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Can this Ultra phone with a 200MP tele camera out-zoom the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra?

Can this Ultra phone with a 200MP tele camera out-zoom the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra?

The vivo X100 Ultra is a flagship Android phone through and through when you look at the spec sheet. Snapdragon 8 Gen 3? Yep. A 5,500mAh battery with fast wired and wireless charging? Indeed. IP68 rating? Naturally.

The phone’s biggest selling point, however, has to be its 200MP 3.7x periscope camera. This is the highest-resolution telephoto camera we’ve ever seen on a smartphone, beating even the HONOR Magic 6 Pro’s 160MP 2.5x camera.

Are all these megapixels enough to beat the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra at camera zoom? Well, I brought the phones with me on a trip to Taipei for Computex 2024 for a mega zoom shootout. Let’s see which Ultra camera phone comes out on top!

Does the X100 Ultra’s 200MP telephoto camera beat the S24 Ultra at zoom?

Vivo’s 200MP 3.7x telephoto camera uses an Isocell HP9 sensor paired with an f/2.67 aperture. The latter aperture is pretty wide for a telephoto shooter, being slightly wider than the Pixel 8 Pro‘s periscope lens.

By contrast, the Galaxy S24 Ultra offers a 50MP 5x periscope camera (f/3.4) and a 10MP 3x shooter (f/2.4). That 50MP sensor, in particular, has larger pixels than the X100 Ultra’s 200MP sensor but a smaller aperture. So, which solution reigns supreme?

The Galaxy S24 Ultra and X100 Ultra bring dramatically different hardware to this camera zoom fight.

Starting with long-range zoom scenes (20x and higher), you only need to look at this 20x scene of a crane to realize that the X100 Ultra can deliver a more natural image with more detail and less sharpening. We do see a more contrasted look from the vivo phone, but Samsung’s device goes a little too far in the saturated direction.

Pinch into a maximum of 100x and we can see that those extra megapixels are put to good use. The Samsung image devolves into a splotchy mess, with the various crane features all losing their definition. By contrast, the X100 Ultra image looks much cleaner. Neither phone’s images are detailed, but the vivo picture still looks far more usable.

Galaxy S24 Ultra 100x
Vivo X100 Ultra 100x

The following comparison showcases a giant gulf in image quality. I tried tapping to focus several times on the S24 Ultra, but the viewfinder remained resolutely blurry for this 100x scene. Whether that was just a bug or the actual 100x result, it’s disappointing either way.

What about shorter-range shots, though? This isn’t quite an apples-and-apples comparison, as the S24 Ultra brings 3x and 5x cameras, while the vivo handset offers a solitary 3.7x shooter. Still, we’re curious to see what that ultra-high-resolution camera can do at shorter range.

We start with a park scene taken at 3x on the S24 Ultra and 3.7x on the X100 Ultra. Both cameras deliver perfectly good images at first glance, but a closer look reveals a flatter image from Samsung, along with more noise. What’s particularly interesting is that while the X100 Ultra’s image is significantly sharper at the center (check the skyscraper and trees), detail and sharpness fall off a cliff on the edges. That means the S24 Ultra is able to deliver a comparable amount of detail in this area, albeit with more noise. We’re guessing this is a focusing issue for the vivo device. Check out the crop below.

vivo X100 Ultra 3.7x
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra 3x

How about a 5x shot, though? The Galaxy S24 Ultra should be at an advantage here as it’ll be shooting at its periscope camera’s native focal length. But the X100 Ultra has plenty of megapixels to work with.

Samsung’s phone clearly brings plenty of detail, but we do see a more saturated look than what the scene actually looked like, while the duck on the right is fairly blown out. Pixel-peeping also reveals more noise in general on the Samsung image. By contrast, the X100 Ultra brings a more realistic color profile and manages to tame the duck’s white feathers. Not bad when you consider the vivo handset isn’t shooting at its native zoom factor.

What about low-light situations? The S24 Ultra brings larger pixels while the X100 Ultra brings more pixels and an f/2.67 aperture.

Starting with the 3x and 3.7x shots, the vivo image is warmer and seems a little brighter, although both phones did a solid job of illuminating the scene (and your mileage might vary when it comes to brightness). However, the phone also pushes things too far with sharpening and AI tomfoolery. Check out the number plate on the first car in the vivo image, as well as the overly shiny rain drops on the cars. By contrast, the S24 Ultra’s 3x 10MP image has some graininess and less detail but delivers a more natural-looking snap. Not bad for a 10MP 3x camera.

The vivo X100 Ultra reigns supreme at long range, but Samsung’s processing pays off in some situations.

Both phones do a good job at 5x, it must be said. The Samsung phone takes a cooler image compared to the X100 Ultra’s warmer rendition, but it’s tough to see any huge differences in terms of detail and noise levels.

Vivo also offers a variety of new features, with its so-called stage mode being one of the more hyped additions. This discrete mode promises to capture better images of performers at concerts, conferences, and other stage-based scenarios. Check out the results below.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra 20x
vivo X100 Ultra 20x

The good news is that noise and highlights are tamed in stage mode, and we don’t have that oil painting effect. However, the noise reduction is especially aggressive, resulting in people who look like they’re made out of wax. Stage mode also opts for washed-out hues. Meanwhile, Samsung’s images at this focal length often showcase hideous smearing due to over-sharpening. Highlights can be blown out too, while color reproduction and temperature are way off. I’d probably share the vivo shot instead, but there’s plenty of room for improvement from both phones.

