What is Happening with Samsung's Camera?


 Well, I was wrong, so, time to own it.

What is a photo?

What is a photo?

That's a real question

that I'm not sure has a straightforward answer anymore

in this age of smartphone cameras that we live in.

Case in point, the latest questions with Samsung.

Now, this is a bit of a part-two

to a video I've already made

called "What's Happening With the iPhone's Camera,"

but that's about the broader topic

of smartphone cameras and computational photography

And the more interesting thing,

which is taking pictures of people.

I'll link that below the like button.

This one is more of a side quest

of the specific edge case of phones with zoom at night

zooming in and taking pictures of the moon.

So first, I'd like to admit I was wrong.

I was wrong

I made a short about a month or so ago.

I'm not gonna delete it, but it's

of me zooming into 100X space zoom

on the Galaxy S23 Ultra and taking a picture of the moon

That looks impressive,

and I said, "I guess it's not doing the AI fakery

that Huawei got caught doing years ago."

But to be fair, that's not what I should've done.

What I should've done is tested it,

done some AB experiment-type stuff.

I should've tested it and run an experiment

Like Reddit users, break photos did

This past weekend,

and well, as you can probably tell,

The findings were kind of interesting.

So let me show you.

The Experiment

So basically, when you point a camera

in the sky and zoom into the moon,

It recognizes the moon as the subject of the photo,

and it locks the electronic stabilization on the target,

sets the focus distance to infinity

and fires up a detailed improvement engine

to make the moon look much clearer

than it would normally be.

The easiest way to prove this

That is exactly how the Reddit experiment went.

If you load up a full-resolution picture of the moon

and point the camera at it,

It triggers all these systems and the same set of processes.

But then if you pull up a blurred photo of the moon

with many of these details obscured

and do the same thing,

Zoom in, point the camera at it,

What happens is it still runs all the same improvements

and processes because it recognizes a moon,

and then it turns out, that the camera will spit out a clearer,

more detailed photo of the moon with all sorts

of sharp detail that wasn't even in the source image.

It feels weird.

It feels fake.

Like, the fact that it's getting a bunch

of detail out of the shot that wasn't in front

of your camera in the first place just feels wrong.

To be fair, it's not exactly doing

what Huawei was accused of doing.

Huawei is accused of doing this brute force, like,

overlay fakery, where okay, you point theirs at the moon,

It recognizes the moon,

And then it just drops an overlay on top of the moon

to get that detail out of nowhere

'cause that's what our brains assumed that was happening.

Huawei denies this, but to be fair, this would work

Moon Photography

with moon photography because the moon, as you know,

is tidally locked and the same side always faces the Earth,

so the overlay would always be perfectly accurate.

But what's happening with Samsung's

is a little more complicated than that.

So like I said, you point that camera at the moon.

Once you get past 25X zoom, if the sky is clear enough

and the moon is recognized as the target,

The camera app turns the exposure all the way down

to take it from a glowing white orb

to a somewhat detailed object.

Then, like I said, it sets the focus

to its furthest distance,

It locks the electronic stabilization on the target object,

and then it runs a series of noise reduction

and detail enhancement processes

that AI sharpens what you see in the viewfinder

towards what it knows the moon is supposed to look like.

So yes, everyone who has this phone that takes a picture

of the same moon is gonna get, like,

the same looking image at 100X,

but, you know, if it's got some color to it,

If the moon is red to you, then it will keep that intact.

If something flies in front of it,

Theoretically, that should stay intact.

And then it matches the phase of the moon,

so it'll work on any phase,

half moon, gibbous, crescent, whatever.

That's fine too.


Now, you might be asking,

"Marques, how do you know all of this?"

Well, one, because we ran these experiments

on pictures of the moon like the Reddit user did,

but also two, there is an entire post on a Samsung forum.

There's a Samsung community forum,

And there's a post that details all of this,

like how it works, what phones it works on,

and the step-by-step process that it goes through

when it recognizes the moon in the sky.

It's in Korean, so you may have to run it through a translate

to read it yourself, but yeah, it's out there.

So you can disable this feature

Just by turning off the Scene optimizer setting

in the camera app, whose description right now

on my phone says, "Makes dark scenes look brighter,

food look tastier, and landscapes look more vivid."

They should also add, "also makes the moon look extra crispy

and bright and detailed so you can flex

on all your iPhone friends who don't have 100X zoom."

But to me, this is just one of many types of photos

that our smartphones are already editing for us.

I've said it in a previous video, the stuff that comes out

of a smartphone camera isn't so much reality

As much as it's this computer's interpretation

of what it thinks you'd like reality to look like.

So, of course, anytime there's a full moon,

Everyone with an S23 Ultra is super tempted

to zoom in and take the same picture of the moon

'cause it looks super impressive and it's visually cool,

but also then the headlines are gonna say,

"Hey, that's kinda fake."

But these phones will continue to recognize the landscape

and turn the grass more green or recognize a wide-angle shot

with the sky in it and turn the sky blue.

It'll recognize a photo of food

and boost the most saturated colors.

Of course, the one with the moon

is the most visually impressive

and easy to pay attention to, but

What is a photo?

Moon mode magic makes the media mad,

but many more manipulated megapixels have their merit.

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