Smartphone cameras have become incredible over the past several years, to the point where even mid-range phones deliver fairly good results. But in our Galaxy S23 Ultra review this week, we called the 200MP camera “disappointing.” Why? Mainly because Samsung’s processing and shutter lag lets it down.

9to5Google has a rebooted newsletter that highlights the biggest Google stories with added commentary and other tidbits. Sign up here!

The four-camera setup on the Galaxy S23 Ultra is headlined by a 200MP primary camera. It’s a number that’s very attention-grabbing, even in a world where Samsung has already released several phones with 108MP cameras.

But does it result in shots that are actually much better than the competition? That depends.

On the one hand, the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s camera setup can be absolutely stunning. In our review we praised Samsung’s telephoto lenses, which produce incredibly crisp images from distances that no other phone sold in the US market can compete with.

That main 200MP sensor can also capture some wonderful images in the right conditions. Our friend Brad Bennett of MobileSyrup took the Galaxy S23 Ultra around San Francisco earlier this month and shared a thread on Twitter of truly stunning shots from that main camera.

These pictures are amazing! The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s detail in the shot of the seagull and the picture of the Palace of Fine Arts are both impressive. The shot the helicopter flying past the Golden Gate Bridge is equally impressive, with the rotors frozen perfectly.

The rest of Brad’s thread is a really good example of how the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s camera can be the best out there, so what’s the problem then?

What the problem boils down to is the processing of these photos. Samsung’s camera software seems to struggle tremendously. The biggest problem throughout comes from motion blur, which is very common in shots of people and animals. Movement during the time the camera captures the shot leads to faces, hands, and more being blurred – it’s known as shutter lag. This doesn’t always ruin the shot – sometimes it can actually look nice – but in most cases, it’s just not a desirable look.

This problem is shown well in a comparison shot from Rich DeMuro of KTLA. Rich tweeted an image taken on the Galaxy S23 Ultra against the same image shot on an iPhone 14 Pro. The iPhone’s image is darker than the actual scene was according to Rich, but it’s also considerably sharper and more appealing than the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s shot, which somehow managed to pick up motion blur in Rich’s hands and face.

This is despite Rich taking the shot with a tripod and using the S Pen as a shutter remote.

What Samsung seems to be lacking is “Zero Shutter Lag,” something that competitors have been implementing for quite some time. Google’s Pixel phones and Apple’s iPhones both takes shots in quicker succession and lack the same motion blur so common in Samsung’s photos. That’s not to say those phones are immune to motion blur, as it can and does happen, but it’s considerably rarer.

That said, the problem of motion blur can often be partially solved when lighting conditions are perfect. Outdoor pictures in bright or overcast conditions will often be free of really any issues, even if there is movement involved. But, here’s the crazy thing about people taking pictures – they tend to do it in a range of different conditions.

This is something Samsung really needs to address because it’s something that its competitors are excelling in. If you compare the Galaxy S23 Ultra to the iPhone 14 Pro Max or Pixel 7 Pro with a range of still subjects, landscapes, or cityscapes, Samsung’s phone is sure to win every time. But the company really falls on its own sword when it comes to more candid shots. Children and pets especially are the crux of this system, particularly in low-light settings.

Samsung is leaning heavily on the camera in its advertising of the Galaxy S23 Ultra, and rightly so. In the right conditions, it really is something to be proud of. The work Samsung has done in optical zoom on the secondary sensors is especially impressive and unique, but the Achilles’ heel of the whole system is processing, particularly the shutter lag. It’s a problem Samsung needs to address, and one that it probably can, at least in part, through software.

More megapixels and advanced camera controls are wonderful to have, but sometimes the camera needs to just work, and Samsung’s doesn’t do that reliably enough.

More on Samsung:

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Check out 9to5Google on YouTube for more news:

You’re reading 9to5Google — experts who break news about Google and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Google on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel

About the Author

Ben Schoon

Ben is a writer and video producer for 9to5Google.

Find him on Twitter @NexusBen. Send tips to or encrypted to