One of the first things I do when using a new Samsung Galaxy flagship phone is turn off the extra image processing that’s applied to the camera by default, specifically the Scene Optimizer mode that’s been introduced in more recent Galaxy models.
The reason for this is that the image processing performed by the cameras is usually sufficient, with the additional enhancements tending to overheat a photo with too much processing or color saturation, resulting in unnatural shots. The same is broadly true for Android phones with such features in the camera settings.
But I changed my mind with that Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultraand by extension the rest of the Galaxy S22 Offer. That’s because Samsung seems to have really worked on intelligently processing Scene Optimizer mode so that it enhances photos in believable and pleasing ways, rather than increasing saturation and smoothing.
Samsung has already done a lot to improve the cameras in the Galaxy range, with the S22 phones improving on the fairly excellent ones Galaxy S21 Cell phones that have improved significantly on the Galaxy S10 phones. Galaxy phones no longer produce photos with unnatural, candy-like colors, and the dynamic range is now very impressive. These improvements appear to have carried over to the Scene Optimizer mode, which I tested with a Galaxy S22 Ultra.
First, look at the photo of the flower bed below. It was taken on a bright day with a selection of flowers bathed in the kind of sunlight rare for London. This presented a challenging shot for even the best camera phones.
We can see this with the standard shot the Galaxy S22 Ultra captured, with plenty of light being sucked in but also slightly washing out the bright reds and yellows of the flowers.
However, when you turn on the Scene Optimizer for the same shot, we can see that the brightness is dialed back and the white balance adjusted to give the flowers more pop. I feel the dynamic range has been improved here too, which is noticeable in the wooden floor of the floating garden, which I think has more texture. Admittedly, this isn’t as lifelike as the standard shot, but I’d argue that without the optimizer enabled, the photo falls into the realm of overexposure and offers a less pleasing overall image.
This can be seen again in the photo of a gorse below, taken on a stormy gray where the sky quickly transitioned from clear to full of angry slate gray clouds.
The stock photo is lovely, as the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s 108MP main camera captures plenty of detail while neatly balancing the colors of the gorse against the blue-gray sky.
Turn on the scene enhancer and the shot becomes a little more moody, with the sky taking on a darker, more dramatic hue. At the same time, the yellow of the gorse flowers was not affected, and the red tip of the marker rod was still popping.
It’s subjective, of course, but I quite like the result the Scene Optimizer achieved here. I have a feeling it tends to produce shots that draw a line between the high-contrast photos of Google Pixel 6 Pro and the natural tones iPhone 13 pro can deliver; These two happen to be my favorite phones when it comes to photography.
When it gets darker, the Scene Optimizer comes into play. In some cases, it simply turns on the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s night mode. As you can see in my friend Claire’s first photo, the standard shot with the screen optimizer turned off is a blurry mess, with the camera struggling with the overall low light of a bar punctuated by candles and distant lights at the same time.
Using the Scene Optimizer, Night Mode was enabled and the resulting shot was vastly improved, with better processing and edge detection, as well as sharper detail on both Claire and the background.
To give Standard mode another chance (the previous lackluster photo may have been an unfortunate coincidence), I snapped a second photo of Claire, this time triggering Night mode. The result was a perfectly decent photo given the bar lighting. But it felt a bit flat as the tone of Claire’s face looked a little off.
With the Scene Optimizer enabled, I find the shot has a more pleasing hue and contrast. It’s not the best low-light photo I’ve seen, but it’s nice to see that the intelligent image processing is actually working to create an enhanced photo, rather than just increasing the brightness or color saturation.
So in conclusion, for once, I can say that you don’t need to turn off Scene Optimizer, especially as it can sometimes help mask clumsy bouts of user error.
And combined with the overall improvement Samsung has made to the cameras and compute photography of the Galaxy S22 range, I feel like the Galaxy S22 Ultra has pretty much caught up with the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro max in delivering stunning simple point-and-shoot photography. It also sets the standard for other optional processing modes on Android phones.
I’m now excited to see where Samsung is taking its camera technology and intelligence next. roll on 2023 and the Galaxy S23.