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Samsung Galaxy S21, S21+, S21 Ultra review: Distilled excellence

By Liu Hongzuo - 13 Feb 2021

Imaging Performance

Imaging Performance

Here’s a snapshot of the cameras available on the Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21+, and Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Samsung Galaxy S21 series camera specs
Galaxy S21 Galaxy S21+ Galaxy S21 Ultra

Rear: 12MP, fixed focus, 120° FOV, f/2.2, 1.4μm (ultra-wide)

12MP, Dual Pixel AF, FOV 79°, f/1.8, OIS, 1.8μm (main, wide-angle)

64MP, Phase Detection AF, Hybrid Optic 3X, FOV 76°, OIS f/2.0, 0.8μm (telephoto)

Front: 10MP, Dual Pixel AF, 80°, f/2.2

  • 30x Space Zoom
  • 3x Hybrid Optic Zoom

 

Rear: 12MP, fixed focus, 120° FOV, f/2.2, 1.4μm (ultra-wide)

12MP, Dual Pixel AF, FOV 79°, f/1.8, OIS, 1.8μm (main, wide-angle)

64MP, Phase Detection AF, Hybrid Optic 3X, FOV 76°, OIS f/2.0, 0.8μm (telephoto)

Front: 10MP, Dual Pixel AF, 80°, f/2.2 

  • 30x Space Zoom
  • 3x Hybrid Optic Zoom

Rear: 12MP, Dual Pixel AF, 120° FOV, f/2.2, 1.4μm (ultra-wide)

108MP, Phase Detection AF, FOV 83°, f/1.8, OIS, 0.8μm (main, wide-angle)

10MP, Dual Pixel AF, 3x Optical Zoom, FOV 35°, OIS f/2.4, 1.22μm (telephoto)

10MP, Dual Pixel AF, 10x Optical Zoom, FOV 10°, OIS f/4.9, 1.22μm (telephoto)

Front: 40MP, Phase Detection AF, 80°, f/2.2

  • 100x Space Zoom
  • Laser AF Sensor

In essence, there was only one major change made to the S21 Ultra, while the rest of the S21 series is mostly on par with the S20 series camera offering. The quad-rear camera S21 Ultra swapped out a 3D depth sensor for a second telephoto lens and Laser AutoFocus sensor. That gives the phone two optical zoom lens at 3x and 10x, the ability to go up to 100x for Space Zoom, as well as faster autofocusing capabilities.

The following sample images indicate the Galaxy S21 series device it's from, along with the photo-taking settings. We've parked sample photos under each respective phone's section for easier assessment.

 

Samsung Galaxy S21

 

Main Camera

Shot at 2x zoom.

 

Telephoto (3x hybrid optical zoom)

 

Ultra-wide

 

30x Space Zoom

 

Samsung Galaxy S21+

 

Main Camera

Shot at 2x zoom.

 

Telephoto (3x hybrid optical zoom)

 

Ultra-wide

 

30x Space Zoom

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

 

Main Camera

Shot at 2x zoom.

 

Telephoto (3x optical zoom)

 

Telephoto (10x optical zoom)

 

Ultra-wide

 

100x Space Zoom

 

Thoughts on Imaging for Samsung Galaxy S21 series

As a whole, the Galaxy S21 series are wholly capable of taking pleasing pictures, with software optimisation that's not overly aggressive at first glance. The cameras are all equally responsive and fast.

Some differences do crop up in quality and ease of use between each model. By far, the easiest for point-and-shoot, as well as using Zoom Lock during Space Zoom would be the Galaxy S21 Ultra. That's not to say the other two can't - the Ultra variant was simply much easier to control.

While it's not immediately clear how Samsung has made the imaging performance better as compared to the S20 series, it's still evident that any of the three can take highly accurate photos with their main and telephoto lenses. The fish-eye distortion in all of their ultra-wides is heavy, even with massively improved distortion correction built-in. But, that's the nature of things.

Where greenery appears, the Galaxy S21 series rear cameras have no issues in bringing out the vibrancy, even if a little detail is lost at times. Macro photography can be challenging under tough conditions, and once again the Galaxy S21 Ultra was the easiest to get a proper shot in.

You can't really ask for more beyond better detailing and fewer artefacts, so it's good to see Samsung coming strongly out of the gate in the photography aspect with their Galaxy S21 series handsets.

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