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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Google Pixel 8 Pro: See How Their Cameras Compare

After taking more than a dozen photos with the Galaxy S24 Ultra and the Pixel 8 Pro, here are my impressions.

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Lisa Eadicicco Senior Editor
Lisa Eadicicco is a senior editor for CNET covering mobile devices. She has been writing about technology for almost a decade. Prior to joining CNET, Lisa served as a senior tech correspondent at Insider covering Apple and the broader consumer tech industry. She was also previously a tech columnist for Time Magazine and got her start as a staff writer for Laptop Mag and Tom's Guide.
Expertise Apple, Samsung, Google, smartphones, smartwatches, wearables, fitness trackers
Lisa Eadicicco
6 min read
The Galaxy S24 Ultra (left) and Pixel 8 Pro (right) showing their camera viewfinders

From left: the Galaxy S24 Ultra and the Pixel 8 Pro.

Richard Peterson/CNET

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra and Google's Pixel 8 Pro stand out for their photography skills. Their additional 5x telephoto cameras are the biggest features that separate both phones from their lower-priced siblings: the Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus and the Pixel 8. But with the Galaxy S24 Ultra starting at $1,300 and the Pixel 8 Pro regularly priced at around $1,000, I was curious to see how the two compare.

Both phones have solid cameras with their strengths and weaknesses. For instance, Samsung sometimes exaggerates or oversaturates colors, though there are times when that works in the photo's favor. Google's photos have a more natural look, but they sometimes look drab next to Samsung shots with their punchier hues. Samsung has more flexibility when it comes to zooming, since it can zoom up to 100x digitally, but Google sometimes captures brighter photos in low-light conditions.

Read more: Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Could Be Doing So Much More With AI

Each company has had its fair share of criticism regarding the quality of its cameras. My CNET colleague Andrew Lanxon discovered numerous issues with the Pixel 8 Pro's camera when reviewing the device in October, such as softening and muddiness in high contrast areas like shadows. Meanwhile, X user @smasithick experienced issues when switching between zoom levels on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. I haven't experienced either problem on my Galaxy S24 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro review units.

Critiquing photography is subjective, and how the photos look largely depends on a variety of factors, including the device you're viewing them on and the size of the shots. When I compared photos alongside each other, I viewed them on a 27-inch monitor and a 16-inch laptop screen in order to reduce any bias that viewing them on their respective phone screens brought.

I took more than a dozen photos on both phones to see how they compare, and the examples below best illustrate their differences. 

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. Pixel 8 Pro cameras


Galaxy S24 UltraPixel 8 Pro
No. of rear cameras 43
Main camera resolution, lens aperture 200MP, f/1.750MP, f/1.68
Telephoto camera resolution, lens aperture 50MP, f/3.4; 10MP, f/2.448MP, f/2.8
Ultrawide camera resolution, lens aperture 12MP, f/2.248MP, f/1.95
Front camera resolution, lens aperture 12MP, f2.210.5MP, f/2.2

Outside in sunlight

When snapping pictures outside in bright sunlight, I noticed that photos from the Pixel sometimes had more contrast while those from Samsung had their the color and brightness dialed up. This was usually the case when taking photos of colorful subjects, like artwork and flowers. Take a look below at these photos of a mural on a fence. Samsung's image is brighter, but the additional contrast in Google's photo makes the border between each piece of the mural look sharper and more defined.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of a mural taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra
Enlarge Image
A photo of a mural taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra

Taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of a mural taken on the Pixel 8 Pro
Enlarge Image
A photo of a mural taken on the Pixel 8 Pro

Taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

The situation was different when capturing photos of a person. I preferred the photo below that I took of my husband on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, since it had more detail. You can really notice the difference when looking at the strands of hair in his beard and the denim of his coat.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of the author's husband taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Enlarge Image
A photo of the author's husband taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

This photo was taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of the author's husband taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.

This photo was taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

I mentioned earlier that Samsung's tendency to emphasize color can work for or against it. The photos below of produce taken at a local fruit stand really demonstrates that. Samsung's photo looks more lively and colorful, making Google's look a bit drab by comparison. However, you can notice the light brown spots speckled all over the green apples in Google's photo, suggesting that its colors may be more realistic.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of produce taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Enlarge Image
A photo of produce taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

A photo of produce taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of produce taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Enlarge Image
A photo of produce taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.

A photo of produce taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Now below is an example of Samsung's oversaturated colors working against it. Some of the petals are hard to distinguish because the colors are so blown out. It makes the petals in the red carnations, in particular, look like they're blending together. Google's photo may be a bit blurrier around the edges, but you can see all the petals clearly. I should note that the photos below were taken at the full resolution available on each phone, which is 200 megapixels for the Galaxy S24 Ultra and 50 megapixels for the Pixel 8 Pro. Though I viewed the full resolution versions of both photos during my testing, I had to resize the Galaxy S24 Ultra's image because the full version exceeds CNET's file size limit.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of bouquets of flowers taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Enlarge Image
A photo of bouquets of flowers taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

A photo of bouquets taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of a bouquet of flowers taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a bouquet of flowers taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.

A photo of bouquets taken on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Zoom

When I was shooting outdoors at short zoom lengths like 2x, photos from the Pixel 8 and Galaxy S24 Ultra looked essentially the same. But when zooming closer at 10x, I started to see a difference. As an example, take a look at the photos below of a sign hanging outside a restaurant. Samsung's may look a little washed out, but the glowing burger sign is sharper in its photo than in Google's. The light from the sign also doesn't bleed the way it does in Google's photo.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (10x zoom)

A photo of a sign hanging outside of a restaurant taken at a 10x zoom.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a sign hanging outside of a restaurant taken at a 10x zoom.

