Galaxy S23 Ultra video camera test: something amazing happened

Galaxy S23 Ultra video camera test: something amazing happened

I have already fallen for Samsung Galaxy S23 UltraThe superb camera — impressed with vibrant colors, incredible versatility and sheer speed. But what about video? I almost exclusively shoot stills and wanted to see if the Galaxy S23 Ultra could spark a greater creative interest in video in me, which I hadn’t really felt before.

Over the course of two days, whilst touring the Isle of Wight off the south coast of the UK and staying in the historic and beautiful Arreton Manor, I shot a lot more videos than usual in a variety of different environments. That’s what happened.

Galaxy S23 Ultra: video specs

A person holding the Galaxy S23 Ultra and taking a photo.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S23 Ultra shoots video using the same cameras you use to take photos, so expect to shoot wide-angle, 3x optical zoom, and 10x video in normal mode. You can shoot 1080p at 30 frames per second (fps) or 60 fps, 4K video resolution (3840 x 2160 pixels) at 60 fps and HDR10+, and 8K resolution (a whopping 7680 x 4320 pixels) at 24 fps or 30 fps. I shot mostly in 4K at 60fps, but without HDR10+.

There are also several idle modes. Standard shoots 1080p at 240 fps, while Super Slow-motion has the same 1080p resolution, but at 960 fps. Hyperlapse mode shoots in 4K at 30 fps, and Portrait Video mode is also in 4K at 30 fps. Along with built-in optical stabilization and digital stabilization, there’s a Super Steady mode, which further crops the image to keep it shake-free.

Close-up of the cameras of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Why didn’t I use HDR10+ mode? The feature must be manually enabled, but videos are recorded in HVEC format, which may limit compatibility. To show you the test results more easily, videos were shot and recorded in H.264 format. What about storage space? On average, one minute of 4K video at 60 fps takes up 400 MB.

Internal storage and your requirements are definitely something to think about before purchasing your phone. If you want to shoot and keep a lot of videos, investing in as much internal storage space as you can afford will be a good idea. In two days, I shot 60 individual videos – most of them around 30 seconds to a minute – plus a few five-minute videos. Once all was said and done, it took almost 10GB.

Recording a video with the Galaxy S23 Ultra

A big part of the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s appeal is its three (or four, depending on how you look at it) different camera modes – main, wide-angle, 3x and 10x zoom – which can also be used when shooting. video taking. You can switch between each mode while shooting and there is no need to stop and switch cameras. It was something I wanted to explore during my time with the phone.

It’s as easy to do as when taking photos – just press the required button in the viewfinder and you can move between each camera. There’s great versatility, allowing you to show an entire scene and capture both scale and detail, all in the same video. Although it only takes a few moments to switch between them, the transition isn’t that seamless. The camera takes a second to adjust to the new lens, and there’s a second where the color, exposure, or focus looks “off” right after switching to a different camera.

Where the S23 Ultra excels is when shooting video at 10x zoom.

It can be distracting and isn’t as noticeable when switching between cameras. iPhone 14 Pro. Where the S23 Ultra excels is when shooting video at 10x zoom, which looks just as crisp and detailed as when shooting at 3x or 1x. The iPhone 14 Pro can handle 4K resolution video with 3x optical or 9x digital zoom, when the result looks noisy and obviously digitally enhanced.

You can digitally zoom up to 20x on the S23 Ultra when shooting 4K video, but like the iPhone 14 Pro’s 9x mode, it’s noisy and not particularly attractive, so best avoided. Just as it is with the camera, the 10x zoom is a huge selling point when it comes to shooting video, and the versatility of the camera beats every other flagship phone available for the moment.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great during my test, so none of my videos managed to really show off the camera’s ability to capture color. What they showed was how effectively the S23 Ultra captures the natural atmosphere. The shots in the garden, early in the morning with the grass and bushes covered in a fine mist of rain, look almost exactly as they did in real life. The wide-angle camera accentuates colors a bit more than the main camera, while the 10x zoom isn’t as vibrant as either.

