Robert Triggs/Android Authority

2016’s iPhone 7 series marked a major leap forward for zoom when it debuted with a 2x telephoto lens, with the Android world following suit and even upping the ante with 3x telephoto lenses. We then saw a huge leap forward in 2019, as Huawei and Oppo launched 5x and 6x periscope cameras.

Samsung’s recent Ultra smartphones have upped the ante yet again, bringing 10x periscope zoom cameras to the table. And that’s definitely something I’d like to see on devices from other manufacturers.

Related: You might want to use Samsung’s 30x zoom

Get even closer to the action

Galaxy S21 Ultra and Galaxy S22 Ultra both offer 10MP 10x periscope zoom cameras, allowing you to get even closer to a subject/object than with 4x or 5x cameras. They’re not the first phones to feature the technology, as Huawei’s P40 Pro Plus launched it in 2020, but Samsung’s phones are more widely available (and can run Google’s apps out of the box).

I tried the Galaxy S22 Ultra for a few weeks earlier this year and the 10x shooter was easily my favorite thing about it. These images certainly aren’t as detailed as photos taken with the main 108MP camera and there is some color inconsistency between lenses, but there’s still a good amount of detail. Check out some examples below.

We’ve also seen smartphone makers use telephoto or periscope cameras as the basis 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. It’s actually possible to get usable 30x shots, but it really comes down to the scene and it’s not always reliable. Some situations will provide usable 30x shots while others (especially those involving complex textures or bright exteriors) are pretty bad. It’s not uncommon to find blown highlights, blurring and ghosting at this zoom factor. Check out some 30x examples below, along with the accompanying 10x builds.

10x zoomed video is also a thing

One of the most underrated things about the 10x camera is that you can indeed shoot video with native 10x zoom. You can also switch between lenses while shooting, although this is limited to the 4K/30fps quality option rather than 4K/60fps or 8K. Check out a sample below, filmed by Android Authority review Dhruv Bhutani.

Video recorded at 10x offers good quality, outperforming virtually any other phone at this zoom factor. Saying that, you’ll ideally need a tripod or gimbal for maximum stability, as the combination of long-range zoom and video can create shaky footage compared to the main camera.

A must-have for future premium phones?

Camera model angle Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra

Eric Zeman / Android Authority

Clearly 30x is hit and miss and you probably shouldn’t be using 100x zoom at all, but I still really appreciate the versatility of a 10x periscope camera. I was quite amazed at the ability to take photos of things that would typically be a blurry mess on most other phones, like planes flying overhead or wildlife.

Guide: Camera Zoom Explained – How Optical, Digital and Hybrid Zoom Work

Of course, some phones also offer decent 10x hybrid zoom results, such as the Pixel 6 Pro, but our own tests show that Samsung still beats these devices at 10x. It doesn’t hurt that the Ultra phones can also go further and get usable results after 10x thanks to hybrid zoom. Add 10x video capabilities and you have the most flexible camera platform on the market.

Most people will be fine with a 2x to 5x camera if they really want a good zoom on their smartphones, but it’s still great to have such a wide focal range on a smartphone for maximum flexibility. Hopefully we’ll see more ultra-premium smartphones with 10x cameras in the future, as that’s definitely something I want to see on my next purchase.

What do you think of 10x cameras?

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