Samsung Galaxy S21 / S21+ Evaluation: Acquainted Territory


Samsung prefers to maintain its finest digital camera options for its high flagships, and that’s why the Galaxy S21+ and Galaxy S21 have extra in frequent with one another than the Galaxy S21 Extremely.

Whereas they’re the much less feature-laden siblings to Samsung’s premium Extremely, these two telephones are arguably the extra well-liked decisions due to their respective costs. Collectively, they keep the identical digital camera array between them, placing extra of an emphasis on dimension as the important thing distinction.

A lot of Samsung’s software program computation, and just about all of the capturing modes, apply to those two, so it’s greater than potential to get good pictures with them. The one catch is that you simply do must discover ways to take advantage of out of what’s already there.

Design and Construct

Yearly or two, Samsung learns a lesson in design and rectifies it with one thing simpler on the eyes. The shiny backs of earlier telephones at all times made for good product pictures till they had been full of fingerprints and smudges, ruining the in any other case shiny façade.

That’s now not the case as a result of the Galaxy S21+ and S21 use a matte again that maintains a pleasant sheen, albeit with none main gloss. The ensuing end shouldn’t be solely nicer to take a look at, but additionally simpler to grip. Then there’s the digital camera array, which is properly positioned right into a two-tone format that feels much less like a digital camera bump and extra like a correct extension of the telephone’s design.

The 2 telephones are significantly totally different in bodily dimension, with the Galaxy S21+ sporting a 6.7-inch Dynamic AMOLED, whereas the smaller S21 has a 6.2-inch Dynamic AMOLED. They complement in any other case placing designs, making them each feel and appear premium, even when they aren’t on the high of Samsung’s present lineup. The corporate did compromise in a single key facet and that was to scale back display screen decision to 2400 x 1080. This was the default in final 12 months’s Galaxy S20+ and S20, which additionally supplied 3040 x 1440 as an improve possibility. This time, that improve isn’t supplied however these newer fashions have an adaptive 120Hz refresh fee that makes for smoother scrolling and swiping all through.

Each units run on the identical Snapdragon 888 processor because the S21 Extremely (although there’s an Exynos variant in different markets), and with the 8GB of RAM and 128GB of inside storage, they mix for very environment friendly efficiency. You simply lose out on the microSD card slot, forcing you to look to the cloud for storage growth, particularly when you plan to take a variety of photographs and video.

Digital camera Options

Samsung didn’t change a lot up right here on the skin. These two telephones use the very same picture sensors and lenses their predecessors did a 12 months in the past. It’s the 12MP Sony IMX555, adopted by the 64MP GW2 telephoto lens. The one distinction lies within the 12MP ultra-wide Sony IMX563, which is totally different from the earlier fashions’ providing. For these wanting selfies, it’s the identical 10MP front-facing digital camera utilizing the IMX374 happening two years now. 

The familiarity may look like a step again, however Samsung thinks its superior software program pushes the entire array ahead. It’s robust to make that argument, although, particularly when those self same software program options will inevitably make their technique to the earlier fashions too (and have already got).

Software program Options

To maintain according to different modifications Samsung made to its software program operating on its One UI 3.1 platform as an overlay on high of Android 11, the digital camera app is according to the opposite S21 fashions, save for the few extras the Extremely is provided with. For starters, it basically renamed Dwell Focus and Dwell Focus Video into Portrait and Portrait Video mode, respectively. AR Doodle strikes into the primary checklist, whereas Bixby Imaginative and prescient will get relegated to the sidelines. The purple dots subsequent to them point out these are newer modes to those telephones.

The primary menu format sticks to the everyday choices, however you may at all times customise that and add what you need by simply holding on a range and dragging it to the primary bar under. You too can rearrange the choices to get the format you need.

By now, these have turn into a well-recognized set for any Samsung person. Professional mode provides you handbook management with each the usual and ultra-wide lenses. Evening mode is again for low-light images, and so are particular ones, like Meals, Single Take and Director’s View. Extra on these in a bit.

Professional Mode

Samsung performs up a few of these greater than others and speaks particularly extremely of the Scene Optimizer it gives in its major Photograph mode that makes use of synthetic intelligence (AI) to gauge a scene and alter composition to swimsuit it for the very best picture. As at all times, nevertheless, the outcomes range, so it’s not at all times one thing you may belief.

Picture High quality

Foremost digital camera

Once more, for the sake of congruency, there are parallels between these two telephones and their Extremely sibling. The obvious from the beginning is the lowered saturation. Samsung leans extra closely on HDR to raised interpret a scene, which ends up in extra color-corrected output. One of the best half is that it doesn’t matter if Scene Optimizer is on or not as a result of Samsung’s software program treats colours fairly persistently. It additionally dialed again the pores and skin smoothening from the previous.

The picture above is an effective instance of that. There’s a touch of sundown with a myriad of tones and colours, none of which come out trying exaggerated. Samsung does tend to typically overexpose after first tapping to focus, however a slight tick downward on the publicity slider can mitigate that shortly.

Neither of those has the 108MP massive sensor the Extremely has, so there isn’t a technique to shoot a picture that giant and crop into it afterward. That additionally means evening and low-light pictures gained’t be pretty much as good as a result of a 12MP shot pulls in additional mild by way of bigger micron pixels in that very same sensor. These two telephones are hamstrung that manner, forcing you to improvise extra on what you seize in these conditions.


It’s nice to have an ultra-wide lens on any telephone, and it may be one of many extra artistic choices due to the way it can warp perspective once you get above or under a topic. Then there’s the pure profit of compacting extra into one body with out bodily shifting again. The one caveat is that the identical points from final 12 months apply, which is a few fringing on the edges, and the heavier ‘lean’ on topics nearer to the body’s edges.

