snap a super fast shot of a building on the Paddington Canal. Xiaomi’s ultrawide camera fits a little larger thanks to its wider lens, and it still manages to capture the color of a scene quite well, even compared to Samsung’s ultra-sharp shot.
In the main camera shot, Samsung effectively captures the texture of this chalk board, but at the cost of colour. Xiaomi’s take on the wooden frame and chalk lettering is even more attractive.
Finally, we have two close-ups of a flower. In the first, Samsung shows its vibrant tendencies again, though doing so blurs the subtle differences in color between the outer and inner petal. Xiaomi shows this, producing a more natural image for it.
This second flower shot is a comparison between Xiaomi and itself. The 13 Ultra offers an additional trick that Samsung doesn’t offer in the form of two different aperture settings. The photo above was taken at an f/4.0 setting. Below you can see this compared to the main lens’s other f/1.9 settings, which increase the bokeh effect behind the flower, but also make the image less sharp overall from the same distance.
After looking at all these photos, I wouldn’t recommend major Android buyers to start looking for the Xiaomi 13 Ultra just for its camera performance. It’s really impressive that it offers two aperture settings, consistently large sensors and a great zoom range, but none of that makes the phone generally better overall than the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra offers, and it certainly doesn’t make up for the difficulties of getting hold of one and running familiar apps.
However, it does show that Samsung’s leadership in photography with the Galaxy S23 Ultra is slim. This is Samsung’s first flagship in a number of years to dethrone the usual top performers like Apple and Google, but there are others that are equally capable in contending with the smartphone camera build. And with the iPhone 15 and Pixel 8 still coming out this year, there will be more threats to Samsung’s place on our best camera phones list.
So the Galaxy S23 Ultra remains the king of phone photography for now. But the Xiaomi 13 Ultra is proof that the king has plenty of competitors who can dethrone in the right situation.
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