Flashback: A decade of Samsung Galaxy S camera tech

The Samsung Galaxy S III was released in May 2012 – ten years ago. The S-series has evolved significantly over the past decade and we wanted to try and quantify that evolution. Since there is a lot to cover, we thought we should keep it simple and focus on the camera today.

The third generation S-phone arrived with a single 8MP camera on its back and one 1.9MP selfie camera on the front. This was before the days of multi-camera setups, OIS and so on.

In fact, OIS wouldn’t appear until 2015 and the Galaxy S6. Then in 2018 the Galaxy S9+ brought the first telephoto lens to the series, the Galaxy S10 5G from the following year added an ultra wide camera.

Samsung Galaxy S III Samsung Galaxy S4 Samsung Galaxy S5 Samsung Galaxy S6 edge Samsung Galaxy S7 edge Samsung Galaxy S8+ Samsung Galaxy S9+ Samsung Galaxy S10 5G Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
The best Samsung Galaxy S phones from 2012 to 2022

A quick note – the Galaxy S10+ also had an ultrawide camera, but we’re only looking at the best model of each generation. And in 2019 that was the S10 5G, which added 3D ToF sensors on the front and the back. That didn’t last long and Samsung eventually went back to the computational approach to measuring the distance to objects. Another short-lived feature was the dual aperture – the Galaxy S8+ and S9+ could switch between f/2.0 for day shots to f/1.5 at night.

These two are responsible for another short-lived trend, the iris scanner on the front. This was used for biometric authentication, but was dropped in the S10 generation as under-display fingerprint readers became available.

The following year the first Galaxy S phone with a periscope arrived (the likes of the Galaxy S4 zoom don’t count – that wasn’t a periscope style lens and, if we’re being honest, that was more camera than phone).

The Galaxy S20 Ultra had a periscope with 103mm focal length or 4x optical magnification. That was double what the previous tele lenses offered, but it created too wide a gap for the main sensor to fill with digital zoom. So with the Galaxy S21 Ultra forward, Samsung used both a standard telephoto lens (now at 3x) and a periscope.

There is a lot of data to cover, even for just the camera, so we put everything in a table to summarize the evolution of the Galaxy S series over the last ten years and we have included some charts to visualize the progress.

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