This post is brought to you by Samsung Malaysia.
Much like the voyagers of pretty much every major futuristic science fiction franchise, since the advent of the multi-camera smartphone, many major smartphone makers have had one singular goal in mind for their smartphone cameras: to go where no one has gone before. This borderline obsession with smartphone camera zooming has brought us far, of course, but none has brought us further than Samsung with the company’s latest Galaxy S20 series.
Aptly named the Space Zoom, Samsung’s new line of flagship handsets are not only the most capable phones the South Korean giant has ever made, but their crowning feature is that they can zoom further than any smartphone in the market right now. Up to a jaw-dropping 100X for those who don’t already know.
But how have they done this? What magic is being employed by the tech-wizards over at Suwon to achieve such a feat? Well, you know what they say: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. And in this case, it’s not magic, it’s just a classic tale of very advanced smartphone technology.
Super Resolution, super Space Zoom
To achieve the kind of reach that Samsung’s new Galaxy S20 series capable of, the smartphone utilises the powerful capabilities of AI and a high resolution camera sensor. When you zoom in on the Galaxy S20, the handset uses data captured from multiple camera sensors mounted on the smartphone to simulate the look of a lens with a long focal length.
Through the powers of AI multi-frame processing, which is basically an AI-powered digital zoom, the camera is able to ensure that even when you zoom in from far away, you’re still able to get a clear picture.
As a result, the Galaxy S20 and S20+ are able to zoom in up to 30X with their 64MP telephoto cameras. That said, to reach the 100X zoom that the Galaxy S20 Ultra is capable of, Samsung had to pull another trick out of their technology hats.
The folded lens
If you’ve been paying close attention, you might have noticed that the Galaxy S20 Utlra has a slightly thicker camera module than the other Galaxy S20 smartphones. But, there’s a very good reason for that because this smartphone has a camera that none of the other Galaxy S20 devices have.
And that, is the peculiar-looking square module. That is the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s secret sauce.
The basic mechanics of how far a camera lens can see is pretty straightforward. You have something called focal length and it represents the distance between the centre of a lens to its point of focus (in the camera, that’s the sensor), and it’s usually measured in milimetres. This focal length determines how “far” a lens can see and how much magnification it can provide. The longer the focal length, the further the camera can “see”.
However, while cameras can have lenses that are super long and enormous, smartphones don’t have that luxury because there simply isn’t much space in a phone. Which means, unless Samsung wanted to make a phone with a big protruding lens out the back, their options were limited.
As a result, they were forced to reengineer the lens and rely on a periscope design instead. In comes the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s folded lens, and it is an impressive feat of engineering.
Instead of having the light go directly into the sensor, Samsung bent the light at a 90-degree angle towards the sensor, forcing it to travel across the back of the smartphone instead. This meant that the company was able to put in a much longer lens without making the camera module at the back too wieldy, giving the phone much more reach.
Then, when they combined this with the AI multi-frame processing and all the other goodies they included in the Galaxy S20 and S20+, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is able to produce crisp 10X Hybrid Optic Zoom images as well as astonishing 100X Space Zoom images. To give you an illustration of what that looks like, here are a couple of photos taken with the Galaxy S20 Ultra along its zoom range.
If you’re interested in picking up the Samsung Galaxy S20 smartphones, you can pre-order them from Samsung Malaysia’s website today. If you pre-order the Galaxy S20+ or Galaxy S20 Ultra, you can get a pair of Galaxy Buds+ worth RM599 for free. Head here for more details.