Samsung generally announces a number of different models which all sit within its “S” line. The Samsung S24 Ultra and Samsung Galaxy S24 the latest flagship devices from Samsung that will surely make their way to the top of our list among the best smartphones for photographers, just like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra did. Whereas the S23 and the S23+ are designed to be “mid-range” type devices, offering several excellent photographic specifications, cheaper than the flagship. They still sit above Samsung’s wide range of budget devices, such as the Samsung A54.

Amateur Photographer verdict

If you’re somebody who wants a well-functioning, top-line Samsung but don’t want to spend over $1,000/£1,000 and/or you don’t want a massive device, then this is a good option.
  • Small size
  • Well-featured native camera app
  • Good video options
  • Reasonably expensive for mid range
  • No RAW shooting in standard camera app
  • No macro mode

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
  • $599 – $720 / £515 – £650 (128GB-256GB)

Samsung Galaxy S23 features:

Samsung S23 native camera app. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

The Samsung S23 Ultra camera 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 apply to the S23+, as it shares most of the photographic capabilities that I cover in it.

Samsung S23 triple camera set-up. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

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 is becoming 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 widely.

The screen display images vibrant and clear. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

Other useful features of note include the 3900mAH battery, storage capacity of up to 512GB and a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile processor. No charging plug is 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 prefer a smaller sized smartphone, especially when compared to the relative behemoth, the S23 and S24 Ultra, which both measure up at 6.8-inches. The S23+ comes in at 6.6-inches, perhaps making it a good compromise between them.

Photo credit: Amy Davies.

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 with 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).

Various other shooting modes are available in the native camera app. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

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 too slippery. It’s still wise to buy a case, of course, though equipped with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus 2 is unlikely to be too brittle.

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.

Set to launch in “Photo” mode, which seems likely to be the mode most people will use for most of their shots. Here is quick access to the three different lenses available by tapping the on-screen icons. Changes to settings such as aspect ratio and flash are also done here. Digital zooming can be accessed by pinching outwards on the screen, with up to 30x available.

Taken with Samsung S23 in night mode, 1/4 sec. at f/1.8, ISO 2500. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

An automatic night mode will kick in if you are working in low-light conditions, but unlike its more expensive sibling, there is no macro mode included.

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. Choose to shoot at either 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 photographing a portrait in low-light, Night mode will again kick in.

Taken with Samsung S23, using Portrait mode 1/1252 sec. at f/1.8, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

Head to the video mode to 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 won’t get to adjust video settings first by doing this.

A set of other modes are hidden under the “More” tab. This includes the Pro mode, which accesses 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): for that, download Samsung’s ExpertRAW app.

Taken with Samsung S23, 1/1139 sec. at f/1.8, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

Once downloaded, that app will appear on your ‘More’ screen for quick and easy access. 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 it’s a tempting proposition for saving a bit of cash, too.

Taken with Samsung S23, 1/2404 sec. at f/1.8, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

On top of this, the ultra-wide angle lens works well in landscape and similar situations without creating 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 see the over-the-top colour saturation that other phones can fall foul of. Even better news is that the colours between the three lenses seem to be fairly well matched. Detail is nicely rendered too, with an overall good impression when viewing at normal viewing and printing sizes.

Taken with Samsung S23 10x digital zoom – the digital zoom is OK in good light, 1/1255 sec. at f/2.4, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

In low light, although the main lens performs well, there is a noticeable drop in quality when using either the ultra-wide or telephoto lenses. When 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.

Taken with Samsung S23 on portrait (3x) mode, 1/836 sec. at f/2.4, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

It’s disappointing not to have a macro mode. To create macro-type shots, you could use the 3x lens and shoot from a short distance. The significance of this will depend upon your interest in close-up photography.

Video options are fairly good considering this is Samsung’s mid-range option. 8K is not likely to be required by most people, but is 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, now coming in at under $720/£650 no matter which memory size you go for. Compared to the S23 Ultra or the latest flagship S24 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 Samsungs generally, and don’t want to fork out such a high amount, it’s a good choice, especially if you prefer, or can tolerate, a smaller device.

Taken with Samsung S23, colours are nicely balanced, while exposure and detail is good 1/580 sec. at f/1.8, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

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 doesn’t want to spend over $1,000/£1,000 and/or you don’t want a massive device, then this is a good option. 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.

Taken with Samsung S23, 1/466 sec. at f/1.8, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies.
Taken with Samsung S23, 1/1425 sec. at f/2.4, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies
Taken with Samsung S23, with no macro mode, close-up fine detail is somewhat lost 1/2752 sec. at f/1.8, ISO 25. Photo credit: Amy Davies.
Taken with Samsung S23, 1/100 sec. at f/1.8, ISO 125. Photo credit: Amy Davies.

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