5 reasons to buy the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung’s new camera king
The Galaxy S21 series is finally official. Although not much of it is a surprise, thanks to a mountain of leaks in the run-up to the launch, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is still shaping up to be a contender for one of the best devices of the year. Granted we’re only two weeks into the new year, but Samsung has definitely laid out a marker with the device that it says is designed for those who want the best-of-the-best experience.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra specs list definitely reads like an enthusiast’s wishlist, with just about every feature you could ask for seemingly included. There’s no doubt that the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the true flagship of the Galaxy S21 lineup, but should you buy it? Here are 5 reasons you should buy the Galaxy S21 Ultra:
A powerhouse of technology
There’s only one way to really describe the Galaxy S21 Ultra: it’s a powerhouse of technology. If you could make a wishlist of everything you want in a phone, it’s pretty likely the Galaxy S21 Ultra ticks most, if not all, of the boxes.
We’ve broken down the key differences between the various Galaxy S21 models already, but the key specs of the Galaxy S21 Ultra include a QHD+ 120Hz display measuring 6.8-inches, a Snapdragon 888 processor with either 12GB or 16GB of RAM, a 5,000 mAh battery, support for the S-Pen (available separately), Ultra Wide Band sharing, WiFi 6E and so much more.
Yes, certain features like the microSD card slot are no longer present, and there’s no charger in the box. But these were inevitable in a way, and while we are sad to see them go, we also need to brace for more and more OEMs to walk along the same track. What makes Samsung unique is that where it does remove things, it adds a few interesting new features, mainly in the camera which also stands out in the Galaxy S21 Ultra, so much so that a few of the new features deserve their own places on this list.
Dual Telephoto Cameras
Much like the Galaxy S20 Ultra, the Galaxy S21 Ultra features a 108MP camera, albeit it uses a newer camera sensor. That’s not surprising, and neither is the 100x Space Zoom which was also present on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. What is surprising is how Samsung has approached the Zoom feature this year, which looks to be the same as the S20 Ultra in the maximum zoom length only.
Last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra used a telephoto lens with 4x zoom and 10x hybrid zoom to achieve 100x zoom which had some real problems in real-world usage. Mainly, you could zoom at 100x in any scene, but unless you had the steadiest hand in the world or a place to rest the phone (and sometimes the latter didn’t even work), it would be a shaky mess that was virtually unusable.
The Galaxy S21 Ultra looks to change that, as Samsung has changed its approach. For the first time in a Samsung phone, there are two telephoto lenses. Both are 10MP with dual-pixel technology, and one supports 3x optical zoom and the other supports 10x optical zoom. Depending on the range you’re zooming from, the camera automatically switches between the lenses, and at the highest zoom level, it presumably uses both telephoto lenses to achieve better zoom. Adding a 10x optical zoom lens means that the 100X max zoom should be much better than on last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra.
You should read: What is the Difference Between a Periscope and Telephoto Camera?
Both telephoto lenses on the Galaxy S21 Ultra also have Optical Image Stabilization which should also help with one of the biggest issues with very high levels of zoom: stability.
This was one of the biggest complaints with last year’s Galaxy S20 Ultra; at the higher levels of zoom, it was shaky and unusable. With the Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung aims to have solved this with the new Zoom Lock feature that uses AI to stabilize video and provide “tripod-like stability”. We’ll reserve final judgment on this until we’ve fully tested the new camera, but given how bad the original zoom stability was, this could result in a marked improvement.
In our Galaxy S21 Ultra hands-on preview, Ben Sin confirmed that the improvements that Samsung has made make all the difference. As he puts it: “Samsung has managed to improve stabilization at this zoom range in ways I’d never seen before.” In the video above, you can see that he’s holding the Galaxy S21 Ultra in one hand and the image is remarkably stable at 100x zoom, which would have been nigh impossible on the 100x Space Zoom last year on the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
Director’s View, Vlogger View, and 4K60 recording
Every vlogger, videographer, and budding creators will rejoice at this; three new features in the Galaxy S21 Ultra that should make it the best phone for recording video on the go.
First, all five lenses (including the front-facing 40MP camera with autofocus) support 4K 60 frames per second video recording, which – combined with the other features in this section – means you can get very creative without sacrificing quality.
Second, the new Director View feature is, literally, a director’s dream. Essentially, it allows you to see the view from each of the lenses while you’re shooting a video, and then switch between them without stopping the recording. So if you want to go from the ultra-wide to the wide to one of the telephoto lenses while you continue shooting – say as you are recording a soccer game or similar – you can now do so. Getting a live preview means you have a better idea of what to expect when you swap over, and that makes a lot of difference when you are recording.
Lastly, the Vlogger View feature is one that’ll allow you to capture those memorable moments. It allows you to capture what’s happening in front of you using any of the lenses, while also capturing your reactions using the front selfie camera. We’ve seen this before on several phones so it’s not new, but combined with the camera hardware of the Galaxy S21 Ultra and 4k60 video recording, you may be able to capture some incredible videos.
Finally, a Galaxy S with S-Pen support
Yes, you read it right: the Galaxy S21 Ultra supports the S-Pen that was, until now, ubiquitous with Samsung’s Galaxy Note range. Unlike the Note, it doesn’t come with a place to dock it in the phone itself and the S-Pen has been redesigned a little to support being an external device vs one that’s slim enough to dock in the phone.
Exclusive to just the S21 Ultra – and not the rest of the Galaxy S21 range – the S-Pen for Galaxy S21 is available as a standalone purchase, with a case or you can use an S-Pen from a previous Galaxy Note range. There are a few S-Pen features on the Galaxy S21 Ultra that are different from the Note experience so check out this guide for more info, but it’s still great to see. You can also use any Wacom compatible stylus, giving you a range of styluses to pick from! We’ve rounded up some of the best Galaxy S21 styluses for you to choose from.
There you have it – 5 key reasons you should buy the Galaxy S21 Ultra over the other Galaxy S21 devices, as well as most other smartphones available now.
If you want a device that does absolutely everything and/or you're a power user, look no further than the Galaxy S21 Ultra. This is the phone that has it all, does it all, and will keep you going for years to come. If you need the best of the best, the Galaxy S21 Ultra is the phone for you.