Samsung Galaxy S21 Review: Feature-packed Devices for Content Creators
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
We’ve tried out the new Samsung Galaxy S21 phones for a while now, and here are our thoughts on some of the new features and what we think about the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
First off, let’s begin with noting that there are three models in the S21 series, and each is targeted towards different people.
If you are still using a smartphone that is more than 3 years old, and you are a casual smartphone user but want to move up to a flagship smartphone with all the bells and whistles – get the Galaxy S21 5G.
If you are a standard smartphone user and want the S21 experience with a bigger screen – get the Galaxy S21+.
If you are a power user, a professional content creator, or want to be one – you definitely have to get the Galaxy S21 Ultra.
The Ultra is the S21 series’ top of the line device. It sets itself apart with features that may be crucial for those who use their devices for professional reasons.
The camera array on the Ultra is packed with features that any photographer will be glad to have. With 4 rear lenses to cater to your every need, you get a 108-megapixel wide lens camera, a 12-megapixel ultra-wide lens with a 120-degree field of view, and two telephoto lenses.
One of the highlights of the Ultra model is the Space Zoom function for those of you who really want to get in closer to the action. This function has been improved from last year’s model with a new Zoom lock function that helps keep your zoomed-in subject in focus. Do remember the Zoom lock only works when you zoom in over 20x though.
I tried the Space Zoom on Zoom Lock several times, and using a tripod is recommended to get the best shot. I would even suggest using the voice assistant to help snap the picture instead of tapping the button, to keep the device really steady.
Shot clarity is somehow improved from last year, but don’t expect sharp images when you choose to zoom in more than 30x. If you go all the way to 100x, you might be able to see objects, although there won’t be much detail in the photo by then. For example, if you’re zooming in on a sidewalk, you might be able to see a person walking by, and even what colour their clothes are, but you definitely won’t be able to make out their facial features.
The dual telephoto lenses kick into high gear on this mode, with one supporting optical 3x and the other supporting 10x. The camera switches between the 2 lenses depending on where you are shooting from.
Last year’s S20 Ultra had some autofocus issues, to fix this, Samsung added a laser AF sensor on the S21 Ultra to make autofocusing more precise at close range.
The S21 Ultra also has Samsung’s most advanced night mode to date. The new bright night sensor uses AI technology to enhance night mode exposure and reduce noise.
The AI also captures stunning details, while brightening up images taken at night.
In this picture, you can see some trees that would not be able to be seen in the dark with just the naked eye.
If video is the content you produce, the S21 series may just lift your videos to the next level, because now you can shoot 4K 60fps videos using all lenses.
That means you get the same quality whether you are using the ultra-wide, wide or telephoto lenses. This capability has also been extended to the front camera.
To set itself apart as a power user’s device, the battery capacity must keep up. Just like the S20 Ultra and the Note20 Ultra, the S21 Ultra is armed with a 5,000mAh battery and superfast charging, that can power you up from zero to 50% in just half an hour.
The S21 Ultra can now support the iconic S-Pen which was previously only on the Note Series. However, the S Pen is sold separately and does not have a place to be stored within the S21 Ultra. You will have to get a separate case that comes with a slot to store the S Pen with the phone.
At the moment, the S-Pen on the S21 Ultra does not support air actions and gesture controls that the Note series’ S-Pen would. But Samsung said during the Unpacked 2021 presentation that this capability will become available at a later date.
With the S-Pen now available for the S21 Ultra, rumours of the Note series’ impending demise get louder.
The other little thing you should take note of is the box the device comes in, it’s reduced in size and in content. From now on, all new Galaxy S devices will no longer be packed with the superfast charger or earphones.
Not to be outdone, the entry-level Galaxy S21 and the mid-range S21 Plus also pack a punch. All of the S21 devices have enhanced what we already expect from the Galaxy series.
For the creative types, Samsung also upgraded the quirky Single Take feature we first saw on the S20, which lets you capture a variety of styles in one single shot – if you can’t decide how you want your photos or videos to be, the AI will decide for you.
It’s a nice to have feature, but it may not be that useful if you don’t remember that it is there. In the 12 months that I used the S20 Ultra and the Note 20 Ultra, I only remembered to use Single Shot once.
If you want studio-quality portraits, you can have them too. New 3D analysis technology in portrait mode means better lighting and AI more accurately separating the subject from the background, giving you more depth and character in your photos.
New to the S21 series is Director’s View, which, when enabled, allows you to record videos while also seeing what the same live shot looks like in other shot sizes, ultra-wide, close up or wide, before you cut to that shot. It takes from the idea that a director has 3 camera angles to work with when shooting a scene.
On the S21 version, the angles are the same while the shot sizes are different.
Vlogger’s View, meanwhile, allows the user to record from both front and rear cameras in split-screen mode, adding another level of possibilities for creative videos.
Keeping everything in check is the state-of-the-art security of Samsung Knox Vault, even more protected now with tamper-resistant secure technology.
And for the first time, there’s a Private Share function in the corresponding app that lets you control the content you send, limiting the time it is made available on the other person’s device.
Both the S21 and the S21+ come with standard specs so choose the device you want based on what you need your phone for.
Here’s a table to compare the three models, hopefully it helps you make a choice!
Written by Timothy Go