Samsung generally announces a number of different models which all sit within its “S” line. Right now, we have the Samsung S23 Ultra – which is the flagship device and among the best smartphones for photographers – and the Samsung S23 and the S23+. The S23 and the S23+ are designed to be “mid-range” type devices, offering a number of excellent photographic specifications but at a cheaper price than the flagship. They still sit above Samsung’s wide range of budget and cheap devices, such as the Samsung A54.
Samsung Galaxy S23 at a glance:
- 50MP wide camera, f/1.8 aperture, 24mm equivalent
- 12MP ultra-wide camera, f/2.2 aperture, 13mm equivalent
- 10MP telephoto camera, f/2.4 aperture, 70mm equivalent
- 12MP f/2.2 selfie camera, 26mm equivalent, AF
- 8K video at 24/30fps
- 4K video at 30/60fps
- Android 13
- Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 2
- $799 – $859 / £849 – £899
Samsung Galaxy S23 features:
In terms of the camera, the Samsung S23 Ultra differs in a number of ways from the S23 and the S23+, which both share the same photographic set-up, but have different screen sizes.
As such, this review can also be taken in the most part to be a review of the S23+, as we will mostly be commenting on its photographic capabilities.
For the camera, we have a triple lens setup, to include a standard (wide), ultra wide and telephoto camera. The main camera has 50MP and offers a 24mm equivalent angle of view, and has an f/1.8 aperture. It is joined by a 12MP ultra wide (13mm equivalent) and a 10MP 3x telephoto lens (70mm equivalent).
As it starting to become increasingly common – even in mid-range phones, 8K video is available in 30fps, with 4K (up to 60fps) and Full HD (also up to 60fps) also available and likely to be used more commonly.
Other useful features of note include the 3900mAH battery, storage capacity of up to 512GB and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile processor. As is pretty common these days, a charging plug is not included in the box – just a cable.
Samsung Galaxy S23 handling and design
Utilising a 6.1-inch screen, the S23 is a much better bet for those who would prefer a smaller sized smartphone, especially when compared to the relative behemoth, the S23 Ultra, which measures up at 6.8-inches. If you do prefer a larger device, then the S23+ comes in at 6.6-inches, perhaps making it a good compromise between the two.
Whether you have smaller hands or just prefer how much easier a smaller device slips into your pocket, having the choice between the two different sizes is welcome – it’s just a shame you don’t get the same choice when it comes to Samsung’s flagship.
Personally, I feel the S23 is just the right size to use as an actual phone – typing and scrolling is a much more comfortable experience, as is shooting with the camera one handed (compared to the S23 Ultra).
Otherwise, the Galaxy S23 has a fairly simple yet sleek design. It has nicely rounded off corners, while the matte rear surface doesn’t feel overly slippy. It’s probably still wise to invest in a case if you’re worried about dropping it, though being equipped with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 should see it withstand a decent amount of wear and tear.
Samsung S23 native camera app
As we’ve seen on several Samsung smartphones – and Android phones in general – the S23 has a very comprehensive native camera app, offering a wealth of different options to suit several needs.
By default, the launches in “Photo” mode, which seems likely to be the mode most people will use for most of their shots. Here you can quickly access the three different lenses available by tapping the on-screen icons, as well as make changes to settings such as aspect ratio and flash. Digital zooming can be accessed by pinching outwards on the screen, with up to 30x available.
To the left of Photo mode, you will find Portrait mode. With this you can create shallow depth of field effects, both with human, non-human and still-life subjects. You can choose to either shoot at 1x or 3x, depending on how much of the background context you want to show. You can experiment with different types of bokeh, and if you are photographing a portrait in low-light, Night mode will again kick in here too.
Head to the video mode and you can shoot in a variety of different resolutions and frame rates, as well as do things like switch on Super Steady (image stabilisation). You can also record video directly from the Photo mode by holding down the shutter button – but you won’t get to adjust video settings first if you do that.
