The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is a reliable slab phone contender for one of this year’s best phones. The S23 Ultra has a good balance of components, and the two notable upgrades over the S22 Ultra are the primary camera and the SOC.
The S23 Ultra uses Qualcomm’s best Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, which uses the 4nm TSMC node. It’s a perfect balance of efficiency and performance, and no heating issues exist. The ISP is leagues ahead of others, and the GPU supports Ray Tracing. Another major upgrade was the primary camera sensor. The S22 Ultra uses a 108MP sensor, and the S23 Ultra moves to the 200MP 1/1.3″ HP2 sensor.
The S23 Ultra is a balanced package with a great screen, good performance, fairly decent cameras, and great software. What more could Samsung improve with upcoming generations? A tipster, RGCloudS on X, has recently leaked Samsung’s entire upgrade timeline for the forthcoming series in S of phones until the S29 Ultra. Most of the changes are related to the camera system, so that’s what this post will focus on.
We don’t know how credible this timeline is. Many changes could happen in between due to management decisions. As a result, Samsung could port over some features earlier, and they could delay others. We don’t recommend following this timeline word for word and taking it at face value since the source’s reliability is questionable.
Upgrades for the Galaxy S24 Ultra
The S23 Ultra currently uses the HP2 200MP sensor. However, this sensor is apparently nerfed and isn’t being used to its full potential. Samsung has intentionally kept the best of the HP2 sensor for future generations. Instead of using the sensor to its full potential on the S23 Ultra, the S24 Ultra and the S25 Ultra will apparently unlock the true HP2 sensor.
The current version has many apparent problems. There’s severe noise, especially in low light, and the shutter speed could use a lot of work. It’s not great for action photos, and the software compensates for organic sharpness too much, resulting in an over-sharpened and unpleasant look in many scenes.
Samsung isn’t the only company to do this. The 1″ IMX989 sensor on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra was massively inconsistent. However, the 13 Ultra is much more reliable. Similarly, the IMX803 on the iPhone 14 Pro couldn’t do 24MP binning or Smart HDR 5, but the next generation can. Samsung is doing the same with the S24 Ultra. It’ll get a more advanced version of the HP2 sensor that will marginally improve on all the weaknesses, notably video quality and Dynamic Range. Samsung will apparently call this the HP2SX.
Zoom system for the S24 Ultra
The Galaxy S24 Ultra could take two different routes with the zoom. Early mockups show that the phone sticks with quad cameras, so we will probably still get two lenses for two different zoom magnifications. However, we shouldn’t take early renders seriously. Samsung could adopt a triple-camera system too.
One possibility is a large 1/2.52″ sensor with a 5X lens and the same 1/3.52″ 10MP 3X lens. This dual telephoto setup is effective. Samsung is apparently altogether abandoning the 10X periscope and focusing on a more practical 5X range. Another possibility is that Samsung will use one large 5X lens, similar to the iPhone and Pixel. In other upgrades, we’ll get the new 8 Gen 3 chip with better performance, a brighter 2400 Nits panel, and possibly better battery life.
Galaxy S25 Ultra
The S25 Ultra will finally get the best possible version of the HP2 sensor. If you recall, Samsung already did this with the S20 Ultra. The S20 Ultra, 21 Ultra, and 22 Ultra had the same 1/1.33″ 108MP primary sensor. However, the S22 Ultra had the best version of it. We’re seeing a similar trend. The S25 Ultra will get the HP2SP, the best version of Samsung’s 200MP sensor.
There’s another HP5/7 sensor, which is also presumably 200MP. Samsung will apparently use this sensor for a future telephoto or periscope camera. The S26 Ultra will obviously have more megapixels than 200MP, though it’ll decrease the overall effective Pixel size. This would make it look like a downgrade on paper.
The zoom on the S25 Ultra is taking a different trajectory. It’ll get a high-quality 50MP 4X telephoto and a 6X periscope. We’re unsure if EVC and Ultra Dynamic Range will be possible, but a new encoding tech is coming. It’ll also come with LPDDR6 10nm RAM UFS 4.1 storage. The S25 Ultra will apparently get a major resolution upgrade to 4K. Samsung could use Stacked Battery technology on the S25 Ultra. For cost reasons, they could delay it to the S26 Ultra.
Galaxy S26 Ultra
The sensor will get a new 324MP primary sensor, which Samsung will call HR1. It’ll support multiple Pixel Binning formats like 9MP, 25MP, and 50MP. How nanopillars work is beyond the scope of this post, but it’ll have much better light capture ability. The 4K AMOLED display will continue. The HP5/7 200MP periscope telephoto will apparently not make its way even to the S26 Ultra.
Galaxy S27 Ultra
Samsung will finally use the HP5/7 200MP periscope camera. The HR1SX 324MP sensor will bring more refinements and get a variable aperture back. The major upgrade is the use of metalens. It’s different from a plastic lens; it’s much thinner and needs a DUV machine for optimal results. Since it could stretch up to 25%, Samsung is, unfortunately, removing the ultra-wide for the S27 Ultra.
The metalens can stretch to 18mm for a slightly wider FOV, though it’ll remain at 24mm for its main focal length. While 18mm isn’t really wide, it was necessary to use metalens without sacrificing battery capacity. From 4X zoom to 5X zoom, this sensor can do it optically. Thanks to the metalens, it can also do 18mm to 1X optically. We don’t know about pixel binning information yet, and Samsung could limit the zoom to either 100X or 200X digital with AI and sensor crop.
Galaxy S28 Ultra
Beginning with this model and the previous model, Samsung is apparently planning to end the era of smartphones with ultra-thick camera bumps. We’ll return to nice flat smartphone back designs that easily rest on a table. This phone will also have the full version of the 324MP HR1SP sensor. Thanks to the metalens, it’ll get lossless zoom up to 6X and then can transition to 7X. The periscope could get 8X optical zoom and up to 36X lossless zoom. Upto even 180X good quality zoom is possible.
Galaxy S29 Ultra
The S29 Ultra will apparently get the HV1 576MP 1″ sensor. There are also improvements to the telephoto zoom and a lot more variable aperture. Samsung will obviously use this sensor in the coming few models after the 29 Ultra, and the plans beyond this are unknown.