I was very skeptical of the new Astrophotography mode in the latest Expert RAW – and the look of the tiny video Samsung has selected to demo the feature and also the numerous crashes reported by redditors were not encouraging.
I will need to start the post with a not-so-small side-note – Astrophotography is a very, very wide term going from extraordinary nice art-like pictures like [this](https://www.reddit.com/r/astrophotography/comments/xe529t/14minute_time_exposure_star_trails_from_the_iss/) going all the way to the fully scientific extreme of the pictures taken by Hubble to JWST. Somewhere in between there is a place for pictures that look good enough so as to be able to instantly recognize what you see in the sky vs. what you see in the picture with the added bonus of an improved view in the pictures. My absolute best (personal) example for that is [Neowise comet + big dipper + Polaris – taken with GCAM on PocoF1 in a Bortle 3-4 zone](https://i.imgur.com/Q9GthFN.jpg) – side-note – a simple test if any astro photo containing the big dipper is decent is if you see Mizar and Alcor as [different stars](https://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/space-science/mizar-alcor-plough-double-star/) (which somebody with a good eyesight in good observation conditions should also be able to see directly); on top of that star colors are probably more realistic if Dubhe (a red giant) looks more reddish than for instance Merak (those two are “the pointers” since they point to Polaris in the Northern sky).
While my picture above was taken in a place with very good stargazing conditions (about 3-4 on [the Bortle scale](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bortle_scale)) my tests with S22U so far have been only in my backyard around Bortle 8, so I expect that when I will find the time and energy to travel almost an hour to my better stargazing site the S22U images to also get clearly better.
But even like that the first tests look promising – [here is a photo taken with the main lens for 11 minutes](https://i.imgur.com/or9XvAa.jpg), and [here is a capture from the open-source Sky Map program](https://i.imgur.com/1i0rDPR.jpg) set in Time Travel to the time and direction of the S22U picture – the 3 green dots to the right of Mirach are M31, M32 and M110 which unfortunately the program has labeled one over the other. M31 is better known as the Andromeda galaxy and if you look in the S22U picture you can actually see it as a very faint diffuse object – so indeed initial Astro mode for Samsung is about at the same level as initial Google Camera (see in [this video](https://youtu.be/zu8W3rXcNfg) around the 19 minutes mark their Andromeda image – but taken in a much better location that mine last night).
The location of my backyard makes impossible to get a clean picture of the big dipper so that will have to wait for that stargazing trip.
On the S22U you can also use Astro mode on the other lenses – on the 3x zoom it also looks somehow promising but on the 10x it seems to never be able to finish taking an image.
So is Astrophotography mode in the latest Expert RAW all OK? Actually not 100% so – crashes have to be fixed (and apparently some will be soon according to a post in a Samsung forum) but also IMHO somebody should keep an eye on the visible [vignetting](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vignetting). Also a form of quick preview (where a preliminary picture is shown after 30s or so) should be added (just so that you can quickly confirm that the phone is well oriented instead of waiting 11 minutes for nothing).
However it is important that now Google is no longer alone in this Astrophotography race, things will definitely get better with more competition, and I am super-curious if Apple could actually jump well in front of both Google and Samsung by using their sensor-shift features for very, very, very long exposure times (average exposure time for both Google and Samsung in Astro mode seems to be under 4-8s to avoid forming star trails but shifting the sensor could easily increase that 4-8 times; OR we could buy a [star tracker](https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/buying-guides/best-star-tracker), then a lot of DSLR super-expensive stuff and finally get a [composite picture like this](https://slate.com/technology/2014/01/moon-and-andromeda-relative-size-in-the-sky.html)).
First update for Expert RAW is out on the 31st of October.