A set of other modes are hidden under the “More” tab. This includes the Pro mode, which gives you access to a variety of shooting parameters including UISO, shutter speed and exposure compensation. You can’t shoot raw format in this mode (unlike with the S23 Ultra), so if you want to do that you’ll need to download Samsung’s ExpertRAW app.
Once you’ve downloaded that app, it’ll appear on your ‘More’ screen so you can access it quickly and easily. The ExpertRAW app is also the only way to shoot at 50 megapixels, if you wish to do so, as there’s no automatic 50MP mode in the native camera app.
Other available modes in the More tab include Panorama, Food, Pro Video, Super Slow-Mo (Video), and Portrait Video.
Samsung Galaxy S23 image quality and performance
The Samsung S23 is very capable of taking some great pictures, particularly when using the main sensor and shooting in good light. The main sensor from this model and its bigger, more expensive sibling the S23 Ultra put in reasonably similar performances in good light, so if you’re looking to save a bit of cash it’s a tempting proposition.
On top of this, the ultra-wide angle lens works well in landscape and similar situations without creating too much distortion. The 3x lens also comes in handy when you want to get closer to the situation. For the S23 you need to use digital zoom if you want to go beyond 3x, but 10x (digital) is decent enough in good light, beyond that, images start to become blurry and unusable.
On the whole, colours are nicely vibrant, and we don’t seem to see some of the over-the-top colour saturation that other phones can be guilty of. Even better news is that the colours between the three lenses seem to be fairly well matched too. Detail is nicely rendered too, with an overall good impression when viewing at normal viewing and printing sizes.
In low light, although the main lens puts in a good performance, there is a noticeable drop in quality when you use either the ultra-wide lens or the telephoto lens. When it is very dark, the S23 will use the 1x lens instead of the 3x lens and digitally crop in to make better use of the higher resolution and larger sensor. Still, it’s much better if you can move physically closer to a subject rather than zoom when light is lacking. Using the digital zoom options in low light is really best avoided entirely.
Portrait mode does a fairly decent job, but it can get a little confused with fine details such as flyaway hairs, so if you look closely then you might see some unnatural drop off in focus. However, if you’re looking at regular phone screen sizes it’s a good enough overall impression.
It’s disappointing not to have a macro mode, but depending how bothered you are by close-ups, this may or may not be a deal breaker. To create macro-type shots, you could use the 3x lens and shoot from a short distance.
Video options are fairly good considering this is Samsung’s mid-range option. 8K is probably not likely to be used by most people, but it’s there if you need it. 4K and Full HD produce good results, with the SuperSteady option coming in handy if you want to move around while recording your videos.
Samsung Galaxy S23 value for money
By Samsung “S series” standards, the S23 is somewhat cheap, coming in at under $900/£900 no matter which memory size you go for. Compared to the flagship S23 Ultra, this is indeed a good saving in comparison. However, it’s also true to say that other flagship models, such as the OnePlus 11 or the Google Pixel 7 Pro can be picked up for cheaper – which makes it look less good value.
If you’re keen on the Samsung brand however, and don’t want to fork out such a high amount, it’s perhaps a good choice, especially if you’re happy with (or perhaps even actively seek) a smaller device.
Samsung Galaxy S23 verdict
There are probably two main reasons why you might opt for the S23 over the S23 Ultra. One is price, and one is size – and both are fairly big reasons.
If you’re somebody who wants a well-functioning, top-line Samsung but you don’t want to spend over $1,000/£1,000 and/or you don’t want to use a massive device, then this is a good option for you. In essence, it’s a shame that the S23 Ultra isn’t available in a similar size.
That said, this is still of course a fairly high-priced phone. While you do get three lenses and high-quality photography, for the price, I’d have liked to see a little more – especially a macro mode.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the Samsung S23 and it comes highly recommended for Samsung fans. Those on a stricter budget and less brand loyalty might want to turn their attention to Google and OnePlus however.
- Samsung S23 Ultra: Do you need 200 megapixels in a smartphone?
- Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra Review
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