Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 Review: It’s Not About the Camera

Galaxy Z Fold 4

Foldable phones can change how you take photos, but the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 won’t be the one to change image quality, if that’s what you’re looking for.

As Samsung continues to refine its vision for the foldable flagship, the array of cameras has been relegated to the background. The cameras are a legacy from the Galaxy S line of phones, and were present in every iteration. It’s the actual hinge and overall usability that continue to break ground for the Galaxy Z Fold line, and the cameras are really just along for the ride.

Despite swapping out the image sensor for the wide camera here, did Samsung do enough to make the camera array more viable and worthy of the hefty price for the Fold 4? The answer may be complicated.

Design and Build

Despite making this phone a tad lighter and thinner, it’s still one of the heaviest and thickest you can carry. Although it may not seem important, you will notice the difference over time.

The general design traits remain, though the 6. 2-inch Dynamic AMOLED Cover screen looks better. The larger 7. 6-inch dynamic AMOLED that reveals itself when you fold it open also benefits from smaller bezels. Although the hinge is smoother, it still produces a satisfying click when you close the phone. However, using this phone to take photos requires some muscle memory.

Galaxy Z Fold 4

Under the hood, the phone has no problem running apps and tasks. The new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chipset, along with 12GB of RAM and at least 256GB of storage, all come together nicely. You can browse photos, move them to Lightroom and Snapseed side-by side. If you wanted to edit the same photo using two apps at once, that is also easily done. That kind of utility is hard to find, and one reason why the Galaxy Z Fold 4 is unique as a mobile photography device.

The phone does support the S Pen, though only the Fold Edition or S Pen Pro, and you have no way of holstering either one unless you get a case. If you try any other S Pen, a warning will pop up onscreen that you could damage your screen. This phone is fragile in more ways than one, in spite of its IPX8 protection.

Camera Features

The wide camera in the rear is the same 50-megapixel ISOCELL GN5 image sensor (23mm equivalent) Samsung equipped in the Galaxy S22 and S22+. A new 10-megapixel telephoto camera (66mm equivalent) for the Fold 4 is also a recycled one from those two phones. Only the 12-megapixel ultra-wide (13mm equivalent) remains as a remnant for the rear camera array, an image sensor Samsung really likes to utilize where it can.

Much like the two S22 phones, the 50-megapixel sensor doesn’t shoot at full resolution by default. Pixel binning drops it to 12. 5-megapixels for better low-light shots, leaving the 50MP mode as an alternative when you want it. It’s not surprising that the interface feels almost identical to other Samsung phones.

The two front cameras share very little. Comparing the 10-megapixel camera on the Cover screen with the terrible 4-megapixel one trying to stay hidden under the larger screen is no contest. Apart from video calls, the latter fails as a photography option. Not that it matters as much because the foldable form factor enables anyone to take a selfie using the much better rear cameras anyway, as the Cover screen displays a preview to frame the shot.

Software Features

There are no real surprises with the camera app’s layout since the interface is the same as previous Fold smartphones. You will notice a difference in the way things feel and look when you use one of Samsung’s Folds. Shoot a photo from half the screen, and the resulting preview appears on the other half.

Galaxy Z Fold 4

Prop it up to rest on one side, and the controls move to the bottom half, leaving the top as a live view unimpeded by overlayed settings. It’s not unlike how you tap the display button on a DSLR or mirrorless camera enough to remove all the ancillary settings details. This also works when propping up the phone in portrait orientation, making the Galaxy Z Fold 4 one of the few phones that essentially has its own mounting ability.

It’s not a replacement for a tripod, but it is very convenient to use for Pro mode long exposures or for holding steady in dark Night mode shots. You may not be able keep your camera app open while using Lightroom or another editing program like Lightroom. It would even be possible to take photos while watching a tutorial on YouTube.

