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Samsung S21 Ultra 5G Smartphone Review - Performance

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Sample Photos

Sample Photos - Colours can look overly saturated on the smartphones screen, but when viewed on the computer, they look great, with good levels of saturation, and a slight warm tone to the images. The results are consistant between the different cameras, as well as between different photos. Exposure is almost always spot on.

Dynamic range is good, with Auto HDR automatically expanding dynamic range captuerd - although it can look unflattering on selfie photos. It's easy enough to switch this on and off when needed in the settings. Scene optimiser will automatically recognise a scene to help you get a better shot, and this can quickly be switched on and off with an icon shown near the shutter release button.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Lens test images

Lens Performance - Results from the Ultra-wide-angle camera look good, although could be considered a tiny bit soft, although we prefer this look compared to them being overly sharpened. The camera can be used as a very effective close-up camera as well, with the lens letting you focus on subjects that are very close to the lens. The camera will also automatically switch to the ultra-wide camera when it detects that you're too close for the wide-angle camera to focus. You can choose whether photos taken with this camera are automatically corrected, and we'd recommend leaving this switched on as the distortion can look quite odd.

The wide-angle camera gives great results, with lots of detail, and great colour reproduction. With a 108mp sensor, you also have the option to take 108mp images, although we wouldn't recommend this, as you end up with a 24MB image compared to a 3MB image, and we couldn't actually spot any extra detail in the image compared to the 12mp version.

The 3x telephoto camera has a 10mp sensor, but the camera enlarges this to 12mp so that you end up with all of your photos being 12mp in size. Results look a little bit soft, but natural, and we prefer slightly soft results over the alternative (over sharpened photos).

The 10x telephoto camera also has a 10mp sensor. Results can look a little bit soft, but as long as light levels are good, then results are also good, and we're impressed by the added versatility this gives the smartphone.

As with most smartphones, care needs to be taken to avoid lens flare, as this can sometimes be seen. You'll also need to ensure the lens is clean, and free of smudges as this will degrade image quality.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - Noise is well controlled up to ISO800, where noise becomes more visible in darker areas. As the ISO speed increases, so too does noise, and finer detail drops off at ISO1600. Where possible we'd recommend using lower ISO speeds. For most shooting situations, the phone will try and use the lowest ISO speed, so noise isn't something you really need to worry about too much.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) performs well under all lighting conditions, with a lean towards giving warm results. You can use manual white balance in the Pro mode if you want, but there's no real need the majority of the time. Where we have used it, it has given similar results to AWB, except under fluorescent light, where our settings have brought out a colour cast.


Low-light performance - for this we used the camera's night mode:

Samsung S21 Ultra OnePlus 9 Pro
Low Light Night Mode | 1/8 sec | f/1.8 | 6.7 mm | ISO 1600
Night Mode | 1/8 sec | f/1.8 | 6.7 mm | ISO 1600
Low Light - Night Mode | 1/7 sec | f/1.9 | 6.1 mm | ISO 16000
Night Mode | 1/7 sec | f/1.9 | 6.1 mm | ISO 16000
Samsung S20 Ultra Huawei P30 Pro
Samsung S20 Ultra 5G Night 20210331 214259 | 1/8 sec | f/1.8 | 7.0 mm | ISO 2500
Night Mode | 1/8 sec | f/1.8 | 7.0 mm | ISO 2500
Huawei P30 Pro Night IMG 20210331 214216 | 6 sec | f/1.6 | 5.6 mm | ISO 1600
Night Mode | 6 sec | f/1.6 | 5.6 mm | ISO 1600


The low-light night mode shot taken by the S21 Ultra is a slight improvement over the S20 Ultra in some ways, with good detail in brighter areas, but it's also got horrible JPEG artefacts visible in the darker areas of the image around the trees (at the top of the image particularly), and both the OnePlus 9 Pro and Huawei P30 Pro do a better job of keeping detail in the trees, and in darker areas, with the stars visible, and quite clear. However, the Huawei P30 Pro gives the best result out of all of the phones here, with both clear detailed darker areas, as well as a clear detailed foreground, and the OnePlus 9 Pro struggles with the bright red car, and with some of the other detail, which has come out looking pixelated. In terms of colour, the S21 Ultra appears to have the edge, although your personal preference may differ.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are a variety of effects available in the camera app, and the effects of these can be seen before you take the photo. These include warm, cool, lolli, frosty, blossom, ivory, faded, soft, greyscale, classic, and black and white (to name a few). There are also filters available for selfies, including face smoothing, tone, jawline, and eyes with a sliding bar so that you can alter the strength of each effect. The panoramic mode will produce a high-resolution (42mp +) image, and results look good, although any movement in the scene can create an odd effect.


Video - The S21 Ultra 5G has the advantage of featuring a selfie camera that can record 4K video, as well as using phase-detection auto focus, so you can be in focus even when close up to the camera. Video stabilisation is available, and this crops into the frame. 4K video is recorded at 60fps, and you can record at this resolution and speed using any of the cameras. You can also switch between the cameras while recording. 

Director's view lets you record from both the selfie camera, and rear camera at the same time, great for getting footage from two cameras at the same time.

Super Steady Video stabilisation switches the camera to FullHD resolution, but gives impressive levels of video stabilisation. Normal video stabilisation is available in a number of difference resolutions, including 8K, and the strength of stabilisation can vary (depending on resolution selected), so for better looking video a tripod could be a good idea. Video quality is very good, with a clear, crisp image produced.

You can view additional videos recorded with the S21 Ultra 5G on the ePHOTOzine YouTube Channel.

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