Are Samsung’s phones feeding it on moon photography?

There have been some mighty impressive moon pictures taken with mobile phones these days, but are they even real? In the case of Samsung’s Galaxy S23 Ultra, the answer is: maybe.

Tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee starts off with a very compelling question in modern times: what is a photo? And to answer that question, he brings up what he considers an “edge case” of lunar photography. Traditionally, to get a good shot of the moon, I’ve needed a steady tripod, decently fast exposure and all the zoom I could get, and even then it was difficult. Samsung’s latest phone cameras feature a 100x zoom that has been shown to get clear moon shots using some kind of hardware and software wizardry. While a periscope lens and image stabilization can account for some of the sharpness in the moon shots, no cell phone should be able to make moon shots this clear with the hardware they pack.

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

Now, this is not like what Huawei did a few years ago, which was to simply put a moon photo in its database over what you pointed at. That’s some neat digital tricks there. This is something with a slightly lighter but still controversial feel.

While Brownlee was running his own tests, the real news was brought over to Reddit by the aptly named user ibreakphotos. Over there, he runs some extensive tests that show what he says are “fake” images generated from Samsung phones of the moon.

AI and photography are things I have spent years studying and this one is hard to call. What do you think of what Samsung is doing with these moon shots?

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