Art and Photography

Digital/optical zoom on cell phone

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  • Jul 11th, 2019 10:21 pm
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Jul 23, 2008
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Digital/optical zoom on cell phone

Hi !
i'm on the merge of buying a new cell phone. I'm thorn between the s10 ans the s10e. Both have more or less the same features but the main lacking thing on the less expensive one (s10e) is a 2x optical zoom that the s10 have.

I need some advice and answers there (that's why i've chose that forum instead of cell phone forum).

1) The 2x zoom on the s10 is a fixed zoom. does it means that if gos to 1.5 it will be digital ?
2) If I goes to , lets says 4x, both are gonna be on digital zoom, is the fact that the s10 have a 2x fixed lens would 100% sure give me a better shot ?
3) With a cell without a telephoto lens should i completly skip zooming at all ? Most of the time I use it just to get a better composition.
4) What would give the best result: zoom on a non telephoto lens to gets the composition I want or, croping on my pc ?

thanks a lot !
9 replies
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tostaky wrote:
May 23rd, 2019 9:55 pm
Hi !
i'm on the merge of buying a new cell phone. I'm thorn between the s10 ans the s10e. Both have more or less the same features but the main lacking thing on the less expensive one (s10e) is a 2x optical zoom that the s10 have.

I need some advice and answers there (that's why i've chose that forum instead of cell phone forum).

1) The 2x zoom on the s10 is a fixed zoom. does it means that if gos to 1.5 it will be digital ?
2) If I goes to , lets says 4x, both are gonna be on digital zoom, is the fact that the s10 have a 2x fixed lens would 100% sure give me a better shot ?
3) With a cell without a telephoto lens should i completly skip zooming at all ? Most of the time I use it just to get a better composition.
4) What would give the best result: zoom on a non telephoto lens to gets the composition I want or, croping on my pc ?

thanks a lot !
I can't answer for questions 1 & 2, so instead, I'll just add that multiples cameras on the same smartphone, as of right now, are mostly different.

I copy pasted this from gsmarena:
12 MP, f/1.5-2.4, 26mm (wide), 1/2.55", 1.4µm, Dual Pixel PDAF, OIS
12 MP, f/2.4, 52mm (telephoto), 1/3.6", 1.0µm, AF, OIS, 2x optical zoom
16 MP, f/2.2, 12mm (ultrawide), 1.0µm

So as you can see, on the S10, the telephoto has a smaller sensor with a smaller fixed aperture as well, so in low light, it's probably always better to use the normal camera.

As for question 3 & 4: imo, you should digital zoom in smartphone if you don't plan on cropping it later. If you will, better to crop after on your PC or with an app on your phone in case you might want to have a bit more background. Digital zoom and cropping are the same thing on a smartphone.
I zoom often when I'm taking pictures for documentation, like a store front or a spot I might want to return another day, so getting close to the subject at 50% the size of pictures is a good compromise.
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If zoom is really important, look into something with real zoom like Huawei's P30 Pro (despite the news). The claim of 50x is crazy but from 5-10x, it's actually really usable, stabilized and sharpened.

On my own p20 pro, I usually use up to 5x, hanging around 1.2 to 3x. 10x is great if your eyesight is poor and you need to read a sign!

Going wide is much more interesting IMHO, very few phones go wide
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bhrm wrote:
Jun 3rd, 2019 12:33 pm
If zoom is really important, look into something with real zoom like Huawei's P30 Pro (despite the news). The claim of 50x is crazy but from 5-10x, it's actually really usable, stabilized and sharpened.

On my own p20 pro, I usually use up to 5x, hanging around 1.2 to 3x. 10x is great if your eyesight is poor and you need to read a sign!

Going wide is much more interesting IMHO, very few phones go wide
I opted for the P30 Pro for just that fact, got a trip coming up to Spain and the zoom will be worthwhile however if I return the Mate 20 Pro keeps 200 in my jeans but I only get 3x zoom so I am debating over the 15 day return period. Good thread info. I have already been able to play w wide angle on my G7
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bhrm wrote:
Jun 3rd, 2019 12:33 pm
If zoom is really important, look into something with real zoom like Huawei's P30 Pro (despite the news). The claim of 50x is crazy but from 5-10x, it's actually really usable, stabilized and sharpened.

On my own p20 pro, I usually use up to 5x, hanging around 1.2 to 3x. 10x is great if your eyesight is poor and you need to read a sign!

