Galaxy Ultra Telephoto: 2023’s 10x Zoom Reduced to 5x in 2024, Is This Progress?

What you should know

  • The new Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is getting a 5x optical zoom telephoto camera, a downgrade from the 10x optical zoom offered by its predecessor, the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
  • The new 5x optical zoom lens sits in front of a brand-new 50MP sensor, in contrast to the 10x optical zoom camera of the Galaxy S23, which is built on a 10MP sensor.
  • The Galaxy S24 Ultra achieves 10x zoom capabilities by cropping the image from the 50MP sensor, which can still yield high-quality results due to the high resolution.
  • The Galaxy S24 Ultra has a larger sensor and uses AI to enhance image processing and zoom capabilities.

Full Story

Samsung’s Galaxy S24 line is making waves, but it seems like they’re moving forward in reverse. Even if you’re not a Samsung fanatic, you’ve probably caught wind of their latest champion – the Galaxy S24 Ultra. This bad boy is getting a 5x optical zoom telephoto camera.

“So what?” you might ask. “The iPhone 15 Pro Max and the Google Pixel 8 Pro both offer 5x optical zoom.”

Well, you’re not wrong. But here’s the kicker: neither the iPhone 15 Pro Max nor the Pixel 8 Pro got their 5x optical zoom after a downgrade from their predecessors. The Galaxy S23 Ultra, on the other hand, boasted a 10x optical zoom telephoto camera.

So what happened?

On January 17, Samsung unveiled the new Galaxy S24 line in San Jose. The 90-minute live demo was heavy on the AI features of these Korean giants. And of course, the camera setups weren’t left out. After all, as the saying goes, “he who neglects the cameras shall not sell many phones, and will suffer greatly”.

In a short film that tugged at the heartstrings more than the brain, Samsung announced the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 5x optical zoom camera. They called it the “smartest AI-powered camera ever”.

But what’s the difference between the 5x and the 10x camera (apart from the obvious)? And does this mean the Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t offer 10x telephoto?

Well, no. You still get 10x zoom capabilities, just not 100% optical zoom. Let’s zoom in on that.

The new 5x optical zoom lens is paired with a brand-new 50MP sensor. This is a stark contrast to the 10x optical zoom camera of the Galaxy S23, which was built on a 10MP sensor. So, to achieve 10x zoom, the Galaxy S24 Ultra is essentially… cropping.

Wait, cropping? Isn’t that bad?

Well, not necessarily. Cropping can be good or bad, depending on the source. If you crop a low-resolution image, you’ll get poor results. But if you have a large-resolution image, you can crop a ton and still get nice final results.

Long story short, five times the megapixels is a big deal. But there’s more to consider.

There’s a debate about pixel size and its impact on photos. Some prefer the latest sensor with maximum pixels, while others prefer fewer, larger pixels. The more pixels on a same-sized sensor, the smaller they get. It’s like trying to fit 100 basketballs on a table that can only hold 20. You’d have to make them five times smaller.

Here’s the thing. The Galaxy S24 Ultra’s sensor is larger than the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s.

The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 10x camera packs a 1/3.52” sensor, while the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 5x camera has 1.6 times larger pixels. It’s not confirmed, but it’s likely the Galaxy S24 Ultra has a Sony IMX854 inside – a 1/2.52″ sensor.

Apart from a larger sensor and greater resolution to crop from, the Galaxy S24 Ultra has another trick up its sleeve – AI. Samsung’s new “Galaxy AI” isn’t just for Circle to Search features. It also aids image processing, including zoom capabilities.

We don’t want to spoil the surprise, but the new 5x optical zoom on the Galaxy S24 Ultra works pretty well as a 10x zoom.

Derrick Flynn
Derrick Flynn
With over four years of experience in tech journalism, Derrick has honed his skills and knowledge to become a vital part of the PhonesInsights team. His intuitive reviews and insightful commentary on the latest smartphones and wearable technology consistently provide our readers with valuable information.


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