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The Galaxy S21 Ultra may finally live up to Samsung’s “100x Space Zoom” marketing

Samsung Galaxy S21 series, the finest Samsung smartphones for the first half of 2021, has finally arrived. Over the last decade, Samsung has added new features to every generation of the Galaxy S series to maintain its position as the Android smartphone landscape leader. Likewise, the Galaxy S21 series also brings several new additions. The Galaxy S21 series brings a slew of new camera features, and their inclusion in the latest Galaxy devices is quite likely to push these innovations to the fore. One of these new features is the improved telephoto setup on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, comprising not just one but two different cameras with optical zoom capabilities.

3x telephoto and 10x periscope cameras on Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra improves upon the telephoto capabilities of the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, both of which featured a periscope camera with 5x optical zoom. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, on the other hand, features two telephoto cameras, including a regular 10MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom along with another 10MP periscopic camera with 10x optical zoom. On top of the 10x optical zoom, the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s improved periscope camera can facilitate up to 10x digital by cropping into the image visible in the viewfinder. The 10x digital zoom and 10x optical zoom effectively create 100x hybrid zoom together, thereby enabling Samsung’s Space Zoom feature.

See the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 100x Space Zoom technology in action in this hands-on video by our Senior Editor, Ben Sin:

With this improved telephoto setup, the Galaxy S21 Ultra may finally live to the Space Zoom hype. Although Samsung had introduced the Space Zoom feature with the Galaxy S20 Ultra last year, it was construed as a gimmick in most reviews. This perception of the feature as a gimmick forced Samsung to take a step back and limit the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra’s periscope zooming capabilities to just 50x hybrid zoom.

While other brands are engaged in spec wars, Samsung has presumably been focusing on an optimized harmony between hardware and software. This is why we don’t often witness the Korean brand headlining trends as often as it used to some five to ten years ago. It is not the first smartphone company to take advantage of two telephoto cameras instead of just one. Huawei, another noted pioneer in camera technology, launched the Huawei P40 Pro+ with two telephoto cameras in March 2020 and iterated the same on the Huawei Mate 40 Pro+. Although Samsung is behind by almost a year, it claims to master the technology by adding software features that use AI to stabilize and sharpen the image.

“Zoom Lock” for tripod-like stabilization

Like any other periscope camera, Galaxy S21’s 10x zoom camera also comes with optical image stabilization (OIS). In addition to OIS, which comes standard on all smartphones with periscope cameras, what sets the Galaxy S21 apart is the new AI-powered stabilization.

Samsung has loaded the Galaxy S21 Ultra with a feature called Zoom Lock. As evident from its name, the feature facilitates locking the frame when using either the 3x telephoto or the 10x periscope camera on the smartphone. This should enable clearer and sharper images of distant objects, especially while capturing celestial bodies such as the moon or the sun.

In his hands-on video as well as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra hands-on article, Ben eloquently explains the working of the new 100x Space Zoom. The images turn out to be of excellent quality and remarkable sharpness. While we will continue to investigate this further, here are some of the images from out Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra hands-on:

S21 Ultra ultra-wide zoom
0.6x (ultra-wide)
S21 Ultra 1x zoom
S21 Ultra zooming 30x periscope camera
S21 Ultra zooming 100x periscope camera

With Samsung plunging into the arena with a better periscope camera, we expect it to set the standard for other smartphone brands emerging with the future versions of telephoto cameras.