Samsung Galaxy S24 in Gray (left) and OnePlus 12 in Flowy Emerald.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

For many people, a reason to upgrade their smartphone regularly is for the improved camera upgrades that companies include each year for flagship devices. We’re still early on in the year, and both Samsung and OnePlus have launched their next generation of flagship devices with the Galaxy S24 and OnePlus 12.

Both phones are powered with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 chip for fast performance, come with 8GB–16GB RAM, plenty of storage, and the latest version of Android 14. And to top things off, the cameras on both are impressive, with the OnePlus having slightly better specs.

If you’re looking at either of these phones for photography, which one gets the better photos? Let’s find out.

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. OnePlus 12: camera specs

Samsung Galaxy S24 in Gray (left) and OnePlus 12 in Flowy Emerald.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

Before diving into the photos, let’s examine the hardware we’re dealing with.

With the Samsung Galaxy S24, we don’t have any big improvements over last year’s Galaxy S23. The camera system is pretty much identical. We have a 50-megapixel main camera with f/1.8 aperture, a 10MP telephoto camera with f/2.4 aperture and 3x optical zoom, and a 12MP ultrawide lens with a 120-degree field of view (FOV) and f/2.2 aperture. On the front, we have a 12MP selfie camera.

OnePlus has added some nice upgrades to the camera system on the OnePlus 12 over its predecessor. For the OnePlus 12, we have a 50MP main shooter with an f/1.6 aperture, a 64MP periscope telephoto camera with f/2.6 aperture and 3x optical zoom, as well as a 48MP ultrawide camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 114-degree FOV. The selfie camera is 32MP with f/2.4 aperture. To top it all off, the OnePlus 12 continues the partnership with Hasselblad for enhanced color tuning.

Just going off specs, it seems like the OnePlus 12 has a more impressive camera system than the Galaxy S24. But how does all of this work in the real world?

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. OnePlus 12: main camera

Many people may primarily use just the main camera, so this is the one that counts the most. The Galaxy S24 and the OnePlus 12 have 50MP main shooters, so they should perform similarly, right?

Here’s the main flower bed at the end of Buena Vista Street in Disney California Adventure. There is usually festive decor here during the holiday season, but afterward, it returns to bright and lively flowers.

With the Galaxy S24 image, the colors really pop, thanks to Samsung’s tendency for vivid color saturation, even though that’s actually been toned down a bit in the S24 lineup from previous iterations. But for a picture like this, that over-saturation really is an advantage, as the OnePlus 12 version looks a little duller in comparison. Even the buildings and trees look a bit washed out with the OnePlus 12 image, but the S24 makes everything pop.

I took this image of the waterfront at Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure the day before a historic major storm rolled into the southland. For this one, the OnePlus 12 did a better job of making the colors pop out more for the buildings across the water, the red tubes of the Incredicoaster, and the yellow starburst behind Mickey’s face on the Pixar Pal-A-Round. If you look at the S24 version, those colors are a bit duller, oddly enough. But the S24 did a better job of showing the sun peeking through the clouds, whereas the OnePlus 12 is definitely washed out there. But in the end, I still prefer the OnePlus 12 version for this one.

Let’s take another, lesser-known view of Mickey’s Fun Wheel over at Pixar Pier. I say “lesser-known” because not many people have seen it from this point of view, where there’s a sliver of what looks like the beach.

Both phones do a good job of capturing the scene. However, there are some stark differences from a glance. The Galaxy S24 image appears a bit darker and duller, especially when it comes to the sand and bushes in the front. The blue sky that is peeking through is more vivid in the S24 image, though. But for everything else, the OnePlus 12 version appears sharper with the details, the colors definitely pop more, and it just looks more lively.

Disney California Adventure is celebrating the Lunar New Year, and this year, the festivities have extended into the Grand Californian Hotel as well. They have these dolls on display, which are actually baked by the hotel’s pastry team.

While the Galaxy S24’s photo makes the reds stand out, the rest of the colors don’t pop out nearly as much, and it didn’t quite capture the details in the background that well. The OnePlus 12 photo, however, makes everything quite vivid, though the red dress isn’t as red as it should be. But it also does a better job of even showing the fine textures and detail in the hair of the dolls, and you can make out the air vents in the background, too, which you can barely make out in the S24 version. The text on the hotel signage in the back is also much clearer with the OnePlus 12.

