Affiliate links on Android Authority may earn us a commission. Learn more.
Here's why there's no 10x zoom on the S24 Ultra this time
- Samsung has explained why the Galaxy S24 Ultra offers a 5x camera instead of a 10x camera.
- The company claimed that customers were primarily using 3x and 5x zoom levels.
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra brings a major change to the Ultra line, as it swaps out the long-running 10MP 10x periscope camera (1/3.52-inch) in favor of a larger, 50MP 5x camera (1/2.55-inch). Now, the company has revealed why it switched to a 5x shooter.
Samsung’s Blake Gaiser explained the decision in response to an Android Authority question during a media briefing:
Looking at customer usage and those zooms (sic) that were being utilized the most. We recognized that 3x and 5x were the most used zooms (sic) of our customers. So instead of just having that 5x zoom lens, it does have that 50MP sensor in it.
It was unclear if the executive was referring to the most used zoom ranges across Ultra models or across Galaxy phones at large. We asked Samsung to clarify this statement, and here’s what the company told us:
Our research included the full Galaxy S23 series line-up, highlighting similar usage patterns across all models, including the Ultra model, where consumers tend to use 3x and 5x zoom most frequently so we’re providing the highest resolution 5x zoom ever with a 50MP lens.
We’re curious to see Ultra-specific research, though. You have to imagine that 10x zoom gets used more often than on the standard and Plus models owing to the dedicated 10x camera on recent Ultra phones. Gaiser nevertheless added that users are getting better zoom capabilities at 10x owing to the higher resolution sensor.
Better 10x zoom makes sense as the Galaxy S23 Ultra’s 10x camera had a small and relatively low-resolution 10MP sensor. So even image cropping via the 5x 50MP camera could theoretically deliver a higher resolution 10x image. This would be a similar approach to the Pixel 8 Pro, which uses image cropping and software processing to deliver polished 10x shots via its 5x 48MP periscope camera.
What else to expect from the 5x camera?
Samsung’s decision to use a 5x camera should also result in better 4x to 7x shots as the phone no longer needs to bridge an enormous gap between 1x and 10x.
We did have our reservations about zoom quality beyond 10x, though, as software tricks can only do so much. So we asked Samsung whether the 5x camera offers better zoom beyond 10x:
Yes, (the) S24 series has improved overall digital zoom thanks to the enhanced AI zoom solution.
The S24 Ultra still retains the 100x “Space Zoom” feature seen on previous Ultra handsets. But we aren’t expecting a dramatic image quality improvement at 100x.
Another benefit of the 5x 50MP camera is that the Galaxy S24 Ultra can now shoot 8K video via this camera. By comparison, the S23 Ultra could only shoot 8K video via the 1x lens. Furthermore, Samsung mentions that the new camera sports 0.7-micron pixels and spits out pixel-binned images equivalent to a 12.5MP 1.4-micron pixel camera. Meanwhile, the S23 Ultra’s 10MP camera offers a native 1.12-micron pixel size and doesn’t perform pixel-binning. So we’re expecting better low-light images via the new camera as well.
What do you think of Samsung's decision to switch to a 5x camera?
Nevertheless, I’m still personally disappointed to see Samsung ditching the 10x camera as it was the only manufacturer offering this option in recent years. In fact, I would’ve loved to see the company retain a 10x camera while offering a larger, higher resolution sensor (e.g. 32MP/48MP/50MP) as this would’ve delivered major image quality improvements beyond 10x.
This is just the latest major salvo in a new camera zoom war in 2024. HONOR launched its Magic 6 Pro phone last week, packing a 180MP 2.5x telephoto camera. Meanwhile, vivo is purportedly working on a phone with a 200MP periscope lens. So we’re keen to see which solution reigns supreme.