How about the cameras? The Samsung Galaxy S21 has three on the back, one on the front. And this is one of the best photo-shooters you can get for under £800.
Highlights include a fast, responsive feel as you take photos, great image quality and almost ridiculous levels of HDR tweaking.
HDR is what lets you shoot directly into the sun and still get visible detail in the foreground, not a bunch of shadowy blobs. The Samsung Galaxy S21 digs out so much shadow detail it’s even willing to reveal a bunch of fine-grain noise in the foreground. But the result is photos that never look dull or bland. It’s the kind of image you’d need to spend a few minutes fiddling around in Photoshop to get when using a DSLR.
Samsung also put a very good ultra-wide camera into the Galaxy S21 – a 12MP sensor. It captures plenty of detail. And while the colour tone is sometimes a little different from the main camera, the wide leaning a little cooler, there’s no sense your images suddenly get a massive downgrade just because you switch to the wide view.
The Samsung Galaxy S21 has a 3x zoom view too. Samsung’s tech gets a little funky here. Instead of trying to squeeze in a legit 3x lens, it has a 64MP sensor and a just slightly zoomed in ~1.1x zoom. So, yeh, the 3x is mostly a digital zoom. But the Samsung Galaxy S21 can still take pretty impressive 3x zoom shots. You can even shoot 64MP photos at the native 1.1x zoom, to slurp all the goodness out of the hardware.
Why doesn’t Samsung just use this 64MP camera for both the main and zoom? The main 12MP cam has better dynamic range and far better image integrity at the corners of the frame. The Samsung Galaxy S21 lets you zoom in all the way to 30x, but don’t bother. They look terrible. Stick to 3x.
Samsung’s S21 Ultra is still the zoom king, able to shoot good images at 10x. For more proof there’s not one dud camera here, all three are also used for video. And in more ways than you might imagine. The 64MP “zoom” is used to take 8K video at 24fps, because the main camera literally doesn’t not have enough pixels for the job. Our ultra-wide is used for a super stable mode, the plus-size field of view fuelling electronic image stabilisation.
These extras are great. But the main event is still 4K video, which uses the main camera and looks good. It’s stabilised too.
Even the Samsung Galaxy S21’s front camera is great. It has a 10MP sensor, and can render you facial hair and craggy bits even with the lighting isn’t perfect. If you’re not bothered about ultra-long periscope zooms or macro cameras that can pap the microbes on your kitchen sponge, the Samsung Galaxy S21 absolutely offers a flagship-quality camera experience.