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We took over 200 photos with the Galaxy S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max — here's the winner

 Samsung Galaxy s24 Ultra vs iphone 15 pro max cameras.
Samsung Galaxy s24 Ultra vs iphone 15 pro max cameras.

One of the first things we did shortly after getting our hands on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra was to test out its camera — with more scrutiny than any other model before due to its supposed camera downgrade. Now that we’ve had nearly a month using it as a daily driver, we decided to pursue a more comprehensive camera shootout against the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

Both flagships top our best camera phones list, but our Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max face-off awarded the overall win to Apple — with only a single point separating the two. It was a close call like no other, so we thought we’d pit the two against each other again, but this time focusing strictly on the cameras and nothing else.

In our Galaxy S24 Ultra review, we noted how its Galaxy AI features were the main driving force of its upgrades. But in this Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max head-to-head comparison, we’re going to investigate how their cameras have turned out long-term. In fact, we took over 200 snapshots between the two, capturing the same images and inspecting every pixel to see which one comes out on top.

On paper, the specs favor the Galaxy S24 Ultra with its 200MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 10MP 3x telephoto, 50MP 5x telephoto, and 12MP selfie cameras. These numbers seemingly crush the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s arrangement, which consists of a 48MP main, 12MP ultrawide, 12MP 5x telephoto, and 12MP selfie shooters. But as we all know, you can’t always just rely on the specs.

We’re grading the phones based on the following categories below. Even though we’ll focus on one set of photos, you can also look through the corresponding galleries to see how they perform against each other. Here’s what we found.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: main camera performance

Our first comparison brings us to their main cameras, since they’ll be doing most of the heavy lifting of the bunch. The Galaxy S24 Ultra puts out excellent results, but we’re inclined mostly to say the main factor under bright conditions is how they produce colors.

There’s just something about the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s shot that makes all the colors pop out a lot more, which could be attributed to its higher contrast and saturation. If you also look closely at the details in the stone pathway, there’s a little more definition from the iPhone.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra Main Camera Performance.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max Main Camera Performance.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: daytime landscape

That same description about the iPhone’s photos popping out more is evident with the above shot of the New York Public Library. The columns on the facade of the building are more pearly white than the low contrast look we see with the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s photo. Even though we like how the shadows get a boost with the Galaxy S24 Ultra, like in the shaded areas in between the columns, the higher contrast of the iPhone makes the inscriptions on the building more legible.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: daytime portrait

Both phones handle portrait mode very well, making the differences between them harder to discern from a cursory look. The iPhone 15 Pro Max certainly has the truer-to-life colors, but it doesn’t totally blur out my colleague’s glasses as better than the Galaxy S24 Ultra — which you can see around his eyebrow. There’s this sheen over the entire photo from the iPhone, giving it that same pop we explained already, but the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s shot simply looks more natural in tone

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime portrait.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime portrait.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime portrait.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime portrait.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime portrait.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime portrait.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime portrait.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime portrait.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: daytime selfie

Flipping it around for selfies, it’s pretty unanimous here that the iPhone 15 Pro Max looks much better — mainly for the fact that it’s a brighter image. Details are nicely produced on both, such as the freckles around the face and individual strands of hair, but we can’t stop noticing the brighter tone of the iPhone.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime selfie.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime selfie.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: macro

Not surprisingly yet again, the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s brighter image proves to be the main factor in this macro shot of this fruit tart. Detail capture is excellent on both images, but the glistening look of the red strawberries from the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s macro shot draws out the details hidden in the shadows there we can’t see as well as with the Galaxy S24 Ultra.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: wide angle

From a relatively close distance, we managed to get nearly the entire span of the Bryant Park Grill with their respective ultra wide angle cameras. The iPhone 15 Pro Max’s stronger dynamic range performance is again on display here when you look at how the stone pathway is boosted to better tone out the exposure throughout the entire scene.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ultra wide angle.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ultra wide angle.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra wide angle.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra wide angle.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ultra wide angle.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ultra wide angle.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra wide angle.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra wide angle.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ultra wide angle.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ultra wide angle.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra wide angle.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra wide angle.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ultra wide angle.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra ultra wide angle.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra wide angle.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max ultra wide angle.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: daytime zoom camera

This one’s tricky because there’s something interesting happening in the background when we switch zoom range. At 5x zoom, it’s nearly a tie with both phones delivering excellent results. Although, that strong dynamic range performance continues to boost the shadows by just a little bit with the iPhone.

However, when we push them to 10x and 25x zoom, the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s sharper look becomes more apparent. If you take a look at the 25x zoom shots in the gallery below. Samsung’s image processing is adding what appears to be a little over sharpening to bring out more of the definition around the brickwork.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra daytime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max daytime zoom.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: nighttime high-contrast

Nighttime high-contrast scenes test how the phones deal with few, very specific sources of light illuminating a given scene. The above shots are an example of this, and quite frankly, each has its own merits.

This one’s tougher because the iPhone 15 Pro Max seems to boost the exposure throughout the entire scene to make it brighter, but at the expense of the highlights. Meanwhile, the Galaxy S24 Ultra seems to be the opposite, preserving the highlights a little better — but by making the entire shot look a little under-exposed.

Winner: tie

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime high-contrast.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime high-contrast.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: nighttime selfie

Taking a photo during the nighttime, it’s a close call between them both because they deliver their own set of favorable qualities. For example, the details in the facial hair are sharper with the Galaxy S24 Ultra — while the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s selfie pops with this sheen around the face.

Winner: tie

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Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: nighttime selfie.
Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: nighttime selfie.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime selfie.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime selfie.

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Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: nighttime selfie.
Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: nighttime selfie.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime selfie.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime selfie.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: nighttime zoom

Apple is clearly boosting the exposure in this clock tower zoom shot. The shadowed areas are undoubtedly brighter with the iPhone 15 Pro Max, but the fine details in the brick work seem to disappear into a mushy texture — whereas they’re better preserved by the Galaxy S24 Ultra despite its darker composition.

Winner: Galaxy S24 Ultra

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime zoom.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime zoom.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: nighttime main camera

By this point, there’s no arguing how the main camera of the iPhone 15 Pro Max delivers the brighter picture between the two — and this nighttime shot proves it yet again. Not only does the asphalt get an exposure boost, but the vibrant colors with the iPhone 15 Pro Max gives it the more attractive, overall shot.

Winner: iPhone 15 Pro Max

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra nighttime main camera.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max nighttime main camera.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: colorful scenes

When the scene is dominated by a plethora of colors, it’s really hard for us to choose a definitive winner. The floral shot proves this because depending on your preference, you could find any one of them to be the better one. The pinks, purples, and reds all have vibrant tones, while the yellows and greens get enough saturation to balance out the shots.

Winner: tie

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra colorful scene.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra colorful scene.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max colorful scene.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max colorful scene.

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Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra colorful scene.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra colorful scene.

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Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max colorful scene.
Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max colorful scene.

Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max: verdict

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra vs iPhone 15 Pro Max

Every photo tells a different story, as well as a different outcome. While our face-off dials into one set of images between all the categories, you’ll see in the galleries how there’s a common theme.

We’re referring to the undisputable stronger performance of the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s main camera — delivering the brighter image time after time, no matter the situation. However, the Galaxy S24 Ultra more than holds its own when it comes to portraits and low-light shots. And the S24 Ultra wins in the telephoto zoom department. It does come in very handy in certain conditions.

This Galaxy S24 Ultra vs. iPhone 15 Pro Max camera face-off shows why Apple’s flagship continues to top our best camera phones list, but you’ll still get excellent photo quality from Samsung’s flagship.

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