Robert Triggs/Android Authority
2016’s iPhone 7 series marked a major step forward for zoom when it debuted a 2x telephoto camera, with the Android world following suit and even upping the ante with 3x telephoto shooters. We then saw a massive leap forward in 2019, as Huawei and Oppo debuted 5x and 6x periscope cameras.
Samsung’s recent Ultra smartphones upped the ante even further, bringing 10x periscope zoom cameras to the table. And this is certainly something I’d like to see on devices from other manufacturers.
Related: You might actually want to use Samsung’s 30x zoom
Getting even closer to the action
Both the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Galaxy S22 Ultra offer 10MP 10x periscope zoom cameras, allowing you to get even closer to a subject/object than with 4x or 5x cameras. They aren’t the first phones with the technology, as Huawei’s P40 Pro Plus debuted it back in 2020, but Samsung’s phones are more widely available (and can run Google’s apps out of the box).
I tried out the Galaxy S22 Ultra for a few weeks earlier this year and the 10x shooter was easily my favorite thing about it. These images are definitely not as detailed as shots taken with the primary 108MP camera and there’s some color inconsistency between lenses, but there’s still a healthy amount of detail nonetheless. Check out a few samples below.
We’ve also seen smartphone makers using telephoto or periscope cameras as a foundation for longer-range zoom, using hybrid zoom technology to go beyond the native zoom factor. The Galaxy S21 Ultra and S22 Ultra are no different. In fact, it’s possible to get usable 30x shots, but this really boils down to the scene and it isn’t always reliable. Some situations will deliver usable 30x shots while others (particularly those involving complex textures or the bright outdoors) are pretty bad. It’s not uncommon to find blown highlights, some blurriness, and ghosting at this zoom factor. Check out a few 30x samples below, as well as the accompanying 10x versions.
10x zoomed video is a thing too
One of the more underrated things about the 10x camera is that you can indeed film video at a native 10x zoom. You can also swap between lenses while filming, though this is limited to the 4K/30fps quality option rather than 4K/60fps or 8K. Check out a sample below, filmed by Android Authority reviewer Dhruv Bhutani.
Video recorded at 10x delivers good quality, being a cut above virtually every other phone out there at this zoom factor. In saying so, you’ll ideally want a tripod or gimbal for maximum stability as the combo of long-range zoom and video can make for some shaky footage compared to the main camera.
A must-have for future premium phones?
Eric Zeman/Android Authority
It’s clear that 30x is hit and miss and you probably shouldn’t use 100x zoom at all, but I still really appreciate the versatility of a 10x periscope camera. I was pretty amazed at the ability to grab shots of things that would usually be a blurry mess on most other phones, such as planes flying overhead or wildlife.
Guidance: Camera zoom explained — How optical, digital, and hybrid zoom works
Sure, there are some phones that deliver decent hybrid zoom 10x results too such as the Pixel 6 Pro, but our own testing shows that Samsung still beats these devices at 10x. It doesn’t hurt that Ultra phones can also go further and get usable results after 10x thanks to hybrid zoom. Toss in 10x video capabilities and you’ve got the most flexible camera platform on the market.
Most people will be fine with a 2x to 5x camera if they really want good zoom on their smartphones, but it’s still great to have such a wide focal range on a smartphone for maximum flexibility. Here’s hoping we’ll see more ultra-premium smartphones with 10x cameras in the future, because it’s definitely something I want to see on my next purchase.
What do you think of 10x cameras?