Is 30x Space Zoom really good now?

Is 30x Space Zoom really good now?
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera module closeup at an angle

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

There is no doubt that smartphone images have become the key marketing feature of flagships in recent years. While Google has mostly focused on computational imaging, Vivo and Oppo have been championing low-light photography. Meanwhile, with the Galaxy S22 Ultra, Samsung goes straight to zoom.

Read more: Samsung Galaxy S22 Buyer’s Guide

I’ve never really cared much for telephoto cameras on smartphones. Sure, they’ve come in handy on occasion, especially at concerts. My trusty old OnePlus 5 did a decent job of capturing the moment at multiple music festivals while dancing in the front row. However, it’s hard to ignore the significant deterioration in quality, and I’ve never found the zoom range to be enough. I usually stick with the prime and ultra wide lenses.

Black Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra vs Black Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra on bench

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Last year’s Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra with its Space Zoom feature did very little to change your mind. It wasn’t much of an improvement over the previous S20 Ultra. The 10x zoom lens wasn’t the sharpest, and the much talked about 30x and 100x zoom images were useless. Fast-forward to 2022 and ten days later with the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, I have only one conclusion left: wow, what a difference a year can make!

The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s zoom quality improvements showcase the power of an improved image processing pipeline.

While the camera sensors haven’t changed from last year’s model, the beefed-up image signal processor and improved algorithms have made a big difference. I can only vouch for the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1-equipped S22 Ultra, but Samsung is clearly harnessing the power of the new 18-bit Snapdragon Sight ISP that captures significantly more data points. Combine that with improved AI algorithms and the results are eye-opening. Yes, I am aware that Google has done a great job with super resolution zoom, but it just doesn’t have the usable range that the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra offers. It’s that versatility that has me reaching for the zoom switch more often than I expected.

Dig deeper: How optical, digital and hybrid camera zoom works

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra cat 30x

Dhruv Butani / Android Authority

30x shot of a cat

Returning from my car, I came across a cat perfectly positioned for a quick test of the S22 Ultra’s zoom capabilities. At 30x zoom, there’s more than enough definition and detail to create a great social media-ready shot.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 30x

Dhruv Butani / Android Authority

30x interior plan of the restaurant menu

Meanwhile, while waiting for a server to bring me my menu, I spotted one on a table in the far corner of the restaurant. Obviously, I took out the S22 Ultra to zoom in and take a picture. It’s far from a perfect image, but there’s enough detail here to tell the brunch specials apart. Victory.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra monument 100x

Dhruv Butani / Android Authority

100x shot of a monument

You never know when curiosity strikes. Seeing the dome of a local monument, I decided to take a closer look at the architecture. The 30x zoom shot gets you close enough to make out individual details on the build. Is it time to get a little closer? Unsurprisingly, the 100x zoom is a blurry mess, but you’ll certainly get discernible detail when the time comes. Just make sure there is enough sunlight.

Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra park 30x

Dhruv Butani / Android Authority

Take 30x of a park

There are obvious limits to what you can do here. Shutter lag aside, there’s an inherent sluggishness when capturing scoped shots. While my attempts to capture a squirrel running in the park were an absolute failure, the 30x zoom worked in a pinch to get me a little closer to the subject without moving from my position.

The Galaxy S22 Ultra’s zoomed-in shots aren’t perfect, but they are a stepping stone to much better digital zoom.

Look, the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra’s digital zoom isn’t going to win any photography awards. There’s a noticeable softness to the visuals, and all too often you’ll run into the limitations of the AI ​​algorithms. Bright colors often turn neon and details get quite blurry once the light starts to dim.

More images: Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera first impressions

However, it is difficult not to be surprised by the frequency with which they can get a usable shot. I’m still not a big fan of Samsung’s high-saturation color science, but the company deserves credit for the huge year-over-year improvement it shows in the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra. Ultra-long-range zoom is no longer a gimmick and I can’t wait to see what Samsung achieves with the next generation of chipsets and sensors.

How often do you zoom in on your phone?

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