With a tighter f/2.2 aperture, outcomes worsen the decrease the sunshine will get, however there’s room for creativity right here. You should utilize it on a variety of different modes, together with Evening, Professional, Panorama, and Hyperlapse. That is additionally the identical ultra-wide digital camera the Extremely makes use of, so there isn’t a tangible profit between any of the three fashions in that regard.

Telephoto and Hybrid Zoom

The 64MP telephoto lens is completely totally different than what Samsung outfitted within the Extremely. These two telephones use the identical hybrid zoom their predecessors did final 12 months. That’s, taking a 1.1x optical zoom and mixing that with digital zoom to crop the picture and create the equal of a 3x zoom. By default, the telephoto lenses on these cameras have a 76-degree discipline of view — solely marginally higher than the 79-degrees the usual lens has, a minimum of optically talking.

Motion picture captured with Hybrid Zoom

That’s completely totally different than the Extremely, which really sports activities a correct optical zoom, and explains why outcomes aren’t the identical. Nonetheless, you possibly can count on worse from such a setup, however as a substitute, Samsung’s software program helps fill in some gaps. At 3x, photographs aren’t unhealthy in any respect, particularly in optimum lighting. At 5x and 10x, the digital zoom is extra evident, and never at all times in a great way. The decrease the sunshine, the more severe it will get.

30x Zoom

Samsung markets this function as one thing to write down residence about, however it actually shouldn’t.

It’s terrible, not only for any smart photographer, however actually for any novice snapping pics on these telephones. Over 90% of it’s merely a digital zoom, and it actually falls off the proverbial cliff when in comparison with a 10x zoom. There’s far an excessive amount of texture within the shot, and chromatic aberration will creep up.

Professional Mode

I’ve lengthy thought-about this mode to be the key weapon in Samsung’s digital camera arsenal. It gives an excellent set of instruments, and among the options that apply to the usual large and ultra-wide lenses work with it too. As an example, the Macro mode that pops up with the usual lens once you transfer about 10cm or 3-inches from a topic works the identical in Professional. Once you wish to save in RAW, that is additionally the one mode that really permits you to try this.

Taking a web page out of Google’s playbook, there are sliders to regulate highlights, shadows, distinction, saturation, and tint — all on high of the shutter pace, ISO, white steadiness, focusing already there. The shutter pace additionally drops down as little as 30 seconds, so you may strive your hand at lengthy publicity images.

Evening Mode

I discussed earlier that the Galaxy S21+ and S21 use a smaller major sensor than the Extremely does, and the way it can have an effect on low-light pictures. Plain and easy, these two gained’t match the sort of nighttime output the Extremely manages. Not solely that, however there’s no actual technique to management the publicity, aside from to go from auto or max. If the scene comes out too mild or too darkish, you possibly can strive Professional mode to see if you will get one thing higher that manner. Plus, you may as well save in RAW for extra flexibility enhancing in a while.

The excellent news is that Evening mode works with all three lenses, so you may a minimum of strive all of them on the subject of capturing one thing in low-light. Evening mode’s benefit is that it emulates lengthy publicity images in a handheld manner. When you had been to do the identical in Professional mode, you would want a tripod or flat floor to keep away from any jitter that blurs the shot.

Video Options

You gained’t report something in 8K right here with both telephone, however that’s not a nasty factor. It’s capturing in 4K at 24fps and 60fps that’s extra impactful, and photographs appears good more often than not. Single Take received an improve that makes use of all three lenses to take as much as 15 totally different stills and video clips, together with boomerang, background music, and stylized variations of the identical clip.

Director’s View is a brand new function throughout the S21 lineup that permits you to entry all of the lenses simply from the identical interface to shortly change views — you realize, like a director. You may change it as much as cut up the front-facing digital camera with the usual large rear lens, or have all of them lively directly. It’s attention-grabbing, but requires experimentation to see what you are able to do with it.

Professional Video is the extra attention-grabbing one as a result of it applies the identical handbook controls to video that Professional mode does for stills. Samsung added 24fps as a capturing possibility, including a extra cinematic technique to shoot.

A Acquainted Toolkit That (Largely) Delivers

Final 12 months, the Galaxy S20 Extremely felt mired in points and gimmicks that pulled it additional towards the options and efficiency of its different siblings. That’s not the case this 12 months, the place the S21 Extremely is noticeably higher in a variety of areas. Samsung didn’t come out with any surprises on both the S21 or S21+ and it’s laborious to say that they’ll shoot that a lot better than their S20 alternate options. Granted, the telephones themselves do look higher, and the 120Hz refresh fee is nice, however the cameras aren’t breaking new floor.

That mentioned, they do shoot nicely sufficient, solely it’s price diving into the varied modes to get extra out of the cameras out there. Sticking to only Photograph mode and Scene Optimizer isn’t ok. For fast snaps, positive, however your finest pictures will in all probability come from testing issues out elsewhere.

Are There Alternate options?

Apart from the earlier Galaxy S20 equivalents, which principally function the identical digital camera {hardware}, there are many different rivals. Google’s Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a are cheaper choices that won’t have as many lenses or modes however function among the finest computational software program anyplace. The iPhone 12 can be in the identical ballpark, with higher output than previous Apple units.

Ought to You Purchase It?

Possibly, as long as your causes embody the non-camera options (just like the improved design and display screen refresh fee), if that is an improve, otherwise you’re new to Samsung units and don’t wish to spring for Samsung’s costlier S21 Extremely. The cameras don’t offer you something you may’t get on different Samsung telephones, however the mixture they every supply continues to be price consideration.


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