Samsung has packed the S21 Ultra with some remarkable technology. Top of which are the five cameras they have packed into this small package that not only gets you amazing selfies and wide shots but boasts AI-enhanced telemetrics that claims up to 100 times zoom. While that sounds impressive what can you actually expect when zoomed in that far, or anywhere up to that point?
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Quick Techy Stuff
Unlike the S20 the S21 includes to telephoto lens. One that shoots optically from 1.1 up to 3. Another that shoots optically from 3.1 to 10. Anything beyond 10 is all digital zoom. In other words, all the phone is doing is cropped the main image to zoom/focus on whatever target you are looking at. You’ll that the AI helps clear up some blurriness but it can’t completely defy the laws of physics when it comes to sensor size and optics.
It’s still intriguing to see just how close we can get to not needing a full-fledge DSLR for most shots as Samsung claimed during their introduction presentation for the S21 Ultra. Will the Samsung S21 Ultra replace a DSLR? We’ll let the results speak for themselves.
Here is the reference image without any zoom. At this point, we are using the main 1x 108-megapixel camera.
We are going to zoom into the supporting gantry for the sky lift at the top of the mountain. at the moment it is just a spec in the distance. Using Google Earth we are roughly 3,600 feet, or about 1,100 meters away.
At two times zoom we are now utilizing the 3x telephoto lens. We can start making out the sky lift gantry a little more. This is still a mostly optical zoom which looks great.
At four times zoom we are now utilizing the 10x telephoto lens. The gantry is growing large and more detailed along with the radio tower which on its own is 400 feet or 125 meters further away from the sky lift gantry.
At ten times zoom we are at the max of the almost purely optical capabilities of the S21 Ultra. We can make out some pretty good detail of the gantry and the sky lift station roof supports. This alone is absolutely amazing considering how far away we are and in how small of a package this is contained in.
At thirty times zoom we are starting to enter the hybrid camera setup. We are maxed out on the 10x optical zoom and are starting to use the AI to enhance the digital zoom. To be clear at this point the phone is merely cropping into the 10x photo and using the AI to improve the results with the available data. We can start to see that while we can make out smaller pieces on the gantry that we couldn’t before, as a while it is not as sharp as the 10 times zoom. Now let’s pump it up to 100!
At 100 times zoom we are at the max of the phone’s capabilities. Not that most people would even need this much, to begin with. Unfortunately, while the idea of 100 times zoom is cool and technically we are doing it, the results are not exactly usable. At this point, it’s more of something to marvel at but there is no more detail in this shot than there was at 30x that can’t be seen by zooming into it after the show was taken.
While the results of the 100x zoom is not exactly clear it is still amazing tech. I have a feeling most people will still get amazing shots using the camera’s 10x zoom. I also feel confident that with future updates to the processing software we will get better results at those hybrid zoom levels.
In my opinion, this phone can’t replace a DSLR just yet but seeing the direction that smartphone manufactures are going, be it Samsung or Apple, it won’t be long before a majority of people even at the pro-cumer level can get the shots they want using just their phone.