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What is Samsung’s new Under-Display Camera tech and how effective is it?

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Last updated: August 11th, 2021 at 16:54 UTC+01:00

Samsung’s mobile phones went full circle, from not having a front-facing camera more than a decade ago, to having one, to having an Infinity cutout or notch, and back to not having a front-facing camera. At least in appearance. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 is Samsung’s first mobile device to feature a UDC, or Under-Display Camera, which might be good enough to fool some people into believing that the new flagship doesn’t have a selfie camera paired with the foldable display. But people who will be fooled by this new trick either don’t follow mobile news or haven’t had internet access for years, as UDC technology has been in the news for a long time now.

But let’s take a step back and answer the basic question. What is UDC/Under-Display Camera technology? Well, it’s something that allows Samsung to hide a selfie camera behind the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s foldable display and thus provide a more immersive experience through the 7.6-inch foldable panel. Here’s what makes it possible.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 UDC (Under-Display Camera) specifications

As far as on-paper specifications go, Samsung’s first UDC/Under-Display Camera isn’t all that impressive. It’s a 4MP sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and an 80 degrees field of view. Nothing special so far, but the sensor does have quite large 2-micron pixels, which means they can capture more light — something needed when the sensor is hidden behind a display.

And although 4MP sounds like too low of a resolution for a selfie camera in 2021 — or even 2017 — let’s keep in mind that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is not a run-of-the-mill smartphone. It already has a proper selfie camera atop the cover display, so the purpose of the Under-Display Camera is not to deliver cutting-edge quality but to stay hidden when watching videos, playing mobile games, and in other cases that take advantage of the foldable screen’s large footprint for an immersive experience.

The other component that makes UDC possible is the display cutout. Yes, the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s foldable panel still has an Infinity-O cutout, though it only becomes visible when the display is sleeping. This brings us to the next and final point.

How hidden is the Galaxy Z Fold 3 UDC (Under-Display Camera)?

In short, it’s more or less noticeable depending on a couple of factors, such as viewing angle and the brightness of the display area covering the UDC, but it does more than a decent job.

You could say that still photos don’t make Samsung’s UDC technology justice, especially when captured at the correct — or worst — angles. In this sense, the Under-Display Camera is sort of like the foldable display’s crease. It’s more visible from some angles than others.

Galaxy Z Fold 3 under display camera

The brightness of the foldable display — or specifically, the area covering the UDC — is another key factor that plays into the sensor’s visibility. The brighter the screen, the more hidden the Under-Display Camera will be. The side effect is that the UDC sensor and the Infinity-O cutout become almost clearly visible when the screen is sleeping or when the image is dark. It’s technically the same thing, as far as the AMOLED display’s pixels are concerned.

Keep in mind that AMOLED screens achieve deeper black levels by shutting off individual pixels, so if the image around the UDC is pitch-black, the pixels shut off and the Infinity-O cutout becomes a lot more noticeable — almost to the level of a regular Infinity-O selfie camera from any other Galaxy smartphone.

At the end of the day, it’s the first generation Under-Display Camera from Samsung, and so far, it looks like a very promising and viable, albeit imperfect, technology. And it’s by far the most exciting camera on the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which has a total of five.

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CameraPhone Galaxy Z Fold 3UDCUnder Display CameraUnder Panel CameraUPC
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