I’ve been testing cell phones for 8 years and I think zoom gets worse at high range.

If a brand, say Apple, launches an iPhone one year, the most logical thing to do is to believe that the same model the following year will be the same or better, and in no way worse than the previous year. But did you know that this is not always the case?

I have been testing technology products regularly for 8 years, and although when I analyze a product, it is clear that the huge investment that brands make to continue innovating year after year, I realized that There are certain aspects that are sometimes stagnant and sometimes declining..

As the royal technology device of today, the most I have come across since I started in this sector in 2017 are smartphones. From all kinds of brands, some new like Nothing and others gone away like LG.

Although today’s mobile phones are superior in every way to those that existed back then, in today’s smartphones I have a feeling that The current situation has gotten worse than it was two, three, or even four years ago in some cases because of one very specific thing: zoom..

About 10 years ago, when phones started to have multiple rear cameras, one of the selling points was zoom. That’s when we started talking about digital, optical, hybrid zoom, and the differences between sensor types (wide, ultrawide, macro, and telephoto, which is what I want to talk about).

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It’s a subject that stirs up emotions. And if not, tell OnePlus, which has been embroiled in controversy with its OnePlus 5 (2017) and OnePlus 7 Pro (2019) phones for advertising a larger optical zoom than it actually had.

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First, the OnePlus 5 turned out to have 2x zoom, which is a combination of 1.6x optical zoom and 0.4x digital zoom, not fully optical. Second, the OnePlus 7 Pro had 3x zoom, which turned out to be lossless but not optical. These controversies over these small differences show that users care about this aspect.

But not only users were interested in zoom, but many brands were launched. Mobile phones with increasingly powerful zoom lenses reach up to 10x optical zoom..

This is the case for the Huawei P40 Pro+, launched in 2019 with 10x optical zoom; the Oppo Reno 10X Zoom, launched in 2019 with 10x optical zoom; the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, launched in 2021, with 10x optical and 100x digital zoom; and the Realme X3 SuperZoom, launched in 2020 with 5x optical and 10x hybrid zoom.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Review

And this is just to mention some examples in the high range, because in the mid-range there were isolated cases of zoom-focused mobiles such as the Motorola One Zoom, from 2020.

There was also High-end phones with extreme zoom, such as 120x zoom. From the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the 200x zoom from the Huawei P50 Pro, but in all cases it is a digital zoom, and therefore with losses in quality, so I do not count them here and focus on the optical telephoto lenses.

In many cases, these terminals came with marketing that focused heavily on camera functions and especially with an emphasis on zoom, since these were the first moments when a mobile phone camera could see further than the human eye in many cases.

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And you will say, why have I been talking to you so much about cell phones for years?

Although 10x optical zoom has become very common in mobile phones until 2023like the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, suddenly stopped appearing on current phones, which have 5x telephoto lenses at most.

For example, the button: The Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, as of 2024, has a 5x telephoto lens, not 10x like its predecessor.

What happened between them? Apple and the iPhone 15 Pro certainly had a lot to do with it.

iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max

Apple, which was reluctant to include powerful telephoto lenses like it does on Android, updated in September 2023 and launched the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max, with 5x optical zoom lens equivalent to 120mm focal lengthThis represents a huge improvement over the iPhone 14 Pro’s 3x camera.

As my colleague Manu Contreras tells you here in his analysis, the 5x zoom of the iPhone 15 Pro is one of the best received features of this mobile phone and has amazed users.

In conjunction with this decision by Apple, and perhaps also the choice of the rest of the manufacturers to prioritize other aspects of the phone’s hardware, as a result, current high-end mobile phones do not have the increased capacity that terminals from 2019, 2020 or 2021 have.

It is true that computational photography and artificial intelligence greatly improve the cameras of current mobile phones, which are in every other way better than their counterparts five years ago. Even in the case of zoom, some mobile phones with less optical zoom may respond better than older phones with more optical zoom.

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It’s also true that in the end zoom isn’t used very often either. It’s useful when you want to zoom in on distant details and can’t or don’t want to get closer, but at most you’ll only use 10x or more once every 20 times, be optimistic.

But it’s surprising as a consumer to realize that there are areas where current cell phones can be somewhat stagnant, such as batteries, but also Optical zoom has generally gotten worse compared to the past few years..

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Tags: camera

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