Winner: OnePlus 12

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. OnePlus 12: ultrawide camera

I typically don’t shoot with ultrawide cameras very frequently, but it does come in handy when you need to capture a larger scene or even a group of people. Between the Galaxy S24 and the OnePlus 12, it’s clear that the OnePlus 12 has the higher megapixel count for the ultrawide lens, but does it make that much of a difference?

Here’s a photo of a traditional Chinese long dragon kite inside the lobby of the Grand Californian Hotel. Though both pictures do a good job of capturing the dragon kite in its entirety, the OnePlus 12 image is much clearer with details in the entire scene, and the colors are much more accurate. The Galaxy S24 version makes the red look brighter, but it’s not true-to-life, and there is a lot of noise and blurry details in the image, especially when you look up at the ceiling. Everything looks clearer and sharper with the OnePlus 12 image, so yes, that higher megapixel count does matter!

This is a cool, yet creepy, sculpture for a store building at the Gardenwalk in Anaheim. Though both images look similar, upon further inspection, the S24 image once again is noisier and grainier on the painted wall and even the hands coming out. The OnePlus 12 does not have that noise in the wall, and the detail and texture of the black hair also look sharper and crisper. Even the grass on the ground is clearer in the OnePlus 12 image, whereas it looks like a muddled green mess in the Galaxy S24’s shot.

Winner: OnePlus 12

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. OnePlus 12: telephoto camera

Telephoto cameras have become more prominent on smartphones in recent years, and the Galaxy S24 and OnePlus 12 are no exception to that rule. How does the S24’s 10MP telephoto camera stack up to the OnePlus 12’s 64MP one?

Let’s take a look at this closeup of the Chinese dragon head hanging in the Grand Californian Hotel lobby. Again, the OnePlus 12 beats out the S24 with more clarity, detailed texture, and overall color profile, thanks to Hasselblad. The Galaxy S24 image does not show the finer texture detail in the mane, and it has more noise when you examine the ceiling and architecture in the background.

This is a 3x optical zoomed-in photo of a neighbor’s cactus plant that I can see from my backyard. Both images actually came out pretty good, with the Galaxy S24 being a tad more vibrant and having fewer dark shadows in the trees. I do feel that the OnePlus 12 does a slightly better job with the detail in the cactus spikes, but despite the S24 not having as many megapixels or even a periscope telephoto lens, it’s still quite good.

I snapped this quick 3x optical photo of a palm tree near my house. Though the OnePlus 12 has a better telephoto lens, this one didn’t come out great due to the dark shadow on most of the tree. The S24 image came out much clearer with fewer shadows and overall brighter, punchier colors.

The Galaxy S24’s telephoto camera holds its own for simple zooming jobs, but if you want the clearest and sharpest photos possible, the OnePlus 12 is the phone to choose.

Winner: OnePlus 12

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. OnePlus 12: portrait mode

Portrait mode is one of my favorite ways of shooting photos because the results tend to look professionally done, like with a DSLR. Of course, all smartphones use software for the portrait effect, so it’s not always perfect, but they’re pretty good nonetheless.

This is a portrait I took of my husband outside our home when the sun was setting. Since it was in direct sunlight, it was a bit tricky to deal with, but it looks like the OnePlus 12 did a much better job handling the skin tone and hoodie color. On the Galaxy S24, it looks like it made my husband appear more red/orange due to the sunlight, whereas the OnePlus 12 is more natural-looking. I also prefer the bokeh background blur that the OnePlus 12 produces over the S24.

I had my husband also take a portrait of me in the same spot with the light from the sunset. Again, the OnePlus 12 gets the skin tone more accurately, as I look like a tomato in the Galaxy S24 version. The shirt color is also more true-to-life with the OnePlus 12 image. I also noticed that the S24 image has given me a red pupil in one eye, and the edge detection against the bokeh background almost gives me Photoshop vibes.

I also sometimes like to use Portrait mode for inanimate objects, like this cute Oswald the Lucky Rabbit knit plush I found at the parks. Both images are similar, but the OnePlus 12 gets the color more accurately with the deep, rich blacks and blue shorts. With the Galaxy S24 image, the black is a tad lighter, and the red tongue is overly bright. The knit texture also appears more detailed with the OnePlus 12, and the overall focus is sharper in the OnePlus 12 picture.

Winner: OnePlus 12

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. OnePlus 12: lowlight and Night mode

For years, smartphones have struggled with lowlight photography, but it’s finally reaching a point where it’s pretty good, given the hardware.

