An outstanding 108 MP main camera
On the front, we also have an extra-sharp sensor — a 40 MP selfie camera there to capture all your flaws. No worries, software optimizers in the background will add beautify effects. Then, there’s a 12 MP sensor under the ultra-wide lens and two 10 MP sensors under the telephoto lenses. You heard right, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has…
Two telephoto cameras
Now, you have one 3x telephoto camera for your everyday portraits, and a 10x telephoto camera, which is used when you want to take those crazy magnification photos. And yes, the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s Space Zoom goes up to 100x yet again.
Should you be excited for that 3x telephoto camera? I’d say yes! The one thing that absolutely annoyed me in both the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra was that the 5x camera was next to unusable for portraits, so I was always forced to use a digital crop with the main camera instead of a lossless optical zoom. That 3x telephoto has been added to the S21 Ultra specifically for that reason.
100 times zoom
Yes, as mentioned, the 100x zoom is back. In 2020, it had to take a bit of a break — the Galaxy S20 Ultra had some issues with its camera, so the Note 20 Ultra dialed the zoom back to 50x. But the Galaxy S21 Ultra is back on track — up to 100x magnification, sharpened and stabilized. You won’t be taking beautiful pictures when dialed all the way up… but you will have visible detail for sure, which is pretty impressive for a smartphone camera.
Better integration with social media apps
Android smartphones have often been mocked for not gelling well with 3rd party social media apps. Often, taking a photo with your Instagram or your Snapchat would result in a lower-res picture with bad compression — you are usually better off taking a photo with your native Camera app and then importing it into your social media of choice. Of course, that’s cumbersome and keeps you away from using your favorite filters.
Google has been tackling this issue with its latest CameraX API, which supposedly gave app developers better access to the camera output. Presumably, Samsung built on that API, though we weren’t given any geek-level info on what was done.
8K video is back
Recording video in 8K resolution was introduced with the Galaxy S20 series and, of course, nobody is surprised that it’s back. What’s new here, however, is “8K photo snap”. At any time while recording an 8K video, just tap the snap button, and you will end up with a super-sharp picture, straight out of the clip.
4K video at 60 FPS with all cameras
4K video at 60 FPS is nothing new in the smartphone scene — barely even worth a mention, right? But you usually get to use it only with the main camera and possibly with the selfie camera. On the Galaxy S21 Ultra, you can record [email protected] with all 5 cameras — the selfie camera, the main camera, the ultra-wide, and the two telephoto snappers. Speaking of which…
The new Director Mode
If you happen to unleash your inner filmmaker whilst wielding a Galaxy S21 Ultra, you can switch to the Director Mode in the Camera app. Among giving your precise control over camera controls, you will also be able to preview what each of the camera lenses “sees” in small little windows, all while rolling. The point is, if you wonder if you can capture a better angle by swapping to a different lens, the phone will show you a preview of that in real time, so you’d have your answer before committing to switching to that lens.
Macro cameras have become a bit of a meme in lower-tier smartphones — since manufacturers want to have that “triple camera” module, but just throw in a 2 MP or 5 MP “macro” camera. Yeah, not very useful.
Improved Night Mode
Samsung’s Night Mode was already very impressive before. Well, apparently, the S21 Ultra improves it further. We’ll have to test this for sure, but Samsung says more light and better noise reduction for both photos and videos taken in the dark.