Those lovely Samsung phone moon photos derided as ‘AI fakes’

The lovely pictures of the moon you’ve taken using the 100x ‘Space Zoom’ feature on your Samsung Galaxy smartphone are ‘fake’ according to a reddit user who has investigated the oft-debated matter.

The Redditor u/ibreakphotos believes the photos users see in their camera roll (like the one above) are simply overlaid with more detail using, (yep, you guessed it) AI and machine learning techniques.

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Samsung is taking the blurry moon photos (which the sensor and zoom capabilities are actually capable of capturing) and adding the moon detail at the back end, using a neural network trained on thousands of images of the moon to “recover/add texture” according to the Redditor.

The investigation concluded: “The moon pictures from Samsung are fake. Samsung’s marketing is deceptive. It is adding detail where there is none (in this experiment, it was intentionally removed).

“…they mention multi-frames, multi-exposures, but the reality is, it’s AI doing most of the work, not the optics, the optics aren’t capable of resolving the detail that you see. Since the moon is tidally locked to the Earth, it’s very easy to train your model on other moon images and just slap that texture when a moon-like thing is detected.”

Image credit: u/ibreakphotos on Reddit

That isn’t something that’s been acknowledged by Samsung, which says “no image overlaying or texture effects are applied when taking a photo.” However, if you turn off the “scene optimiser” you just get a standard blurry picture of the moon you’d expect from a smartphone camera.

However, in a post on Samsung’s community page last year (translated from Korean and via The Verge), the company does say: “Since the Galaxy S10, AI technology has been applied to the camera so that users can take the best photos regardless of time and place.”

“From Galaxy S21, even when you take a picture of the moon, AI recognises the target as the moon through learned data, and multi-frame synthesis and deep learning-based ai technology when shooting. The detail improvement engine function that makes the picture clearer has been applied.”

Samsung has used moon photography was a major marketing tool for its flagship phones in recent years, including this commercial for the S23 Ultra. However, it appears Samsung could be a little bit more upfront about how it gets to the end results.

We have contacted Samsung seeking clarification.

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