In February 2022, Samsung unveiled the S23 series with some improvements to the camera hardware. The S23 Ultra has one of the best camera systems on any phone, primarily due to the dual telephoto system.
The S23 Ultra’s powerful combination of a 3X telephoto lens and a 10X telephoto lens enables a versatile and dynamic zoom range. For long-range zoom, a photo is taken from all lenses, and then software intelligently fuses them for a rich, detailed, usable output.
According to some previously alarming rumours, Samsung was speculated to abandon the dual telephoto solution in favour of a single 5X periscope- which is impractical since it does not adequately cover all the zoom ranges.
Portrait mode photos are best taken at either the 50mm or 75mm range. The 50mm range is 2X magnification, and 75mm is 3X magnification. Samsung currently has a dedicated 3X lens for portrait mode and the 75mm range in general. Despite the underwhelming 1/3.52″ 10MP telephoto sensor, it still produces some of the best portrait photos on the market thanks to excellent edge detection and pleasing software bokeh.
Portrait mode will significantly deteriorate from the previous generation if Samsung removes the 3X zoom lens. Because of this, all the magnifications from 1X to 5X will be a mix of AI and digital zoom from the primary sensor.
Cropping into the primary sensor for portrait mode photos does not work well, and you also lose the excellent 75mm range. The sensor crop mechanism isn’t good enough to recreate true optical zoom. Cropping into a sensor automatically creates detail loss, and software must compensate with noise reduction and artificial sharpness boost.
This makes the images look rather unpleasant. The bokeh won’t look as good as a 2X or 3X zoom camera. According to new rumours from Revegnus on Twitter, Samsung is allegedly not moving to a single 5X zoom camera.
In the past, Samsung tried a single 4X zoom camera with the S20 Ultra, but portrait mode photos took a huge hit. There’s an absence of a suitable lens for capturing portraits in the 50-75mm range. With the S21 Ultra, they caved in and offered a 75mm 3X sensor, making portraits look exceptional.
Some previous leaks showed that Samsung would use a variable 3X to 10X camera. This is the perfect solution, but it’s unfortunately not happening with the S24 Ultra. If Samsung uses variable zoom, they don’t have to add two different telephoto cameras.
This way, they can still cater to the 3X range and also the 10X range. This is how most optical cameras work, and it would’ve been exciting to see this tech on a smartphone. Unfortunately, the S24 Ultra probably won’t have it, and we could see it on a future phone like the S25 Ultra.
For the S24 Ultra, Samsung might use the existing 3X sensor, which is long overdue for an upgrade. However, we might get some minor improvements to the 10X telephoto sensor on the S24 Ultra. The current sensor is a 10MP 1/3.52″ sensor, and we might see a slightly larger 1/3.24″ telephoto.
We’ve already seen this sensor on the S21 Ultra before. However, the S22 and 23 Ultra have smaller telephoto cameras for some reason. The software makes up for it, but the hardware difference is noticeable. If not the older sensor, we might get a larger new 10X sensor altogether for the S24 Ultra.