Galaxy S22 Ultra to fix everlasting Android and iPhone camera issue, thanks to "Super Clear Lens"?

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Will Galaxy S22 Ultra finally solve one of the biggest Android and iPhone camera issues ever?
As far as our regular readers are concerned, this won't be a new topic of discussion, and you might even find the story a bit repetitive. However, as a writer, I do believe that keeping track of certain imperfections and their development can help:

  • Manufacturers to make better phones
  • You to make a more educated purchase decision

The smartphone camera has quickly turned into the centerpiece of every phone. That's why I'm not surprised that the first question regular people ask me before deciding which new phone to buy is "how's the camera?". So, whether you're a tech enthusiast or the average Joe, chances are the camera matters to you.

Lens flares/reflections have been plaguing iPhone, Galaxy, and Pixel forever, including iPhone 13, Galaxy S21, and Pixel 6

And if the camera really is important to you, you should probably know about the huge role that light plays in photo and video quality. More specifically, I'm referring to how smartphones gather, filter, and process light.

This exercise is relatively easy in daylight, both for phones and dedicated cameras. Of course, there's an exception, and that's because of… the sun. When taking a photo in direct sunlight, the phone will usually have difficulty balancing the bright background and the subject that stands in front. Chances are, one of the two will end up underexposed or overexposed.

However, even without a subject in the foreground, shooting against the sun is still a big challenge for phones, which usually feature plastic lens elements that aren't great at dealing with lens flares. For ages, this has been the story with virtually every modern phone. Even the latest and greatest flagships from Apple, Samsung, and Google can quickly fall apart in challenging lighting scenarios.

We've talked about the iPhone's Flaregate several times, but the truth is that even my Google Pixel 6 Pro starts to tap out when I take a photo with the presence of bright light sources. In fact, the Pixel is arguably worse than the iPhone now. The ironic part is that Pixels are known to have some of the best HDR (high dynamic range), right? Well, not anymore.

Galaxy S22 Ultra: Will the “Super Clear Lens” bring Super Clear Improvements?

Galaxy Z Flip 3, featuring Corning's "Super Clear Glass" doesn't seem to be dealing with the annoying lens flaring issue when compared to the Galaxy S21 series or iPhone 13 Pro, which don't feature any special hardware. Photos courtesy of Daniel Sin and Danny Winget.

Computational photography is impressive, but it turns out that software can only go that far. Some things will require manufacturers to make hardware-level changes in order to improve the photography on future flagships, and it seems like Samsung is finally trying to take steps in that direction.

"Super clear lens", that's what's rumored to come, at least to the main camera of the upcoming Galaxy S22 Ultra flagship from the South Korean company. The information was leaked by YouTuber Zaryab Khan and corroborated by serial-leaker Ice Universe.

The interesting bit here is that the upcoming Galaxy S22 Ultra camera feature isn't exactly new to Samsung's flagships. At least not entirely. Both the Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Galaxy Z Flip 3 from 2021 feature something called "Super Clear Glass". Yes, that's right - not "lens", but "glass".

The options here are two. We are either talking about the same thing, and something has gotten lost in translation (during the "leaking" process), or Samsung's decided that the new outer glass camera element on the company's foldable needs to be aided by an actual glass lens element.

While currently, we don't have much to work with as far as the Galaxy S22 Ultra is concerned, I do have some thoughts on how effective the Corning-made "Super Clear Glass" on the Fold 3 and Flip 3's main camera currently is.

As you can see from the samples (above), whatever the "Super Clear Glass" on the Galaxy Z Flip 3 is supposed to do, it's not working. It's clearly inferior to the iPhone 13 Pro when it comes to dealing with light reflections in video, which isn't surprising at all, as Apple's device is known as the king in video HDR. However, even in photos, the Galaxy is as good/bad as the iPhone at most, if not worse.

Furthermore, when compared to the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra, the Galaxy Z Flip 3 doesn't show any improvements when it comes to lens flares. In fact, oftentimes the S21 series will take a more balanced photo, despite not featuring the "Super Clear Glass" (albeit with the presence of lens flaring).

Zeiss T* coating: Is Vivo holding the key to Apple, Samsung, and Google’s future camera success?

I believe these samples, snapped by Han's Tech Talk speak for themselves. Vivo's X70 Pro+ (left) is currently schooling everyone on how to deal with lens flaring. Zeiss tags along. The photos on the right are taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

We still don’t know what the "Super Clear Lens/Glass” on the Galaxy S22 Ultra is, but I hope Samsung is taking cues from Vivo and not prior Galaxy flagships.

Vivo's latest X70 Pro+ uses a special Zeiss coating to deal with annoying lens flares. Long story short, it works like a charm! You can take a look for yourself. Whether it's the less challenging daylight scenario or the extremely difficult night-time scenes, light sources are simply not a problem for Vivo's Zeiss-coated flagship.

On the other hand, the Galaxy S21, S21 Ultra, and iPhone 13 Pro are clearly struggling a lot. But the big problem here is that the lens flares don't just give you overexposed sun, moon, or street lights.

As mentioned in the beginning, the poor light management lets unnecessary light bleed into other parts of the image, which again, as you can see on the samples, can ruin the detail, sharpness, clarity, overall exposure, color, and white balance. In other words, this matters… a lot. It basically creates the perfect conditions for noise pollution in the image, and while computational photography is often good at keeping such problems at bay, it's far from perfect.

Galaxy S22 Ultra camera might bring great improvements, compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra

We've seen a number of smartphone camera innovations in the past few years, most notably the Night Mode and periscope zoom camera. We've also seen several strategic partnerships that promise to elevate the photo and video performance on phones but often fall (very) short when it comes to delivering any meaningful results.

Now, when we've identified an apparent weak point in the smartphone camera in the face of lens flares and reflections, we are also lucky to have the solution for the problem hiding in plain sight. It will be a shame if companies like Samsung, Apple, and Google keep ignoring it. Let's cross our fingers for the Galaxy S22 Ultra because if this phone can set the standard, many others may follow through.

Finally, on a positive note, the aforementioned reliable leaker, Ice Universe, has said that Samsung’s new Galaxy S22 Ultra phone now takes photos with much greater detail and improved HDR, compared to the Galaxy S21 Ultra. Let’s hope part of the reason for that is the new “Super Clear Lens”.

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