While the zoom performance saw minor improvements with the S23 Ultra, it was mainly due to the ISP and processing power of the 8 Gen 2. We didn’t see any new hardware. The S23 Ultra has two telephoto cameras that enable zoom, one at 3X and one at 10X.
The sensors are tiny, at 1/3.52″ for both, and have a meager 10MP resolution. While AI and processing partly compensate for the hardware deficit, the photos would’ve looked better with improved camera hardware. And that’s what the S24 Ultra is supposedly going to focus on. The S23 Ultra got a new 200MP primary sensor, and Samsung is focusing on zoom photos for 2024.
According to the tweet from Ice Universe, the S24 Ultra could feature a new larger 3X telephoto sensor. At the same time, there’s no exact word on which sensor; there’s still a chance that Samsung will stick to the 10MP 1/3.52″ IMX 754. There’s an IMX 754+ in the works for the S24 lineup, but there’s no info on the size of this sensor.
Earlier, there were reports that Samsung would abandon the 3X telephoto and replace it with a 5X telephoto. This wasn’t the right move, and it’s probably not happening. One key selling point for the S23 Ultra’s camera system is portrait mode photos. The 3X and 2X ranges are perfect for portrait shots on smartphones since the 50mm to 85mm range is the best for taking human portraits since it captures the correct size of the face.
Removing the 3X lens will result in digital zoom portraits for that range, and they will look terrible. Moreover, jumping to a 5X telephoto will leave a massive gap in the 1X to 5X range. While sensor crop and sharpening might appear decent for 2X zoom, it’s nowhere near good enough for 3X and beyond.
To further improve the camera performance at 3X, Samsung might use new software algorithms and AI image processing. This will not only improve 3X photos but all photos taken between 3X and 10X zoom. Photos taken with 3X zoom with the current S23 Ultra have some major problems. Primarily it’s the noise handling and then the detail retention. There’s also not much natural background blur. A larger sensor on the S24 Ultra will fix most of these issues.