Galaxy Z Fold 4
Shot in Night Mode

Seeing all that does bring a certain novelty to the device from a photography perspective, even if the software offers nothing new otherwise. Samsung caught onto this by including these usability points as part of its marketing campaign for the Fold 4.

Image Quality

Main camera

Getting the Galaxy Z Fold 4 to take photos means accepting a weird contrast. It’s not often you see a phone that starts at $1,800, yet shoots like one that’s closer to $800. It’s not that you can’t capture good photos, but putting it all into context draws a clearer distinction. For instance, the Google Pixel 6a starts at $449 and can deliver output on par with this phone.

Galaxy Z Fold 4

I knew what I was getting with the Fold 4 because I had previously used the Galaxy S22+ and S22. These results show that solid images can be achieved in many conditions. However, they are not as good as premium devices. Maybe people don’t want the Fold 4 for its camera, but if it is a factor for you, you have to measure expectations.

Galaxy Z Fold 4

The good news is this iteration offers a decidedly better image sensor than the previous Folds had. Day and low-light shots are better all around. Pro mode allows you to shoot in RAW, but noise can still be an issue. Samsung also added Expert RAW support, though you have to find that app through the Galaxy Store to get it going. This allows you to improve your RAW output and save settings to create custom presets that you can use whenever needed.

Galaxy Z Fold 4

At least it’s easier to shoot hands-free when flat surfaces are available to you. The wide camera is the most popular option for taking selfies, and it has been the subject of much experimentation.

Ultra-wide and Telephoto

Again, nothing shocking happens with either of these two lenses. The ultra-wide image sensor has made the rounds so much even the Galaxy A53 uses it. The image quality is identical to the original, the only difference being the adjustments Samsung makes to the software. Images aren’t bad at all, though it’s hard to see ultra-wide photos looking much better than they did last year.

Galaxy Z Fold 4

The telephoto lens is an improvement, and even hybrid zoom benefits from the better sensor Samsung went with here. Going this route also increased the optical zoom from 2x to 3x, increasing the equivalent focal length from 52mm to 66mm. Hybrid zoom shots up to 10x are pretty good, too. Low-light or night shots can be rough. Active subjects are more stable, but the ultra-wide lens will not cause jittery hands.

Galaxy Z Fold 4

Video Features

Video is better because of the better sensor for the wide camera, and you do get all the modes you would find in other current Samsung phones. The Fold 4’s unique design does make video recording an interesting exercise, partly because you can get a better grip on it, and because you can prop it up to shoot from more interesting angles.

A High-End Folding Smartphone with a Mid-Range Camera

Granted, you pay a premium for the Galaxy Z Fold 4 because of its design and screen real estate, not for the camera array it offers. You could argue the flagship Galaxy S22 Ultra was the opposite. The flagship Galaxy S series, in the absence of the Galaxy Note is the one that sets the standard for Samsung’s mobile photo progress.

The Fold 4 doesn’t move the needle forward at all, it’s merely a collection of Samsung image sensors put together to incrementally improve image quality on the company’s most expensive phone. The foldable design is a unique and useful feature that you can’t find anywhere else. There’s also value in it for its creativity, which makes it not just mediocre. Maybe the market research by Samsung for its Fold range indicates that the camera’s importance is lower. I have no idea, but going forward, this phone will have to be capable of capturing better images.

Are There Alternatives?

The Galaxy Z Fold 4 stands within a still nascent subset of smartphones. Foldables aren’t abundant, but if you wanted something like it in a more common design, the Galaxy Z Flip 4 might be up your alley. If you want similar results from a camera perspective, the Galaxy S22+ will deliver that to you.

On a tighter budget, the Pixel 6a is a fraction of the price and is arguably the best in its class. When your budget allows, and you want something few others have, the Vivo X70 Pro+ still offers one of the best camera arrays on the market.

Should You Buy It?

Not for the camera. You might be interested in the possibility of using a folding phone for your personal use, even though the camera is limited.