Last year we pitted the cameras from some of the best smartphones on the market against each other.  At the end there was no clear winner, but we did find some fairly big differences between them all.

That was last year though.  This year we have incremental changes to the smartphone cameras with computational photography progressing another 12 months as well so we thought we’d have another crack at it.

This year the phones used in the shootout were:

  • OPPO Find X5 Pro
  • Google Pixel 7 Pro
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
  • Apple iPhone 14 Pro Max

I will insert a disclaimer here that the Galaxy S22 Ultra and the Find X5 Pro are both a minimum of six months old and thus halfway through their product cycles so can be excused if they don’t quite match the barely-a-month-old Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max.  In saying that though, let’s check out just how all the smartphone cameras fared – the results may well surprise you.

The hardware differences

Samsung is the only one of the four flagships tested who still use a quad camera setup.  All included a main camera, an ultra-wide camera and a telephoto camera.  Obviously, each manufacturer will include slightly different hardware specs in each of their flagship smartphones so let’s have a quick look at each of them:

Google Pixel 7 ProApple iPhone 14 Pro MaxSamsung Galaxy S22 UltraOPPO Find X5 Pro
Wide: 50MP, f/1.85
Long Tele: 48MP, f/3.5
Ultra-Wide: 12MP, f/2.2
Wide: 48MP, f/1.78
Ultra-Wide: 12MP, f/2.2
Tele: 12MP, f/2.8
Wide: 108MP, f/1.8
Ultra-Wide: 12MP, f/2.2
Tele: 10MP, f/2.4
Long Tele: 10MP, f/4.9
Wide: 50MP, f/1.7
Ultra-Wide: 50MP, f/2.2
Tele: 13MP, f/2.4

So which specification results in the best images?  Unfortunately it’s not that simple.  In 2022 a smartphone camera is only as good as its software.  The post processing onboard these smartphones is something thought impossible not all that long ago.  

OPPO include their own chip onboard just for image processing, Google have optimised and designed the Tensor G2 processor specifically for onboard image processing and Apple and Samsung have placed a lot of time and money into R&D for their image processing.

Let’s check out some of the pictures I took with all four phones before we discuss how they each fared.

Day time

Most photos were taken in decent light, although, as Winter extends well into Summer here in Melbourne the Melbourne images were overcast.  As a general rule, the Pixel 7 Pro and the iPhone 14 Pro Max performed the best in my opinion.  The Pixel 7 Pro had a more consistent colour reproduction, with the iPhone 14 Pro Max washing out the colours on occasion.  Detail was similar between the two though.  

As for the phones that are more than six months older, the Samsung S22 Ultra and the OPPO Find X5 Pro, the Samsung performed the most consistently, although it seemed to over process the detail a bit too much, introducing added noise to the image (which is a side effect of too much image sharpening) but it’s colours were a lot less over saturated compared with their effort last year.   The Find X5 Pro performed well but lacked at times in detail (most likely in post-processing as their specs are as good as any).

Unless looking extremely closely at the images – which I did of course – all of the images produced are darn good images though so you can’t say any were bad.  Just that some were better than others. 

Night mode

The night images were amazing on all phones.  It is actually difficult to select one over the other in all honesty.  The Pixel once again had better colour reproduction but the difference is extremely small.  I declare them all the winner.

Macro mode

I took a few macro images although chose this one to include here.  The Pixel and iPhone excelled here although the other two were no slouch.  I preferred the Pixel colour reproduction again.  OPPO this year ditched the dedicated macro lens from their flagship phone and its macro mode suffered.  I still prefer the Find X3 Pro for macro images for this reason.  

Selfie camera

One thing to be wary of is that some phones – OPPO is one – that default to a weird filtered skin texture finish.  Turn that off unless you want that greasy, fake lens result.

Once again, the Pixel had the best colour reproduction, especially with skin tones.  Google focused on this a lot in the launch of the Pixel 7 Pro and you can see the result of the work their software engineers have done.

The Pixel also had the better detail of background structures with the iPhone a close second.  Portrait mode was exceptional in all cases but for this one it seems that the iPhone came up trumps.  Its ability to separate our hair/heads from the rear is sharper and more accurate – you do need to zoom up a lot to see that though.  OPPO and Samsung were able to match the Pixel in these images – not bad for older phones.

The night selfie was a close run thing too.  The Pixel once again has our skin tone down best but aside from that the differences between them all is small.  OPPO struggled with skin tone once again in this image fairly badly.  The Pixel image is a tad blurry because it did take the longest to take the photo and my hand is not that steady – something to be aware of if you also suffer from this affliction.

Splitting hairs

Are we finally at a stage where all cameras are so good that we are splitting hairs trying to determine if one is better than the other. I’d say not quite — in my opinion, the Google Pixel 7 Pro outperformed the other flagship cameras in the tests we put it through. Its smarts are that good with skin tones amazingly natural in all scenarios with its colours true to life.

The iPhone 14 Pro Max was a close second although for me the colours were a tad washed out at times but its detail was great. Samsung was in third and OPPO unfortunately bringing up the rear with a lack of detail and colour reproduction at times. This was the first year with their MariSilicon X imaging NPU so you would expect that to improve in the future.

Does it matter?

Simple answer. No. By themselves, every single one of these smartphone cameras produced images that are entirely acceptable for an ultra-premium flagship. These days if you want great images you just need to buy an ultra-premium flagship device — there are many other things that can be used to sway your purchase given that they all produce great images.