The S21 Ultra Zoom

Today I’m going to take a deeper dive into the S21 Ultra camera, and in particular the zoom capability.

Let’s start with a look at the main zoom levels. They start with a 0.6x ultrawide and go through standard, 3x, 10x, 30x and finally 100x. You can, of course, pick intermediate zoom levels. Of the telephoto zoom levels, only 3x and 10x are optical. Anything else, especially beyond 10x, relies on cropping from the other sensors, in particular the 108MP main sensor.

In terms of 35mm film photography the optical lenses are lenses equivalent to 13mm, 24mm, 72mm, 240mm with a further digital zoom to 720mm and 2400mm.

These are the results, full frame from camera and just resized down, at each of those levels:

Even at this thumbnail size you can see that the 100x zoom is lacking quality.

Now let’s pixel peep at 100%. I wouldn’t normally suggest doing that – it’s better to assess the quality at normal viewing sizes and distances – but it makes for an interesting comparison. Here’s a section of the 100x zoom shot at 100%:

And here’s the 10x optical zoom at 100%:

Now, let’s take a 100% section from the 100x zoom and resize the 30x and 10x zooms to match:

As you can see, it does look like the 100x zoom has done a better job than just upsizing the lower zoom levels. It makes less difference when you view the full frame at normal websizes. Here’s the full frame from the 100x zoom:

And here’s the 10x zoom upscaled and resized to the same size:

With some judicious photoshopping I think I could get the quality of the upscaled 10x zoom to roughly match the out of camera results from the 100x zoom.

My conclusion is that zooming to 100x is an incredible achievement but the results aren’t really usable at any more than very small image sizes. Quality at 30x is usable for web sized images and at 10x the results are pretty good for shots in good light.

It’s the 10x optical zoom that makes the camera really useful and, to my mind, finally makes most low to medium end compact cameras obsolete.

I’ve uploaded slightly larger versions of the full images into a photo gallery here. The photo galleries are a work in progress, and I’ll be adding more content over the next few weeks.

in Mobile

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