This is a photo I took of a Chinese long dragon neon light display at the Gardenwalk during the evening the day before the rain storm hit. For some reason, the Galaxy S24 made the lights appear a bit too washed out and dull-looking, while the OnePlus 12 appears brighter and more vibrant. The lights also don’t look washed out, as evident by the visible red light going through the white eye. The white string lights in the image’s background (lower left) are also much clearer with the OnePlus 12, and you can also make out the building texture on the bottom floor better.

I also took a photo of this statue in the middle of the staircase leading up to the Chinese long dragon display. Again, the OnePlus 12 image looks better with detail, texture, and clarity, which the S24 seems to have some trouble with if you examine the wings and feet of the statue and the stone wall. I also much prefer the color profile of the OnePlus 12 image, especially the green plants, which is thanks to the Hasselblad color tuning.

Here’s a photo of a faux fireplace at an outside patio area of a Starbucks. The Galaxy S24 image is a bit dark and muddy looking with the wall texture, but the OnePlus 12 handled it very well, as you can see the individual lines in the stone. The colors of the fake fire are also more realistic with the OnePlus 12 image versus the S24, which made it appear a bit washed out overall.

One of my favorite outings with my husband is getting all-you-can-eat sushi. This is a serving of select carpaccio from a recent dinner, in which the lighting was a bit dim. As you can see, the OnePlus 12 image is brighter and crisper with texture detail, but the Galaxy S24 version is more accurate with the actual fish color, though the details are a bit muddier. It’s a bit of a toss-up for this one; this is more about personal preference.

I went to the park near my house at night (around 7:30 p.m.) and took this photo of the landmark monument there. I’m not a fan of how the Galaxy S24 photo overly brightens up the scene, as it looks a bit too artificial and washed out. The OnePlus 12 image is more true-to-life and brightens up the scene enough to where everything is clear, but it’s still evident that it’s nighttime. The S24 image feels like it’s trying to make it look like daytime with how bright everything appears.

Winner: OnePlus 12

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. OnePlus 12: selfie camera

I don’t often take a lot of selfies except when I’m at Disneyland because, hey, it’s the happiest place on Earth! But I also like taking selfies at other interesting places when the chance arises, of course.

This is a selfie I took while enjoying the scenery at Pixar Pier before the big storm. It appears that the OnePlus 12 photo has more accurate colors when it comes to the background, my Lunar New Year Minnie ears, and my shirt. However, I feel that the Galaxy S24 handled my skin tone more accurately, but the other colors are a smidge washed out. I do prefer the natural bokeh blur of the OnePlus 12, however (Portrait mode was off).

I snapped a quick portrait selfie in my backyard while the sun was out. Though the OnePlus 12 handled the color accuracy of the background and shirt better than the Galaxy S24 here, the S24 is a bit more accurate on the skin tone again. But oddly enough, the S24 gave the purple in the shirt a blue tint, so it appears off. Both are good images, but I’m leaning slightly more towards the OnePlus 12 again.

Here’s one more portrait selfie, again, in my backyard. Though I prefer the bokeh of the OnePlus 12, the edge detection looks a bit off on my hair on the left side, making it appear jagged and weird. And though I prefer the texture of my skin in the OnePlus 12 version, I’m not that pale looking, and the shirt and sky definitely look a bit too light. The Galaxy S24 handles the edge detection a bit better in this photo, and the color is more on point all around, especially skin tone and shirt color.

Winner: OnePlus 12

Samsung Galaxy S24 vs. OnePlus 12: verdict

Samsung Galaxy S24 in Gray (left) and OnePlus 12 in Flowy Emerald.
Christine Romero-Chan / Digital Trends

While both phones have a decent triple-lens camera setup, the higher specs for the OnePlus 12 clearly help it come out on top, especially with the Hasselblad color tuning. Though some Galaxy S24 images can turn out better than the OnePlus 12, it really depends on the lighting. And more often than not, the OnePlus 12 ends up taking the better photo.

Overall, if you want a new Android phone that has an impressive camera setup, then you really should consider the OnePlus 12 this year. It has received a big upgrade from the OnePlus 11, and the Hasselblad partnership gives it a big edge over most of the competition. And it’s not just the cameras on the OnePlus 12 that make it better — it also has an edge with battery life, much faster charging, and a higher resolution screen. The Galaxy S24 remains a great option, especially if you prefer smaller phones. But if you have $800 to spend on a phone this year and you value a good camera system, the OnePlus 12 is easily the way to go.

Editors’ Recommendations

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