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Samsung Galaxy S20: Don't expect true optical zoom from 64MP camera

The Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus are said to offer 64MP zoom cameras, but don't expect telephoto or periscope zoom here.

Published onJanuary 29, 2020

samsung galaxy s20 leaked render

The Samsung Galaxy S20 series is shaping up to be one of the better smartphone camera platforms of 2020, and leaks suggest some interesting zoom capabilities.

One of the most prominent leaks is that the Galaxy S20 and Galaxy S20 Plus will offer a 64MP telephoto zoom camera. But XDA‘s Max Weinbach says the zoom isn’t actually optical. Instead, the 64MP camera is “just cropping in a bunch because it has a bunch of extra pixels.”

The one thing I didn’t go into detail about was the 64MP zoom camera. It’s not optical zoom. Instead, it’s just cropping in a bunch because it has a bunch of extra pixels. Will you notice the difference? Probably not.
It also means 8K won’t look wonky out of a telephoto lens.
— Max Weinbach (@MaxWinebach) January 28, 2020

This view is also seemingly shared by serial leaker Ice Universe, saying the 64MP camera isn’t capable of pixel-binning and delivers “pixel cropping zoom.”

It’s not entirely surprising though, as commercial devices with ultra high resolution telephoto cameras are rare in the smartphone industry right now. In saying so, the Galaxy S20 Ultra is tipped to offer a 48MP periscope zoom camera with 30x hybrid zoom.

We’ve previously seen the likes of the ASUS Zenfone 6 offer 2x digital zoom via its 48MP primary camera in lieu of a proper telephoto sensor though. So the precedent is there for a high-resolution approach to zoom, but hopefully Samsung uses super-resolution and other techniques to enable cleaner results.

Super resolution explained: The photography technique used by almost everyone
Google Pixel 3 camera lenses close up

We’ve also seen companies like OnePlus and Xiaomi offer telephoto cameras at one zoom length, then using cropping and other techniques to achieve the final advertised zoom factor. For example, the Mi Note 10 offers an 8MP 3.7x telephoto camera that spits out a 5MP 5x zoom shot. Meanwhile, the OnePlus 7 Pro has a 13MP 2.2x telephoto sensor that spits out an 8MP 3x zoom result.

Recent leaks suggest that the Galaxy S20 and S20 Plus will use 12MP main cameras, but how will the phones offer rumored 8K recording quality if this standard requires a 33MP+ camera? Well, Ice Universe says the 64MP zoom camera will be used for 8K video instead. Either way, it looks like the Galaxy S20 series is packing some interesting tech.