Samsung is a brand that has been advertising its phones as having up to 100 times space zoom capabilities for years now. According to reports, Samsung's phone cameras can zoom a ridiculous amount of times into the moon, taking the shot and still ending up with a result that is somehow crisper than a 5000 professional camera setup could take. This has impressed many people, but recent developments indicate that Samsung may have been faking this capability.
A Reddit user called "I break photos" recently downloaded a high-res shot of the moon from the internet, downscaled it to 170 by 170 pixels, and then applied a blur.
He was trying to manufacture something that contains little actual detail but that the phone might still identify as a legitimate moonshot to see if it artificially adds in extra detail. He turned off all the lights, used his Samsung phone to take a photo of this blurry 170x170 moonshot, and ended up with an incredible difference.
He concluded that Samsung is using its supposed AI scene Optimizer mode to place craters in spots that, in his shot, were just a blurry mess. This means that the phone is more than just sharpening up the original image like Samsung suggests the AI does by taking multiple shots and blending their detail. Instead, the phone recognizes that it's a moon and swaps out the actual photo with the correct texture of what it should look like.
To verify these claims, another user tried to capture four photos, each pushing the boat out a little bit further. The first photo was a real-life shot of the moon at night, which went about as expected. The second photo was an attempt to see how easy it would be to fool the phone by using a photo of the moon on a screen instead of the real-life moon. After about five minutes of getting just the right distance, the scene detection did kick in, and the phone recognized the moon and turned this shot into the shot. However, there was a noticeable degradation in quality between the original image and the one taken from the phone of that image. The only way this makes sense is if the phone is not using the normal image processing that it would use for every other shot but instead recognizing the moon shape and going, "Oh, I know what a moon looks like already. I can use a sneaky trick here."
To try and 100% confirm that this was happening, the user even printed out a blurry version of the moon, hung it from a light by a string, and sure enough, the phone detected the paper as a moon and added detail that didn't even exist onto a paper cutout. This level of faking is occurring, but it remains to be seen how much of a problem it is for users who want to use the space zoom capabilities on their Samsung phones. Overall, it isn't very pleasant to learn that Samsung's AI scene Optimizer mode may not be as powerful as they advertise. Still, it's also important to note that no phone camera is perfect, and they all have strengths and weaknesses.
The results of these experiments raise important questions about the limits of AI-powered image processing and the ethics of marketing claims in the tech industry. While Samsung's space zoom feature may still produce impressive results in many cases, it's clear that users should approach these claims with a healthy dose of skepticism. As smartphone cameras continue to push the boundaries of what's possible, it's more important than ever to stay informed and critical when evaluating the latest marketing pitches.