Optical zoom lenses with 2x or even 3x magnification factor are one of the the latest trends on high-end smartphones. However, you don't necessarily need a dedicated lens to achieve better zoom results than you get from a standard digital zoom.

In the world of computational photography one solution to getting around optical zoom is to combine a multitude of frames to capture as much detail as possible and apply some clever processing algorithms. While not nearly as clear as optical zoom — yet — these methods result in final images that aren't far off an optical system. One such example is Google's Super Resolution Zoom on the Pixel 3 smartphone. Through this method, the Pixel 3 can produce image detail far superior to a simple digital zoom.

But Google isn't the only company working on this. Computational imaging company Almalence also provides imaging software solutions to mobile device and camera makers with a similar solution called SuperSensor, and it's shown off just how capable its system is.

On its blog Almalence has compared Google's Super Resolution to its own Super Sensor technology by installing the latter on a Google Pixel 3 and capturing a couple of test scenes.

The company's conclusion is that Google's Super Resolution Zoom 'reveals some details that are indistinguishable in the normal image,' but 'it’s still not the best of what super resolution can achieve.'

In the 100% crops above you can see Google's system is doing a much better job at magnifying the text in the book that served as a test subject. However, at closer inspection you'll also see that the characters in the text is better preserved in the image captured by the Almalence system, despite an overall softer appearance.

In the original article you can find another comparison scene and all samples for download at original size, so you can form your own opinions about the performance of the two systems. In any case it's good to see how far purely software-based systems have come when compared to a simple digital zoom. Combining such systems with optical zoom lenses should open up completely now possibilities on mobile devices.