Camera test: S21 Ultra vs. Note20 Ultra

S21 Ultra vs. Note20 Ultra

The Galaxy S21 Ultra marks the third iteration of Samsung’s Sure Camera phone, so we felt the need to make a comparison.

We’ve limited it to just two competitors – the newest model against the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra about six months ago. Three-way with the S20 Ultra went through our heads, but maintaining our sanity was curiously prevalent.

As the number of models in this simple confrontation exponentially grows (due to a large number of cameras, climate change, and rescheduling due to software updates), we appreciate our conservative choice of participants.


Since the Note 20 Ultra has improved in more ways than the S20 Ultra, and the recent generation of the S series, which is now a year old, is less of an attractive buying choice, we recognize that our selection has its own merits. With the support of the S21 Ultra S Pen, isn’t this a new note in disguise?


The latest look comes with much new hardware, including the same primary camera at first glance. The entire camera setup has never been seen before.

This primary unit now uses the second-generation 108MP sensor, the HM3 (low pitch 0.7 µm HM2 doesn’t count in our book).

Its main improvement over the HM1 is the Smart-ISO Pro, which controls the dual native ISO capability of the imager using two gain levels in a single photo – as Samsung clearly describes in the video.

However, this is not only a changed sensor – the lens is now equally wide for 24mm (26mm on previous ultras). Its aperture remains f / 1.8 and is still fixed – we are losing the double initial capacity of older galaxies. Optical fixation is still there.

Another novelty in Ultra v.3 is the autofocus of the ultra-wide-angle camera, which we have lamented for at least a few generations’ galaxies. It uses a 12MP 1 / 2.55 “sensor with 1.4 µm pixels.

With the note, only these new pixels are now capable of dual Pixel AF. Samsung sees 120 degrees of the field on lenses, but the aperture f / 2.2”.

That brings us to television. The S21 Ultra has two of them, each with a 10MP 1 / 3.24 “sensor with 1.22 µm pixels. One is 3x mid-range tele (about 70mm focal length, aperture f / 2.4), the other uses a dual-sensor 10x zoom (240mm, F / 4.9) Fold periscope lens design to get both lenses stabilized.

The Note 20 Ultra has a single telephoto camera with a zoom level of 5x – approximately 120mm.

This difference in local zoom levels made an excellent and straightforward comparison. There is. Even the camera app didn’t help in that regard. And?

Camera App UI

The camera app note does not have a 3x zoom button preset or a 5x shortcut on the S21 Ultra. However, both have a 4x control for some unknown reason – we don’t use it because it’s not on the local zoom boosters list on either phone.

However, in reality, beyond comparative analysis, the lack of a specific zoom-level preset should not be considered against Samsung’s generally good camera app.

The fact that secondary zoom level buttons fall into the way of switching modes is annoying in general use, so that’s it.

The basics are familiar – swiping left and right switches between available modes, and there is an option to reset, add, or remove specific ways from the display.

Many of the methods you need are not present in the S21 Ultra (like night and portrait mode), but let’s say Samsung’s way of encouraging you to configure the camera app to your preference. Speaking of which, this is a ‘portrait’ mode starting with the S21 generation – former Samsungs called the fake bokeh mode ‘live focus.’

Vertical slides alternate between front and rear cameras in any direction. Strangely, not all phones out there support this simple gesture – galaxies do.

There is also a family tree designation for common control – note three to three for the Ultra-wide, two trees for the primary camera (medium width), and the same tree for the telephoto. The S21 Ultra adds another unique (but more detailed) tree to your 10x.

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