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Samsung thinks 200MP tele cameras are the next big thing, and we can't wait

Better long-range zoom and improved portraits are two big reasons to want this tech on your next phone.

Published onSeptember 19, 2023

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra 200MP camera mode
Robert Triggs / Android Authority
  • Samsung Semiconductor is hinting at 200MP telephoto cameras coming to phones.
  • The company says 200MP tele cameras would offer better portraits and zoom quality.
  • Rumors persist that the vivo X100 Pro Plus could be the first phone with a 200MP tele lens.

We’ve seen smartphones with 200MP cameras launching in the last 12 months, but these sensors are typically confined to the main camera. Now, Samsung Semiconductor has hinted at 200MP telephoto cameras, and this development could be a major upgrade for several reasons.

Samsung posted an article on its website, calling 200MP telephoto cameras the “next big thing in smartphone photography.” For starters, the company notes that a telephoto camera is preferable for portrait shots due to reduced distortion compared to shooting with a main camera sensor. Check out the comparison below.

However, the company explains that telephoto camera sensors tend to be much smaller than primary camera sensors. This disparity typically results in a significant quality gap between primary and tele cameras. So a bigger telephoto sensor should narrow that image quality gap while also offering a shallower depth-of-field, enabling the blurry background that you want for portrait shots in the first place.

More megapixels means more cropping

Samsung also rightfully points out that super high-resolution sensors like 200MP cameras are able to deliver lossless cropped zoom thanks to all those megapixels (see the comparison below). In fact, we’ve already seen the mid-range Realme 11 Pro Plus using a 200MP main camera to deliver 4x lossless zoom. This is only lossless in terms of resolution as the camera isn’t able to use pixel-binning to improve image quality as it’s able to do at 1x, but it’s still a step above typical digital zoom.

A 200MP sensor therefore seems like a significant upgrade for telephoto cameras, and Samsung seems to agree:

For example, on a 3x telephoto module with a 200MP sensor, lossless zoom scenarios can be run from 3x to 6x to 12x.

In fact, we’d bet that Android OEMs could get solid results beyond 12x too, depending on their software processing smarts. After all, phones like the HUAWEI P60 Pro pack a 48MP 3.5x tele camera and still deliver decent image quality at 10x. We’ve also seen the likes of the Google Pixel 7 Pro packing a 48MP 5x periscope lens and getting usable images at 10x or 15x.

You might not need to wait too long for the first phone with a 200MP telephoto camera. No, it likely won’t come from Samsung itself. Instead, rumors persist that the vivo X100 Pro Plus will offer a 200MP tele shooter. There’s no word on this phone launching outside China just yet.

There are potential downsides to a 200MP telephoto camera, though. These concerns include a larger camera bump, cost, and degraded low-light image quality. But the upsides of top-notch long-range zoom and high-quality, distortion-free portraits might be too tantalizing to ignore. So don’t be surprised if some of the best camera phones pack a 200MP tele lens in 2024.