One of the most useful new features of Galaxy S20 is the camera zoom: up to 10x hybrid optical zoom, and 100x Super Resolution zoom. Samsung called it Space Zoom and registered a trademark for it.
Actually, the camera in S20 Ultra probably is the only reason for you to migrate to Galaxy S20 as explained in this post.
This Galaxy S20 guide explains the details of Galaxy S20 hybrid optic zoom and super-resolution zoom, the differences between these two zooms, and their relationships with the optical zoom and digital zoom.
Please note, Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra have different camera configurations as explained in this page. 10x hybrid optical zoom and 100x Super Resolution zoon can only be found on Galaxy S20 Ultra. Galaxy S20 and S20+ only have 3x hybrid zoom and 30x super-resolution zoom.
What is the optical zoom and digital zoom?
When taking photos or shooting videos, you may want to change the focal length of the photo. Sometimes you want to take a “close-up” (zoom-in) photo or wide ones (zoom-out).
This has been easily implemented on the cameras using a lens with controllable focal length. Even most sub-$300 point-and-shoot cameras are equipped with a lens which can offer 10x to 30x optical zoom.
But for smartphones, these traditional lenses cannot be used due to thinness fo the smartphone. The higher zoom levels usually mean a longer (thicker) lens.
So, up to now, the flagship smartphones usually stop at 3x optical room simply because of the thickness limitations fo the phone.
The zoom achieved through changing the focal length in the optical system is called “optical zoom”.
You should not be confused the optical zoom with the digital zoom, which can be found in almost all smartphones.
Digital zoom does not special hardware. In plain terms, it works in two stages:
- Crop the centre part of the photo.
- Resize the cropped photo to the size of the photo.
So, basically, the digital zoom is just an image editing.
When resizing the cropped photo, the actual “pixels” captured by the camera sensor cannot be increased. The software has to “create” some pixels to fill the space.
Of course, some vendors may use a better algorithm (or even AI) to create better photos than linear interpolation/extrapolation which is used in most photo edit software.
Therefore, the digital zoom photos look grainy with high noises on a large screen. On your phone screen, due to its small size, you may not notice the problem.
What is Galaxy S20 Hybrid Optic Zoom?
On Galaxy S20, Samsung minted the hybrid optical zoom to differentiate its zoom to traditional optical zoom.
Due to the thickness, the lens in Galaxy S20 Ultra only has a 4x traditional optical zoom. Galaxy S20 and S20+ do NOT have traditional optical zoom (less than 1.1x!!!) at all.
But how can Samsung achieve the up to 10x hybrid optical zoom (and 3x on S20 and S20+)?
Samsung combines sensor info from other camera lenses and software to “produce” a zoomed photo.
Unlike the digital zoom, Galaxy S20 hybrid optical zoom is a lossless zoom. The pixels are created through:
- Pixels captured from other camera sensors.
- Combining multiple pixels into one if needed.
Samsung does not use interpolation or extrapolation to create new pixels. They did it in a reverse way (pixel-binning) thanks to its high-resolution telephoto lens.
So, the lossless claim is probably valid.
But the hybrid optical zoom is just a workaround, not an improvement of optical zoom.
What is Galaxy S20 Super Resolution Zoom?
Samsung also bragged about the up to 100x Super Resolution Zoom on Galaxy S20 Ultra (up to 30x on Galaxy S20 and S20+).
Essentially, Galaxy S20 Super Resolution Zoom is a smart (improved) digital zoom.
It improves the digital zoom in:
- Use information from other camera sensors.
- Use both pixel binning and cropping.
- Use some advanced algorithms (AI) to reduce the noise.
Compared to the hybrid optical zoom, the super-resolution zoom is lossy.
But compared to the traditional digital zoom, the super-resolution zoom is far better thanks to the additional sensor info and the algorithms used.
The difference between Galaxy S20 Hybrid Optic Zoom and Galaxy S20Super Resolution Zoom
So, the Galaxy S20 hybrid optic zoom is lossless. It is essentially a combination of optical zoom, other sensor info and algorithms.
In most cases, the hybrid zoom should be close to the real optical zoom.
On the other hand, Galaxy S20 Super Resolution Zoom is a lossy zoom. It is an improved digital zoom.
Different camera sensors are used differently depending on the zoom level as explained here.
Limitations of Galaxy S20 Super Resolution Zoom
Overall, Galaxy S20 Super Resolution Zoom works well if you do not push the zoom levels too hard.
Normally, on Galaxy S20 and S20+, it is safe to use the zoom up to 10x. On Galaxy S20 Ultra, you can push it up to 25-30x.
If you use the zoom levels beyond this range, you need to hold the phone very steady, and the noise may be obvious. If you want to try 100x zoom on Galaxy S20 Ultra, you have to use a tripod on a sunny day.
Anyway, the super-resolution zoom is just an improved digital zoom. When the zoom levels are not so high, the info from multiple camera sensors helps a lot to get high-quality zoom-in photos.
Please note, on Galaxy S20, especially on Galaxy S20 Ultra, sometimes, it is hard to take close-up (macro) photos due to the camera configurations. In this case, you may zoom in to take “close-up” photos as explained here.
Can you use the Hybrid Optic Zoom and Super Resolution Zoom on Galaxy S20, S20+, and S20 Ultra now? Do you have any questions on Galaxy S20 Hybrid Optic Zoom and Super Resolution Zoom?
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Have questions on new features of Galaxy S20? Check Galaxy S20 new feature guides page.