Fears that Samsung might downgrade the Galaxy S24 Ultra's camera capabilities from the S23 Ultra seem unfounded in light of the company's latest teaser videos released ahead of this month's much-anticipated Galaxy Unpacked event — but there's a catch.
January 6 update below: Article originally published on January 3.
In the latest official announcement titledZoom comes with Galaxy AI,” the company reveals a series of images of a hot air balloon showing at least 10x camera zoom range with an eerie effect that appears to magnify individual objects in a scene to comical proportions.
That 10x zoom range wasn't chosen by chance – the Galaxy S24 Ultra is expected to “downgrade” the Galaxy S23 Ultra's powerful 10x optical telephoto lens to a 5x version, albeit with a higher sensor resolution of 50 megapixels. The current model has just 10 megapixels.
The hot air balloon images seem to have been taken in low light, often at dawn. These are challenging conditions for long-range telephoto optics like these, which typically capture less light than a prime wide-angle lens. Here, the gap between 5x and 10x magnification is filled using digital zoom and new AI processing, with digital zoom greatly aided by the new 5x camera's higher 50-megapixel resolution.
The “object zoom” effect revealed in later video clips is difficult to pin down. The videos show a woman performing a masterful pinch-to-zoom gesture, first on a plush toy and then on an ice cream cone, both expanding to enormous dimensions in real time. It's a completely different feature, but it and the low-light zoom feature above fall under the “Zoom with Galaxy AI” banner.
Both of these new features bear a striking resemblance to some of Samsung's recently leaked components Eureka AI software; In fact, downloading the official teaser videos reveals filenames containing the word “Eureka”. Specifically, the Eureka AI is expected to include new “Nitography Zoom” and “Generative Edit” functions, which seem to match the features Samsung is teasing now.
One catch is that some Eureka features will require a Samsung account and internet connection, suggesting that at least some of the AI-based features will be processed in the cloud rather than on the device.
While this may leave some of these features open to older Samsung smartphones like the Galaxy S23 Ultra, Samsung may take a hybrid approach that requires some hardware features for this cloud-based implementation. , like Google's “Video Boost” feature, is currently exclusive to the flagship Pixel 8 Pro.
Despite the many leaks surrounding the S24 Ultra's radically different camera hardware and now new AI software, it's shaping up to be an exciting new release for Samsung.
All will be revealed in “Galaxy Unpacked” on January 17.
Update: January 5.
A new insider brings more good news about the Galaxy S24 Ultra's zoom camera. A well-known leaker called Ice Universe claims to have seen sample photos taken with the Galaxy S24 Ultra at 10x zoom, which are “definitely” better than those taken with the current Galaxy S23 Ultra.
The leaker also points out that Samsung hasn't finished improving the Galaxy S24 Ultra's camera software, suggesting there's still room for further improvements ahead of its January 17 launch. This latest update completely contradicts the same leaguer's statement on November 24. Last year, when they said, “The bad news is that the Galaxy S24 Ultra's new telephoto camera has some issues.” and “Photos taken at 10x are all noise.”
This significant improvement in quality in just a few weeks suggests that Samsung has significantly improved its image processing algorithms over previous generations. While the S24 Ultra can already beat its predecessor at 10x, its superior image processing puts it in a solid position to perform well at magnifications higher than 10x, despite missing out on the S23 Ultra's 10x telephoto optics.
Update: January 6.
Ice Universe has more good news for Samsung fans in the form of a significant improvement in how video zoom will work on the upcoming Galaxy S24 Ultra.
According to the leaker's latest information, the Samsung flagship will “change all cameras, including the front-facing ones, when recording 4K 60 fps video.”
The same leaker previously reported that the Galaxy S24 Ultra can shoot 4K video at 120fps. However, there is no word on whether the camera-switching option will be available at this higher frame rate.
The ability to switch between physical cameras on the fly is an important upgrade for video, as it allows the phone to maintain better quality when zooming in and out. However, it relies on clever image processing techniques to hide any confusing transitions between lenses. Higher frame rates require faster processing, which is one reason why this feature may not be available when shooting at higher speeds. It remains to be seen how well Samsung can implement this functionality.
Alternatively stick with the lens you started your recording with and rely on low-quality digital zoom and image processing to change the amount of magnification. Quality differences aside, and more importantly, there's no way to digitally zoom past the point you started without changing lenses – if you need to change to a wider angle, you have to stop recording, change lenses and start another video.
The ability to quickly switch to the front-facing camera without interrupting recording is also handy if you want to react quickly without interrupting your flow.
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