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A hot potato: Samsung starting with its Galaxy S20 series added a 100x digital zoom feature to its flagship Ultra models. Dubbed Space Zoom, Samsung even went so far as to zoom in on the Moon using the feature. The results were stunning, but were they legitimate? One Reddit user doesn't think so.
Long convinced that Samsung's Moon images were a sham, the Redditor crafted a simple experiment to test the theory. It started by downloading this high-resolution photo of the Moon from the Internet. It was then resized down to 170x170 and a Gaussian blur was applied to effectively wipe out all of the details from the photo.
The coup de grâce involved setting the 170x170 image to full screen on the computer monitor, moving to the other size of the room, turning off the lights in the room and using Samsung's Space Zoom to photograph the tiny, blurred image. This was the end result.
According to the Redditor, this test proves Samsung is using AI to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle using a model that has been trained on many photos of the Moon rather than the camera's actual optics.
"There's a difference between additional processing a la super-resolution, when multiple frames are combined to recover detail which would otherwise be lost, and this, where you have a specific AI model trained on a set of moon images, in order to recognize the moon and slap on the moon texture on it (when there is no detail to recover in the first place, as in this experiment)."
When using Space Zoom on other subjects, multiple frames and multiple exposures are used to help extract detail that builds the final image. In this Moon test, there is no extra detail to be extracted using these techniques because it was all stripped out on purpose, yet the final image is still one that is full of detail.
The Moon is a very common target and because it is tidally locked to the Earth, it's easy to train a model on Moon images and use it to "fill in" missing details. At the end of the day, it's more the AI that's doing the work than the optics of the camera.
Was Samsung's marketing team attempting to deceive buyers with its Moon campaign? Should they have been more forthcoming about how AI is used, specifically as it relates to Moon shots? Or is this much to do about nothing considering many flagship smartphones now use AI to enhance photos from their cameras?