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I’m worried about the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra

The Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera lenses.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I don’t want to believe one specific rumor about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra and would be shocked if Samsung made such an odd strategic decision. But it’s possible the 10x optical zoom feature may be removed from the phone.

It could go either way at the moment, but if it does happen, it would leave the S24 Ultra with a 3x and a 5x optical zoom and entirely remove the Ultra series’s main, unique, standout camera feature. And I hate the thought of that.

Moving backward

Close-up shot of the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andrew Martonik / Digital Trends

It would be a baffling decision should the rumors turn out to be accurate and almost as confusing as the fact no other manufacturer has taken on Samsung with a 10x optical zoom camera on a different phone yet. In 2024, I was hoping to see at least one other phone with such an impressive zoom, but now it is possible there may not even be one example at all.

I use many different smartphones throughout the year, and I enjoy taking a lot of photos with them. But I regularly think, “Oh, I wish I had my S23 Ultra right now to take that photo,” purely because of the 10x zoom feature. It can take photos that are simply impossible to capture with the same level of detail and quality as any other current phone.

I’ve loved the feature since it was introduced on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, and I’m not the only one. It’s also just one aspect of the S23 Ultra’s photographic prowess, which would be eroded should the feature be abandoned.

Galaxy S23 Ultra telephoto picture of a red boat on the water.
Galaxy S23 Ultra (10x zoom) Joe Maring / Digital Trends

Why would Samsung consider removing it and settling with a 5x optical zoom as its lengthiest option? It may come down to cost, as perhaps it’s only a handful of people who use and enjoy the 10x zoom option, or it’s impossible to fit inside the new S24 Ultra due to other alternations.

Or, it’s a reaction to the iPhone 15 Pro Max and its new 5x optical zoom. Samsung is notorious for chasing Apple — look at the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro’s marketing, where it was wrongly positioned against the Apple Watch Ultra, for evidence — instead of going its own way.

Where is the competition?

The Huawei P40 Pro Plus's camera module.
Huawei P40 Pro Plus Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If the Galaxy S24 Ultra doesn’t have a 10x optical zoom, I wouldn’t be so mad about it if a few other phones could satisfy me, but there simply isn’t another option available to buy. Not only that, but I don’t know which other major manufacturer would be willing to even give it a try. Aside from Samsung’s own bizarre Galaxy S4 Zoom, Huawei is the only one that has embraced a 10x optical zoom before.

Huawei did so on the P40 Pro Plus after gaining a lot of attention for introducing a 10x hybrid zoom on the Huawei P30 Pro, but then it went back to non-optical 10x zooms for later phones. Huawei’s lack of availability and other drawbacks mean it wouldn’t be a viable option for many even if it did still have a 10x optical zoom on a current phone. Apple has only just got around to a 5x optical zoom, so a 10x optical zoom iPhone seems unlikely.

Oppo Reno 10x Zoom review
Oppo Reno 10x Zoom Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Oppo may have put the feature in the name of its Reno 10x Zoom from 2019, but it was also a hybrid 10x zoom, and the phone only offered a 5x optical zoom. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra has a 5x optical and 10x hybrid mode, OnePlus seems to be content with an optical zoom around 3x, Google relies on its (admittedly very good) software to take photos beyond 5x optical zoom, and Vivo is experimenting with hybrid setups too.

Other manufacturers need to seize the day

A person holding the Galaxy S23 Ultra.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Samsung needs to keep the 10x optical zoom alive in 2024 with the Galaxy S24 Ultra. It’s a unique feature that has long made the Ultra model exciting and different, and dropping it now would be like removing the S Pen stylus, another feature that sets the phone apart from the competition. Without these, the S24 Ultra is just another big, expensive phone.

But whatever happens, there is a gap for another manufacturer to fill. It doesn’t seem like the other big names are willing to take a gamble by adding a 10x optical zoom to the camera array, which gives smaller brands the chance to make an impact.

Several names spring to mind. Asus is adventurous and has been messing around with gimbal stabilization — which is a bit gimmicky — on its Zenfone cameras, but it could really give the next model wide appeal with a 10x optical zoom.

The Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod on a smartphone.
Hasselblad True Zoom Moto Mod Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Nothing has been causing problems for itself with software misplays and could do with focusing on hardware for a while. It would win a lot of fans with a Pro version of the Nothing Phone, complete with a 10x optical zoom.

Finally, Motorola is coming off a fantastic 2023, and even though its cameras can be hit-or-miss, it does have experience with 10x optical zoom hardware through the Hasselblad-backed True Zoom Moto Mod for the Moto Z series. Bring something like it back for 2024, please.

Don’t let the feature disappear

Ultimately, I want to take high-quality, blur-free photos of squirrels in my back garden and other animals I come across on my travels, and to do that, I really need my smartphone camera to have a 10x optical zoom. In the same way, I don’t want Samsung to consign the feature to the past with the Galaxy S24 Ultra; I also really want at least one other manufacturer to see the potential and introduce the feature on a new phone, too.

You can keep your face-swapping tools and AI-generated skies; I’m not all that worried if the camera pops out when I take a photo or even if the main camera has 200 megapixels. I just don’t want 2023 to be the last year when a 10x optical zoom was a smartphone camera feature.

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Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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