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We looked into the Galaxy S24 Ultra's image shift issue, and this is what we found
- The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra allegedly suffers from an “image shifting” issue that causes softer images with a noticeable change in perspective when using the 5x optical zoom camera.
- Samsung has not provided any official statements to address the problem.
- Our investigation indicates that the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s lens transition animation, automatic lens switching due to poor light and minimum focus distance, and change in perspective can lead to a poor experience that is being described as “image shifting.”
The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra is one of the best camera phones you can buy right now. Even though the S24 Ultra may not be the best option for specific scenarios, it remains the most versatile camera setup you can find on a phone in 2024, covering all important use cases. However, early adopters of the Galaxy S24 Ultra are grappling with an issue with the new 5x periscope zoom lens, where the viewfinder image “shifts” when transitioning between the 1x and 5x. We investigated the problem on our end, and this is what we have found.
What is the “image shift” issue on the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra?
First highlighted by S M A Sithick, the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra can show a jarring transition animation when switching from its primary camera (1x zoom) to its periscope zoom lens (5x zoom). You can also see the viewfinder image visibly “shift” its position alongside a slow and noticeable animation and a difference in image quality in the output.
I am experiencing image shifts on my device, while yours appears to have smooth transitions. I will contact the Samsung Store to inquire about this issue. I have already enabled Super HDR. 5x and 10x shots. pic.twitter.com/H2Hs4ZusF2— S M A Sithick (@smasithick) January 30, 2024
The customer visited Samsung’s showroom to investigate further. To their surprise, the Galaxy S24 Ultra demo units present in the showroom did not exhibit this behavior.
1,3 – Faulty device
2,4 – Showroom deviceUpon first encountering the issue and providing video evidence, they adamantly denied its existence. Despite demonstrating the issue in… https://t.co/98rqXVGr3T pic.twitter.com/dU9KU9ZDos— S M A Sithick (@smasithick) January 31, 2024
Samsung customer service subsequently granted the user a “Dead on Arrival” (DOA) certificate, which allows them to receive a replacement device. Allegedly, support staff informed the user that this image shift issue is a hardware defect that has primarily affected many “first-batch” devices in India. The problem was seemingly identified and rectified from the second batch onwards. For reference, the user’s phone was manufactured in December 2023. The replacement device they eventually received was manufactured in January 2024 and does not exhibit the issue.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra image shift issue: Our investigation
I checked on my Galaxy S24 Ultra retail unit (manufactured in January 2024), and I can spot an “issue” where the viewfinder image shifts when you switch between the 1x to 5x cameras. Here is a screen recording of the issue as it exists on my personal device:
As you can see, there is a noticeable “shifting” from 1x to 5x and a more pronounced shift in the image quality when landing on the 3x camera in between.
Here is a sample from my colleague Rita’s Galaxy S24 Ultra:
To say that the camera zoom experience is seamless would be a far cry from the truth.
We then tested the transition from the 1x camera to the optical zoom cameras across several devices, namely the Apple iPhone 15 Pro Max, the OnePlus 12, the vivo X100 Pro, the Pixel 8 Pro, and the Galaxy S23 Ultra. While there is a difference in image quality between the lenses on some of these phones, the transition between the lenses is much smoother. There is a shift in perspective, but the animation does a good job of easing you in.
Here is a sample from my colleague Rob’s Galaxy S23 Ultra:
The Galaxy S23 Ultra’s change in focal length as it switches cameras is apparent, and you also notice the change in the quality of the image. What is missing from the Galaxy S23 Ultra is the “shifting” of the image.
Convinced that my Galaxy S24 Ultra has the “image shifting issue,” I approached Samsung’s newest flagship store in BKC, Mumbai, which also has a customer service desk for mobile devices. The staff present had already heard of the “issue” and had even received a device from another customer for investigation. However, they neither confirmed nor denied the presence of the issue. Since I went in as a retail customer with a purchase invoice, I submitted my device for investigation by a senior engineer who was scheduled to visit.
I received my Galaxy S24 Ultra back the next day, along with remarks from the engineer that no faults were found. As per Samsung, the camera is working as intended.
The staff explained that the “shift” in the viewfinder image is because of the positioning of the camera lenses, which ever so slightly changes the perspective of what you are looking at.
We contacted Samsung India for comments on the “image shift” issue but did not receive an official statement.
Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra image shift issue: Our hypothesis
In the case of the Galaxy S24 Ultra with the alleged “image shift” issue, a few factors are at play.
First is the transition animation within the camera app. The animation on the Galaxy S24 Ultra causes a noticeable visual dissonance, more so than the Galaxy S23 Ultra did. The experience is jarring and not at all seamless.
Next, when the object is very close to the Galaxy S24 Ultra or there isn’t enough light, and you attempt to switch to the 5x zoom lens, you can be presented with a cropped image from either the 3x sensor or even the primary camera (if the object is closer than the minimum focus distance of the 3x sensor).
We tested this by covering the lens. We found that the cameras would flick over to the optical zoom camera for half a second, realize that there isn’t enough light coming in, and then present a cropped image from the primary sensor instead.
In other words, you could receive an optically zoomed or digitally zoomed image, depending on the lighting conditions and distance of the object. You can alter this behavior and force a lens switch by downloading the Camera Assistant from within Samsung Good Lock and disabling auto-lens switching.
Obviously, a digital crop also comes with a compromise in image quality. But on the Galaxy S24 Ultra, a digital crop also attempts to “shift” the image slightly to match the perspective of the originally intended optical zoom. We did not notice this on the Galaxy S23 Ultra, as zooming in always brings you closer to the center of the image without any displacement.
The image shift issue on the Galaxy S24 Ultra appears to be intended behavior and not a hardware defect.
We hypothesize that the “image shift” issue on the Galaxy S24 Ultra is a result of variations in the crop being used (or not) and an attempt to “shift” the image to match the perspective. The experience is made worse by the jarring transition animation that makes a lens switch very noticeable. The three of these come together to present a bad user experience, one with enough variables that make comparison difficult.
There is also a possibility that some units in the initial batches may have an issue with the minimum focusing distance of the 5x zoom camera or have a problem with automatically switching lenses to present a cropped image (when zooming in). That would explain why some units have the “issue” and some do not. It would also explain why some users are offered replacements while others are not.
Without an official statement from Samsung, we cannot know the exact problem and what the company is doing to resolve it.
What should you do about the Galaxy S24 Ultra’s image shift issue?
Unless your Galaxy S24 Ultra’s 5x zoom camera is producing soft images with poor details, it’s likely that your phone does not suffer from a major camera issue. While the poor transition animation is a shame, you can rest easy knowing your device has no hardware defect.
If your Galaxy S24 Ultra offers poor-quality images from the 5x zoom camera, you should contact Samsung’s customer service for a resolution.