Galaxy S23 Ultra: low-light video and stabilization

Taking video in the dark with only minimal ambient light, the Galaxy S23 Ultra brightens the scene considerably, but that’s not always to the video’s advantage. Darker areas become noisy and colors are influenced by the camera’s decision to brighten the scene considerably, so they become less realistic. You can definitely see a lot of it, but even with the excellent stabilization the details fade as you move and the scene loses its atmosphere.

Interestingly, the iPhone 14 Pro takes a very different approach, barely brightening the scene, but it makes for a more stable, less blurry and much more realistic look. The iPhone’s superb white balance is evident in any comparison to the Galaxy S23 Ultra, which is never so accurate, but is particularly noticeable in extreme low-light conditions.

When you’re still, the Galaxy S23 Ultra offers an impressive amount of stabilization, even at 10x zoom, making it very easy to keep your subject in view. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always translate to the actual recorded video, with some 10x zoom shots showing more movement than expected. Go out with a wide angle of 3x, 1x or 0.6x, and no such problem occurs. Most of the time, the small amount of oscillation added won’t be a problem.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra offers an impressive amount of stabilization.

What about when you and the camera are moving? I strapped the Galaxy S23 Ultra to a window mount in a car, to see how much of a difference Super Steady mode made to my recordings. Super Steady mode crops the image a lot and also affects the vibrancy of the image. The phone focused on the inside of the car rather than the outside, which is more of a problem caused by me recording and driving alone.

Focusing issues aside, the stabilization is effective, as the car has a relatively firm suspension and the road surface wasn’t particularly smooth. The videos where I move were all shot at walking speed, sometimes with the phone attached to a big Joby GorillaPod, and you can see the video “jumping” with my steps, but it mostly happened in a bad lighting. Stabilization is generally very good, but you need good conditions to get the most out of it.

Galaxy S23 Ultra: slow motion video, hyperlapse and portrait

Although the slow motion video is only available in 1080p and doesn’t have the zoom or wide angle feature, I had fun with it. Everything I shot was smooth and the effect looked great. The standard slow motion mode can be used in most situations, as seen in slow motion videos of boats, which weren’t close to me. This means you can enjoy taking slow motion videos without waiting for exactly the right moment.

That’s not the case with Super Slow Motion, which at 940fps shuts down virtually everything, so it specifically needs very fast objects to be effective. Hyperlapse speeds everything up, with a five-minute recording generating a 20-second Hyperlapse video. The effect is fun, but the quality depends a lot on how steady you can hold the camera. Any sudden jerk or movement is evident and shocking in the end result.

Lastly, Portrait mode video adds various artificial bokeh-style effects to your video. Edge recognition is very good and adapts well to movement, but it does require a face to work best. The standard Slow Motion mode was my favorite extra feature (they’re all hidden away in the Camera app’s More menu) and I often thought I’d try to see what was being captured. Fortunately, I found that I liked the results.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra made me a video addict

Someone holding the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, showing the green back.
Joe Maring/Digital Trends

Shooting videos with the Galaxy S23 Ultra was fun, and it adds another creative dimension to the already versatile camera. To really make your video stand out, you need to put in the effort to edit and create a longer “movie”. In the Samsung Gallery app, there’s a handy Create Movie mode, where you can cut and chain different clips, then add transitions, titles, and music. It’s easy to use and makes the phone a one-stop-shop for all things video.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s camera takes great photos and is far more versatile and creative than any other smartphone available today. Video shares the same functionality and versatility, and I really enjoyed the whole process of thinking differently, creating shots, looking for opportunities, and then editing videos together later. I missed focusing on stills, but that’s probably more down to what I’m used to than anything phone related.

It wasn’t until I edited the videos you can see in the article that something else crossed my mind. I think other less well-equipped phones may have quickly sent me back to shooting stills, but it’s clear that the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s many cameras and features do both photography and videography fun and enjoyable. It won’t be the last time I push myself to shoot video and not just take photos, and I have Samsung’s fantastic Galaxy S23 Ultra to thank.

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