Going wide is much more interesting IMHO, very few phones go wide
My friend works for Huawei, and he showed me pre-production models of the P30 and P30 Pro that he got before launch a couple months ago, and the zoom is amazing. I own a P10 Pro and I'm really considering grabbing a P30 (Here's hoping they get heavily discounted because of the Huawei Android freeze-out)

The one thing about the zoom is that you really need to stabilize the camera somehow. At the very least, you'd want to put it on a hard surface, but if you have a small tripod or something to take with you, it would make your zoomed in shots that much better.
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M1GOmigs wrote:
Jun 4th, 2019 3:53 pm
My friend works for Huawei, and he showed me pre-production models of the P30 and P30 Pro that he got before launch a couple months ago, and the zoom is amazing. I own a P10 Pro and I'm really considering grabbing a P30 (Here's hoping they get heavily discounted because of the Huawei Android freeze-out)

The one thing about the zoom is that you really need to stabilize the camera somehow. At the very least, you'd want to put it on a hard surface, but if you have a small tripod or something to take with you, it would make your zoomed in shots that much better.
100% agree you need to stabilize, I am looking for some type of mini tripod mount for our trip. I have decided to keep the P30 Pro over returning for the Mate 20, it is a really great phone and I am enjoying it, battery life excellent and longgggg
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I have a Samsung s10+ and indoors/lower light, the telephoto isn't used even if you select it. It's using a crop of the main wide angle camera. You can tell in the resulting photo and there isn't any way to force it to do optical telephoto zoom instead of a crop. Very disappointing. Apparently it's been like that ever since they had a telephoto lens and they want to avoid motion blur. Let us use the telephoto optically all the time!
https://us.community.samsung.com/t5/Gal ... d-p/474662
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soupnazi wrote:
Jul 1st, 2019 3:19 am
I have a Samsung s10+ and indoors/lower light, the telephoto isn't used even if you select it. It's using a crop of the main wide angle camera. You can tell in the resulting photo and there isn't any way to force it to do optical telephoto zoom instead of a crop. Very disappointing. Apparently it's been like that ever since they had a telephoto lens and they want to avoid motion blur. Let us use the telephoto optically all the time!
https://us.community.samsung.com/t5/Gal ... d-p/474662
That is disappointing and maybe even deceptive. Are these limitations spelled out in the documentation?
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1) Yes. It'll essentially be a crop of the wide lens at 1.5

2) Yes, the 2x lens will give you a better shot, because it will be cropped less than the 1x lens. Low light will change things though, as many phones don't use the telephoto camera in low light.

3) Yes, skip it. You can always crop later to arrive at the same result.

4) Same thing pretty much. Unlike TV/movies, there is no tech out there that can magically invent detail when its not there in the pixels.

Keep in mind that with just about all phone cameras, the main camera has the biggest sensor and the biggest aperture. This means it is the best quality. In great light, you will still see a difference with the longer lenses, but image quality is acceptable. In less than ideal light, you will notice a huge difference, and in low light, many phones will just crop the main sensor's pic to the equivalent of 2x, because it'll still look better than the 2x lens in low light.

If you're not 100% set on the Samsung, don't discount the importance of Smart HDR on the current gen iPhones or the HDR on the Pixel (plus night mode). They almost never blow out highlights, add lots of shadow detail, and basically give you a near ideal end result without editing. This matters more to me personally than the super zoom phones we're seeing at the moment. The iPhone has expanded dynamic range in video too, and it's great.
tostaky wrote:
May 23rd, 2019 9:55 pm
1) The 2x zoom on the s10 is a fixed zoom. does it means that if gos to 1.5 it will be digital ?
2) If I goes to , lets says 4x, both are gonna be on digital zoom, is the fact that the s10 have a 2x fixed lens would 100% sure give me a better shot ?
3) With a cell without a telephoto lens should i completly skip zooming at all ? Most of the time I use it just to get a better composition.
4) What would give the best result: zoom on a non telephoto lens to gets the composition I want or, croping on my pc ?

thanks a lot !
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The good news is in the recent S10 Canada update which included the dedicated night mode, is you can now use the telephoto in live focus mode. (it used to be wide angle only which was odd) Using the telephoto in live focus mode will always force the telephoto even if lower light. It's a workaround.

samsung-s10-dedicated-night-mode-releas ... 9-2296566/

Also if you really want to know if the actual telephoto lens is being used. Take a picture, then check the file size. If it's 1-2MB, it was just using the main camera and doing a digltal crop. It should be 3-4MB in size if the telephoto was actually used. Before taking the picture, select telephoto lens, then you can place your finger on the side lens closest to the power button. If you finger is in the frame, it is using the actual telephoto. If you keep your finger in front of the telephoto too long, the camera will detect low light and then switch to the middle lens and crop.

If your finger is in front of the side lens closest to power button (telephoto) and you don't see anything, keep moving your finger over and you'll see it is using the main middle camera and cropping.

While testing the new Samsung dedicated night mode, I find it blows less highlights than the Google Gcam app port. Gcam is brighter and more detailed but has much more noise. Samsung's mode is darker and a little muddier, but retains highlights, has less noise, and looks closer to the actual scene. Nice to have both.
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