Are Samsung’s Space Zoom Moon Shots Fake? Redditor Allegedly Proves It’s Just AI
The full moon can be an awe-inspiring sight, but capturing that vibe accurately isn't easy. Snapping a picture of the moon with your average smartphone will return a little white blob, but for the last few years, "Space Zoom" on select Samsung phones has provided what appear to be higher-quality images of Earth's satellite. Those photos might be a lie, though—a viral Reddit post purports to reveal Samsung's moon photos are mere AI trickery.
Samsung has followed Google's lead to lean heavily into computational photography. So, every photo you take on Samsung's phones is passed through algorithms that adjust the colors, sharpness, and lighting to produce the final product. Samsung photos have a distinct style with pumped-up colors and aggressive sharpening, which might not always be true to life. However, images of the moon appear to go further.
Reddit user /u/ibreakphotos has devised a way to test Space Zoom photos on the S23 Ultra, and the conclusion is that Samsung's moon snapshots are made out of whole cloth. They started with a photo of the moon pulled from the internet, and then lowered the resolution and applied a gaussian blur to remove detail. The Galaxy S23 Ultra was used to take a picture of the blurred moon at an extreme zoom level, and like magic, the final image had razor-sharp details that weren't present in the original.
In another test, the S23 Ultra was presented with two blurred moons, one full and the other half. If the algorithm was actually enhancing details, it would enhance both. Instead, it identified the full moon as a moon and added the fake moon overlay, leaving the other one blurred.
So what's happening here? Most likely, the phone knows when you're zooming in to take a photo of the moon—that would be a relatively easy thing to train an AI model to detect. Conveniently, the same side of the moon always faces Earth. Thus, it's a simple matter to make the final photo look like we all expect by applying an overlay with the moon's features.
Huawei was caught doing something similar on the P30 Pro several years ago, and Samsung has been questioned on this point several times since it unveiled Space Zoom in 2020. Samsung has always maintained that its lunar photography algorithms sharpen details and remove noise but denies that it's applying an overlay or adding made-up textures. And yet, the test seems incontrovertible. We've reached out to Samsung and will update if the company has anything to add.