Stage mode clearly isn’t a silver bullet for your concert snaps, but I was still able to get good results at times, as the image below shows. It certainly helps that the execs were standing still for a photo opportunity, but it’s not bad at all for a 20x snap.

Credit: Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

In any event, it’s clear the X100 Ultra beats Samsung’s best when it comes to long-range zoom snaps. It’s not a slam-dunk, though, owing to occasionally overprocessed images and some inconsistent results.

What else can the X100 Ultra and its 200MP camera do?

Credit: Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

The X100 Ultra also brings full-resolution 200MP shots at 3.7x, which sounds like a tantalizing prospect on paper. This feature suggests that you should be able to take 200MP snaps and forego hybrid zoom in favor of cropping after the fact. These full-resolution photos can certainly give you plenty of scope to crop in ideal conditions. The full-resolution mode defaults to a still-binned 50MP and I found that these could be noisier than the full 200MP shots on occasion.

The 200MP crop lacks the processing seen in 10x shots, resulting in blown highlights and/or reduced dynamic range in some scenes (see below). You’ll still want to take 10x snaps for the improved processing, but it’s neat to see the amount of raw detail we can glean from a crop at times.

By far the biggest issue I have with most of these full-resolution telephoto snaps is the level of noise. Zoom into many images after the fact, and it’s painfully obvious that vivo can’t escape the laws of physics. Those tiny photo sites on the 200MP sensor just aren’t gathering enough light. Still, this comparison does once again highlight the fact that vivo sometimes goes overboard with sharpening.

200MP crop
10x crop

Despite its proclivity to over-sharpen scenes at times, the X100 Ultra is capable of taking some lovely shots across its various focal lengths. Color reproduction and dynamic range are generally on point, while there’s a healthy level of detail in most conditions, too. And yes, that 200MP camera is still capable of some neat macro snaps. In saying so, I did find that low-light portraits were prone to depth errors and over-processing.

The X100 Ultra also offers a great variety of video-related features. Perhaps the most notable addition is a 4K/120fps slow-motion option on both the main and tele cameras. I’d love to see smoother 240fps video at 1440p, but the combo of 4K/120fps video and a telephoto camera is cool nonetheless.

The X100 Pro’s Cinematic Portrait video mode is back again, and it’s still the closest Android has come to matching Apple’s Cinematic Mode. Meanwhile, Ultra Stabilization video mode now matches Apple’s maximum 2.8K/60fps Action mode, and there’s also a 4K/60fps Dolby Vision option. In saying so, vivo still hasn’t completely eliminated judder when panning, an issue that has persisted since at least 2021’s X60 Pro Plus.

You can check out full-resolution photo samples in our Google Drive folder.

What’s the vivo X100 Ultra like to use as a phone?

Credit: Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

The vivo X100 Ultra is effectively the X100 Pro Snapdragon Edition, with the X100 Pro’s Dimensity 9300 chipset swapped out in favor of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip. I had absolutely no complaints about real-world performance, as multitasking, launching apps, and the camera all worked fluidly for the most part. The only time I saw any real hitches was when I was capturing full-resolution 200MP shots, as the phone would take several seconds to process these images before you could capture another one. Otherwise, games like Genshin Impact and retro game emulators all worked smoothly here.

I had no complaints about battery life, either, which isn’t a surprise given the 5,500mAh battery. I was able to regularly get over seven hours of screen-on time, even with heavier usage (e.g. camera, music streaming, some GPS navigation). The phone brings your choice of 80W wired or 30W wireless charging, and the former took just under 50 minutes to go from zero to 100% when using a separate 120W vivo charger. You do get a 90W charger in the box, but this doesn’t offer USB-PD support.

From performance to battery life and more, the vivo X100 Ultra generally lives up to its Ultra moniker.

The X100 Ultra also brings vivo’s China-only Origin OS skin, and that’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the skin has some slick widgets and plenty of features. Then again, the software is clearly inspired by iOS given the lack of an app drawer by default and the separate notification shade and quick settings menu. Fortunately, installing Google services is as simple as sideloading the Play Store, while Google Wallet works just fine. But do be warned that Android Auto and Quick Share won’t work. There’s also vivo’s mediocre update policy to contend with, as it promises three years of OS updates and four years of security patches — both below the seven years of support from Samsung and Google.

Credit: Hadlee Simons / Android Authority

The vivo X100 Ultra clearly stands out as one of the top camera phones on the market. There are loads of camera-related features to play with, and that 200MP telephoto lens is more than a match for the Galaxy S24 Ultra in several areas.

However, it’s clear that more megapixels aren’t always better. That 200MP telephoto camera definitely boosts long-range zoom quality, but full-resolution 200MP snaps are no substitute for zooming in before the fact. The company also needs to dial back its occasionally heavy-handed image processing, especially as rivals like the Xiaomi 14 Ultra and Pixel 8 Pro opt for more natural-looking snaps.

The vivo X100 Ultra clearly stands out as one of the top camera phones, even if you’ll struggle to buy one.

The biggest strike against the X100 Ultra is its China-only release, though, and that’s a shame when you’ve got such a premium package. Starting at 6,499 yuan (~$898) for the 12GB/256GB model, the phone is reasonably priced for what you get in its local market, though if the €1,199 price of the vivo X100 Pro is anything to go by, it’s unlikely the Ultra would’ve been quite so affordable if it had dropped in other regions.

Regardless, here’s hoping the company refines its approach with the inevitable X200 Ultra and brings it to global markets so it can properly go head-to-head with the very best Android can offer.

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