Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra camera Review: how the best camera phone of 2021 shoots

Many people evaluate the photo capabilities of a smartphone by the number and resolution of cameras: the more megapixels, the better. However, this is not entirely true. Of course, the matrix plays an important role, but it is the processor that is responsible for the post-processing of the photo and the correct operation of the shooting modes.

Not all platforms support 48, 64 and 108 megapixel sensors, work with artificial intelligence algorithms and allow you to shoot video in high resolution. That is why, along with cool cameras, flagship smartphones are equipped with powerful processors.


Exynos 2100 drives everything

The Exynos 2100, which powers the Galaxy S21 series, is Samsung’s first 5nm EUV processor. It includes 8 cores, which are divided into three clusters: the most powerful Arm Cortex-X1 core with a clock speed of up to 2.9 GHz, three high-performance Cortex-A78 and four energy-efficient Cortex-A55. The system also includes an Arm Mali-G78 video chip with Vulkan and OpenCL support.

The new platform is 20% more energy efficient and 10% more productive than the previous version based on the 7nm process technology. It is equipped with a 5G modem, an AI module and separate chips for the camera.

So, during shooting, the Exynos 2100 uses an ISP image processor – it can work with 6 different sensors and supports cameras with a resolution of up to 200 megapixels. At the same time, the chip simultaneously processes information from 4 sensors – this significantly expands the shooting capabilities and helps to implement the “Multi-shot” mode, in which the smartphone takes photos in different modes at the same time.

Another coprocessor, MCFP, processes data from multiple cameras to improve zoom quality for framing and wide-angle shooting.

Another feature of the Exynos 2100 is its work with AI. Artificial intelligence algorithms help to recognize objects in the frame and optimize camera settings depending on the shooting scenario. As a result, the smartphone produces clear images with the correct color rendition, while maintaining the real texture and shades of the object.


Cameras Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The smartphone is equipped with 4 camera sensors and laser autofocus:

  • Main wide-angle camera: 108 MP, phase detection autofocus, OIS, F1.8. By default, frames have a resolution of 12 megapixels, since 9 neighboring pixels are combined into one (2.4 µm in size) using Nona Binning technology.
  • Ultra wide-angle camera: 12 MP, viewing angle 120, F2.2
  • Telephoto lens (side): 10MP, optical zoom 10x, OIS, F4.9
  • Second telephoto lens: 10MP, 3x optical zoom, OIS, F2.4
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Cameras

Basic camera modes

Shooting modes are collected on the main viewfinder screen and in the “More” menu. There is also an AR Zone tab where you can select an animated picture to make your own stickers. When shooting, you can use the built-in filters or create a new one by changing the settings to your liking.


Auto mode

We took a lot of photos in different modes – scroll through the galleries to see more.

First of all, it was interesting to check what photos the smartphone takes in automatic mode. Let’s be honest – most users only use it, I don’t think about additional settings and pro-functions. And the Galaxy S21 Ultra shoots perfectly right away, producing a high-quality picture with natural color reproduction. In the viewfinder window, you can tweak the brightness or focus the phone on a specific object – although this is not required, because it automatically selects the main point.


Ultra wide-angle camera and zoom

Thanks to the system of two telephoto lenses, the smartphone can be used to shoot at 30x hybrid zoom – while photographs with high magnification are also obtained at a resolution of 12 megapixels.

Let’s check how it works. To begin with – a shot with an ultra-wide-angle module in order to understand the scale of the landscape. It is pleasantly surprising that the optics do not distort the edges of the photo, as is usually the case when shooting with a wide angle. And although Shirik does not support OIS, when shooting without zoom, the frame does not require additional stabilization.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Ultra wide-angle

And this is how this location looks when shooting in 1x in automatic mode:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 1x zoom

Zoom modes appear on the screen as you zoom in and out. The first is double magnification. In terms of quality, the frame is not inferior to a photo in normal size, but you can already see more details on it without scaling the screen.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 4x zoom

Next comes the 4x zoom. Photos are still clear and bright – both on a smartphone screen and when viewed from a large PC monitor.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 10x zoom

Then the camera offers to enlarge the frame 10 times. Focusing becomes more difficult, but a mini viewfinder in the corner of the camera interface helps.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 30x zoom

And finally, 30x zoom! In this photo, you can see all the details of the house, which is almost invisible in the first photo. The resolution of this photo is also 3000*2000 pixels. Of course, in terms of quality, it is inferior to less enlarged images, but the very fact that a smartphone can shoot with such a magnification is already surprising.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 100x zoom

Also on the Galaxy S21 Ultra, you can take a photo with 100x zoom. But for this, the gadget should be additionally stabilized, since it is very difficult to focus on a distant object from the hands. The same can be said for professional cameras: to get a clear shot at high magnification, use a tripod.


Multiframe

One of the most interesting modes: in it the smartphone takes 9 pictures and videos on different cameras and adds different processing to them. In the gallery it looks like a set of files that can be viewed under the photo marked “Multi-frame”.


The smartphone chooses the best shot – as a rule, this is a shot with the main camera without magnification. The function is indispensable when traveling – it is enough to stand still for a few seconds and move the phone in different directions, so that he himself takes a picture and records on video all the surrounding sights.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Multiframe

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Portrait mode and macro

When shooting with bokeh, the smartphone clearly separates the background from the subject. It also deserves thanks to the processor, which ensures the simultaneous operation of multiple camera sensors to correctly measure the depth of the scene.

When we took this photo, it was quite windy – but the smartphone focused on the spikelets and correctly selected the background without blurring out anything unnecessary.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra macro

The smartphone does not have a separate program for shooting macro – but the camera focuses perfectly from a distance of about 4 cm. An ultra-wide-angle camera, which is equipped with autofocus, is also suitable for macro photography.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra macro

Night mode

With 9 pixels in 1 technology, the larger camera captures more light and produces bright, clear footage, even in low light. We took two shots from the same point: the first in the “Night” mode, and the second in automatic with manual focus on the building.


In the night mode, the sky became much brighter, even small tree branches are visible, the window lights are brighter. The shot is more “lively” and natural, with crisp shadows and good dynamic range (discounted for artificial lighting, which makes the walls of buildings yellow).


Optically stabilized video

All Galaxy S21 Ulrta cameras can shoot 4K video at 60 fps. In addition to optical stabilization, there is a super stabilization mode that works when recording Full HD at 60 or 30 frames per second. We recorded a test video handheld through the tram window – this is not the smoothest transport, but the video turned out to be so smooth, as if it had been taken from a tripod.

For videos, you can use filters and the Retouch tool (useful when photographing people). There are modes for slow motion, super slow motion and accelerated video (up to 60x). Hyperlapse looks especially impressive: here, for example, a three-second video shot in 30 seconds of observing an aquarium.

Thanks to the smart Exynos 2100 processor, you can shoot video directly on the main and front cameras on your smartphone: this function will come in handy for bloggers and all story lovers.

Galaxy S21 Ultra can record videos in 8K – a useful mode, but for the most advantageous implementation it requires additional stabilization. You can also crop out frames from 8K video that are equivalent to a 24MP photo. This feature comes in handy when shooting moving objects: for example, if you shoot a car race or play with a pet, and then pull out the best shot from the video.


Conclusions

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Summing up, let’s say once again that it is the processor that allows the smartphone to use several sensors at once, record videos in high resolution and correctly reproduce colors in photographs. Thanks to the joint work of all the hardware, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has achieved high quality mobile photography, regardless of external factors: at dusk, when the object is far away or its movement in the frame.