A photo of a sign hanging outside a restaurant, taken at a 10x zoom.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro (10x zoom)

A photo of a sign outside of a restaurant taken at a 10x zoom on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a sign outside of a restaurant taken at a 10x zoom on the Pixel 8 Pro.

A photo of a sign outside a restaurant, taken at a 10x zoom. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

I also noticed that Samsung sometimes had the upper hand when zooming indoors, both at short and long distances. The photos below of a vase of flowers was taken at a 3x zoom in CNET's New York office, and you can tell Samsung's is clearer. 

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra (3x zoom)

A photo of flowers taken at a 3x zoom on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Enlarge Image
A photo of flowers taken at a 3x zoom on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

A photo of flowers taken at a 3x zoom on the Galaxy S24 Ultra. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of flowers taken at a 3x zoom on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Enlarge Image
A photo of flowers taken at a 3x zoom on the Pixel 8 Pro.

A photo of flowers taken at a 3x zoom on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Samsung also performed better when I shot this photo of a bouquet of preserved flowers in my living room at a 30x zoom with the lights turned down.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of a bouquet of preserved flowers taken at a 30x zoom on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in dim lighting.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a bouquet of preserved flowers taken at a 30x zoom on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in dim lighting.

A photo of a bouquet of preserved flowers taken at a 30x zoom on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in dim lighting. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of a bouquet of preserved flowers taken at a 30x zoom on the Pixel 8 Pro in dim lighting.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a bouquet of preserved flowers taken at a 30x zoom on the Pixel 8 Pro in dim lighting.

A photo of a bouquet of preserved flowers taken at a 30x zoom on the Pixel 8 Pro in dim lighting. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

However, I've also realized that results can vary depending on the situation. When I reviewed the Galaxy S24 Ultra, my testing indicated that Google actually produced a sharper zoomed-in shots at 5x compared to the S24 Ultra and iPhone 15 Pro Max.

240123-site-samsung-galaxy-s24-ultra-review-4
Watch this: Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Review: More AI at a Higher Cost

Night mode

Night mode makes it possible to snap photos in dark circumstances without having to use the flash. In my experience, Google produced brighter photos in the dark, though it takes longer to snap the photo, while Samsung's had more detail.

Take this photo below of my cat Buddy, for instance. Google's picture is brighter overall, but you can see more detail in Buddy's fur -- especially around his nose and legs -- in Samsung's photo.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of my cat Buddy taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in night mode.
Enlarge Image
A photo of my cat Buddy taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in night mode.

A photo of my cat Buddy taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in night mode.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of my cat Buddy taken in night mode on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Enlarge Image
A photo of my cat Buddy taken in night mode on the Pixel 8 Pro.

A photo of my cat Buddy taken in night mode on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Here's another example below. Google's is once again brighter, while Samsung's captured a deeper shade of green in the plant's leaves. 

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of a plant taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in night mode.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a plant taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in night mode.

A photo of a plant taken on the Galaxy S24 Ultra in night mode.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of a plant taken in night mode on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a plant taken in night mode on the Pixel 8 Pro.

A photo of a plant taken in night mode on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Dim indoors

But what about those circumstances when it's not quite dark enough to trigger night mode? I noticed Samsung and Google each handled these challenging lighting situations differently. The illumination coming from the Christmas lights strung around the bar bleeds a lot in Samsung's photo, although it is brighter than Google's image.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo taken inside a bar on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Enlarge Image
A photo taken inside a bar on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

A photo taken inside a bar on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo taken inside a bar on the Pixel 8 Pro.
Enlarge Image
A photo taken inside a bar on the Pixel 8 Pro.

A photo taken inside a bar on the Pixel 8 Pro.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

But the photos below of a bookshelf with a bit of light peeking in from my living room window tells a different story. Google's photo has a yellowish tint to it, but it also preserves more detail in certain areas, like the shelf itself, than Samsung's. 

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of a bookshelf taken in dim lighting on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a bookshelf taken in dim lighting on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

A photo of a bookshelf taken in dim lighting on the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of a bookshelf taken on the Pixel 8 Pro in dim lighting.
Enlarge Image
A photo of a bookshelf taken on the Pixel 8 Pro in dim lighting.

A photo of a bookshelf taken on the Pixel 8 Pro in dim lighting. 

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Ultrawide

The ultrawide shots below captured on both phones look essentially the same, except Google's surprisingly looked more colorful -- particularly when looking at the light brown-colored buildings along the side of the photo and in the background.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo taken with the Galaxy S24 Ultra's ultrawide camera.
Enlarge Image
A photo taken with the Galaxy S24 Ultra's ultrawide camera.

A photo taken with the Galaxy S24 Ultra's ultrawide camera.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo taken with the Pixel 8 Pro's ultrawide camera.
Enlarge Image
A photo taken with the Pixel 8 Pro's ultrawide camera.

A photo taken with the Pixel 8 Pro's ultrawide camera.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Selfie

When taking selfies with the Galaxy S24 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro, the biggest difference I noticed came down to color. As expected, Samsung's photo is much more colorful compared to Google's more natural aesthetic. Which one's better depends on your preferences.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

A photo of the author taken with the Galaxy S24 Ultra's selfie camera.

A photo of the author taken with the Galaxy S24 Ultra's selfie camera.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Google Pixel 8 Pro

A photo of the author taken with the Pixel 8 Pro's selfie camera.

A photo of the author taken with the Pixel 8 Pro's selfie camera.

Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Overall, the Galaxy S24 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro both take great photos, and which is better depends on what you're looking for in a smartphone camera. If you want colorful shots and plenty of zoom options, the S24 Ultra is probably your best bet. But some people might find that Google's more natural hues and brighter night mode photos are the superior choice, especially for the price. 

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

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