Smart Living | Devices

Devices | 03 Mar 2022

Night photo shoot-off: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs S20

We took the S22 Ultra out on the town to see just how well its main camera copes in low-light situations.

The Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is finally available and one of its touted new features is improved night photography – or ‘Nightography’ as Samsung calls it.

Good photography depends on having light, but light can be hard to come by when you’re snapping away in places and situations such as dimly-lit pubs and restaurants or shadow-soaked streets and garden parties.

Such low-light photography is one of the toughest challenges for any smartphone. To see how the S22 Ultra’s main camera fared, we put it to work in some common low-light situations alongside one of its recent predecessors, the Galaxy S20.

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Both the S22 Ultra and S20 have dedicated Night modes in their camera apps. Put simply, such modes take multiple shots at different settings and then combine the best bits from each one into a single shot that’s greater than the sum of its parts. While both phones coped well with this shot of the unlit side of the Tate Modern in London, the S22 Ultra clearly has the edge with the lattice, fabric-like texture of the building preserved more crisply.

The S22 Ultra’s larger camera sensor and more light-sensitive main lens were able to capture more light than the S20’s, preserving more detail. Both phones incorrectly captured the street light with a purple hue though, but this is fairly common with smartphone cameras.

Tate Modern, S22 Ultra, night mode
Tate Modern, S20, night mode

This graffiti-decorated tunnel was a tough ask, with one end bathed in light and the rest cloaked in inky darkness. Accurately depicting both parts, without over-brightening the well-lit end or over-darkening the shadowy end, would be a struggle for many older smartphones. While the S20 coped respectably well, the S22 Ultra captured far more detail and colour in the dark end of the shot whether we used Night mode or not.

Leake Street graffiti tunnel, S22 Ultra, without night mode
Leake Street graffiti tunnel, S20, without night mode
Leake Street graffiti tunnel, S22 Ultra, night mode
Leake Street graffiti tunnel, S20, night mode

Just as importantly, the S22 Ultra’s night mode required the photographer to hold the phone steady for just two seconds rather than the S20’s three seconds. While this doesn’t sound like much, that one second could make the difference between capturing a precious, spontaneous moment or missing it entirely.


Fidgety pets (and children too, for that matter) are tricky to photograph at the best of times – especially so in low-light conditions. The lighting conditions for this shoot were especially challenging as the only sources of light were a few inset spotlights about 5-7m behind the photographer and partially obscured by furniture.

The S20 struggled in these harsh conditions, producing blurry results. The S22 Ultra fared much better, producing sharper and more colourful results. This light-and-day difference was due to its laser-assisted autofocus system which helps it keep subjects in focus, a feature not found in any of the S20-series phones.

Ginger and white tabby cat, S22 Ultra, night mode
Ginger and white tabby cat, S20, night mode

It’s no surprise that laser-assisted autofocus is increasingly found in more and more smartphones.


Our volunteer model was photographed in a dark room with only a narrow shaft of light peeping in through a crack in the door.

Inconsistently hirsute gentleman, S22 Ultra, night mode
Inconsistently hirsute gentleman, S20, night mode

Both phones coped admirably, although the S22 Ultra captured the eyes with a touch more sharpness and the beard with less blurriness. The skin tones were also truer to life.


This motley collection of leftovers won’t impress any professional chefs, but the dim light to the side wouldn’t be out of place in a restaurant trying to conjure up some atmosphere. Capturing the varying colours and textures of the different foods in such low light was the challenge here.

Neither phone got everything quite right, but the S22 Ultra still edged ahead with its more accurate reproduction of the peach’s dappled hues and the leatheriness of the sorry-looking samosa. Both phones oversharpened the shortbread though, overemphasising its gritty graininess, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Leftover food, S22 Ultra, night mode
Leftover food, S20, night mode

If you’re a keen or budding low-light photographer, learn how you can get the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra on a flexible contract at a price you choose.

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