Samsung explains its ‘fake’ photos of the Moon | Engadget

Samsung hopes to get out of a controversy over its camera processing technology. The company has shared an explanation of the Moon photo detection system that it has used since the Galaxy S21. If you have Scene Optimizer turned on, AI detects when you are taking a clear photo of the Moon at 25X zoom or higher. The technology reduces glare, captures multiple frames (to produce a bright, low-noise image), and uses a neural network to enhance detail using a high-resolution reference image for comparison.

You can turn off the Scene Optimizer. Samsung also points out that this won’t work if you take a snapshot of the darkened Moon or use an image that was clearly not taken on Earth. The Moon is tidally locked to the planet, so you’ll always see the same lunar surface unless you go into space.


The defense comes after Reddit user Breakphotos alleged that Samsung was faking images of the Moon by adding details not present in the raw scene. To prove it, Breakphotos even took pictures of blurry, low-resolution images on a computer screen; there is no information that the phone can retrieve from the socket. Even with the exposure zoomed in, the device seemed to add information that just wasn’t there.

This is not an outright fake. Samsung is using the actual shot as a reference. However, their algorithms clearly go to the extreme by producing photos that don’t represent what you get through the lens. The company seems to be aware of this, too, saying it’s refining Scene Optimizer to “reduce any potential confusion” between taking photos of the actual Moon and mere images of it.

This isn’t the first time a phone maker has come under fire for manipulating photo output, of course. Some brands have had beauty modes that mask perceived body and skin imperfections to create unrealistic portraits. However, Samsung is effectively claiming that its phones can take technically impossible photos: you can buy a Galaxy S23 Ultra under the mistaken impression that someone’s sharp, crisp lunar image reflects what the phone can physically produce.

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James D. Brown
James D. Brown
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