The new iPhone 12 promises plenty of welcome upgrades, from 5G connectivity and a faster A14 Bionic processor to longer battery life. But there's one feature I want Apple to steal from the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Space Zoom.
Before you write this off as a gimmick, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra's zoom really impressed me when I was testing Samsung's new phone Over the course of two weeks. The telephoto lens has an optical zoom rating of 5x and it boasts a digital zoom all the way up to 50x.
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By comparison, the current iPhone 11 Pro has a 2x telephoto zoom and 10x digital zoom, and rumor has it that the iPhone 12 Pro will max out with a 3x optical zoom. There haven't been any credible rumors about the digital zoom for this flagship.
The power of 50x zoom. Its kind of scary. #GalaxyNote20Ultra pic.twitter.com/LpGPCuzyzGAugust 18, 2020
If these leaks are true, Samsung should have a big advantage on the camera front. Just look how closely I could zoom in on the above sign in front of a fish market from across a highway. It's so good that it's scary.
Snagging the 50x zoom shot proved tricky, as this zoom level introduced a fair amount of camera shake. But the 10x and 20x zoom shots delivered remarkable results.
Here's another example of Space Zoom in action, as you'll see in the gallery below. I zoomed in on a tree from the complete opposite side of the yard. As I zoomed in, I could make out the details in the bark as well as the hanging flower baskets, wind chime and bird house.
Since the iPhone 11 Pro Max maxes out at 10x digital zoom, I put it up against the hybrid zoom on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra at a nearby park.
As you can see in this photo of a stream, Samsung's camera delivers a much sharper image. The iPhone's result is fuzzier, which is to be expected. The Note 20's image isn't perfect, as it blows out some of the highlights illuminated by the sun, but overall it's clearly the superior shot.
The process of zooming on the Note 20 Ultra is pretty smooth as well. You just press the zoom button and it jumps you to 5x, and from there you can choose 10x, 20x or 50x. Or you can dial it back to 4x.
In July we heard that Apple could be lining up periscope zoom lens suppliers — for 2022. So that means we shouldn't expect a powerful optical zoom for the iPhone 12 and maybe not even the iPhone 13. I hope these reports prove untrue, because now that I've tried the Space Zoom on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra I don't want to give it up.
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