According to a dodgy leak, the Google Pixel 7 could be accompanied by a premium sibling – I’m not talking about the 7 Pro, but another alternative, possibly even more sophisticated.
As a photography fan, this news has my mind racing. Google phones are regularly on ‘s list of best camera phones, and if this hypothetical future powerhouse didn’t have to consider things like ‘affordability’, it could have a chance to knock the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra out of the top spot.
But if it does, there’s one camera feature of this mighty Samsung phone that Google should emulate – or rather improve on: the periscope zoom camera.
There were many features of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra camera that I loved to test: the Pro-level video recording mode, the simple Single Take tool, the wonderful portrait capture mode, and so on. But when I think back to my testing time with the phone, it’s this periscope zoom camera that stands out.
This telephoto periscope camera had a 10MP 1.12um sensor paired with an f/4.9 230mm periscope lens, which offered 10x optical zoom over the ‘main’ camera. It is used to zoom in on near and far subjects.
Initially, I was playing around with this to see how far I could jump in a landscape, taking pictures of distant buildings and landmarks, but I quickly found it even better to take pictures of birds and insects. Also, I relied on it for “macro looking” shots of things like flowers and people, as I love the way depth of field looks on lenses with a longer focal length.
I actually started using this 10x zoom camera to take portrait shots, preferring it to True Portrait mode in many cases – even though it often meant I had to get away from the subject.
So if a Google Pixel 7 Ultra comes without a long-range camera like this, I probably won’t even give the time of day – but if it gets that kind of snapper, there are some issues with the S22 version of the Ultra that Google could fix.
Building with Pixel
While the zoomed photos on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra looked great, I still found some rough edges I’d love to see clarified in a successor phone – or a rival.
The first and most important is the sensor. 10MP isn’t giving you that many pixels for post-production editing, and I think a larger sensor would have been great as the photos were a little darker than they should have been. Perhaps a larger, higher resolution alternative would be better.
Second, zooming in over great distances (maybe your subject is a celestial body like the moon) on a smartphone can cause some horrible side effects, especially if you don’t have steady hands. Even a slight wobble can cause you to point your phone at something completely different from your subject. I don’t find this issue as prevalent for large-body cameras as they are generally easier to hold and also have a lot of stabilization built in.
Maybe Google could copy the big zoom and add a lot of digital stabilization for when you zoom in. Many camera phones have OIS for some of their zoom snappers, like Samsung’s, but their Space Zoom isn’t as stable as similar modes from other brands like Vivo – perhaps Google can copy this company’s solutions.
My third wish-list item is an even longer focal length, although I think this addition would be so niche that Google probably wouldn’t consider it. I don’t recall ever seeing a smartphone with anything over 230mm, and it would probably need a periscope lens system so complex it’s just not worth the company. But a guy can dream.
As a compromise, for people who like zoom photography, perhaps Google can emulate Sony’s Xperia 1 IV and its variable optical zoom.
On the Galaxy S22 Ultra, the 10x zoom is optical – but at 9.9x you’re in digital zoom, as smartphone cameras often use fixed focal lengths and rely on digital zoom to fill in the gaps. However, this is not the case with Sony’s newest smartphone, as it can vary between 85mm and 125mm.
However, it’s not the greatest range and only takes you to the equivalent of a 5.2x zoom. Maybe if Google took that system, but let you range between, say, 190mm and 230mm, it could combine the best of Samsung and Sony’s flagships.
I’ve delved deep into “wish list” territory here, but with the Google Pixel 7 Ultra barely a glint in the leakers’ eye, that’s where we are.
If Google wants to compete for the top spot in the rankings of our camera phones, it should take notes from Samsung, and borrowing the periscope zoom lens should be the first item on its “to do” list.