Are Samsung phones cheating it in the Moonshot?

These days mobile phones have taken great impressive moon pictures, but are they even real? In the case of Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra, the answer is: maybe.

Tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee begins with the most compelling question of our time: what is a photograph? And to answer that question, he brings up what he considers the “edge case” of lunar photography. Traditionally, to get a good picture of the moon, I’ve needed a steady tripod, a reasonably fast exposure, and all the zoom possible, and even then it was tricky. Samsung’s latest phone cameras have a 100x zoom that has seemed to get clear moon shots through some kind of hardware and software wizardry. While the periscope lens and image stabilization can explain some of the sharpness of the moonshots, no cell phone should be able to make moonshots this clear with the hardware they pack.

And really, as Brownlee points out, it’s not hardware. It’s the AI ​​in Samsung’s software that recognizes that the user is trying to take a photo of the moon, then scours its database of moons to computationally piece together the details that the phone just can’t capture. The result is that even if your moon picture is a blurry mess on your computer screen, the right Samsung phone will turn it into a decent moon picture.

This is not like what Huawei did a few years ago, where they simply added a moon image to the database on top of what you pointed to. There’s a definite digital trick to it. This is something a little lighter, but still controversial.

While Brownlee was running his own tests, the real news was broken on Reddit by the aptly named user ibreakphotos. There, he runs extensive tests that show what he says are “fake” photos created by Samsung’s moon phones.

AI and photography are things I’ve been researching for years, and it’s hard to call this one. What do you think of what Samsung is doing with these moons?

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