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Home / Tips and Tricks / Galaxy S21 Ultra: All the Cool New Camera Tricks (and How to Actually Use Them)

Galaxy S21 Ultra: All the Cool New Camera Tricks (and How to Actually Use Them)



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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Samsung’s Galaxy S21

Ultra has already proven to pack a formidable camerapacked with features to help beginners and professionals alike take stunning photos on the move. It’s not a dramatic overhaul of the Galaxy S20 Ultra, with key specs like the 108-megapixel sensor and 100x zoom common to both phones. But there are some new tricks to know about.

Read more: Review: Samsung’s Galaxy S21 is the no-brainer upgrade phone

Let’s take a look at what features are new and how to use them.

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Single shot

Single Take is a feature that allows the phone to capture multiple images and video clips – each with a different effect applied – just by pressing the shutter button once. Its purpose is to enable you to take a whole range of interesting photos and videos of, for example, your child unwrapping a birthday present, without having to choose a particular style, zoom lens or filter beforehand.

It was a feature on the Galaxy S20, but it has been expanded to produce even more effects. It sounds complicated, but using it is very simple. To get started, tap the Single Take camera mode in the mode button next to the shutter button. Then all you have to do is tap the shutter button and wait the 10 seconds it takes to capture everything. The idea is that you move, maybe shift the camera between faces, so that the phone has more material to work with to create all the different options for you.

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Once done, you can go to the gallery and find your Single Take file and swipe up to see the different items it produced. There will be still images, various clips of videos, GIFs – effects will be applied to all effects. You can save them all or choose your favorites to share with friends and family.

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Using the zoom

The S21 Ultra has a 3x optical zoom, a 10x optical zoom and can take digitally zoomed images up to 30x and 100x. Using it is dead simple. In standard camera mode you will see small leaf icons next to the shutter button. A single sheet means to zoom in (ie get closer to the sheet); the three leaves icon means you are using the super wide lens (ie capture more leaves in one shot). Tapping the icons will take you quickly to 3x or 10x zooms, but you can also tap the numbers that appear next to them.

It works exactly the same whether you are zooming in when taking a photo or recording video.

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Night mode

Getting the right night mode on the S21 Ultra can be frustrating to discover if the phone is new to you and you may not even know it’s there at first. The phone can take great photos in low light in its default camera mode, but when it gets really dark, go to Lake on the mode panel next to the shutter button and you’ll see a whole host of different shooting options.

One of them is called Night and is represented by an image of a moon. In this mode, the phone will take a photo for a few seconds to capture more light. While it uses image stabilization to keep the shot as sharp as possible, you can help it further by keeping your hand as stable as possible, or even better by stabilizing your hands on a nearby wall or other object to minimize hand shake.

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Director’s View

A new feature for the S21, Director’s View, is a video feature that shows you thumbnails of what the scene you are recording will look like with the different zoom lenses. You’ll find it in the same menu screen as Night mode (tap Lake on the mode selection dial). Once there, you’ll immediately see the various thumbnails and can tap on them to record video in any zoom length.

However, Director’s View has an additional feature that allows you to simultaneously record video with the front and rear camera. The idea is that you can film a scene for you and at the same time capture your own reaction to it. In the Director’s View you will see a square box in the top right of the screen (in portrait orientation or top left in landscape). By tapping this, you can select how you want your video to be displayed in the front; as a split view where your face occupies half of the screen, or as a smaller picture-in-picture style, where you appear as a small window overlaid on the main view.

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

Tapping either side will bring up your face, and pressing record will let you record video from both sides at the same time. However, keep in mind that the phone will permanently bake both videos into one file so don’t shoot with the front and rear cameras hoping to separate them into separate videos later on.

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

108 megapixel images

The main camera sensor’s 108 megapixel resolution is huge and while it has the same resolution as the S20 Ultra, it has gotten some software tweaks to improve it, so it’s worth checking out if you haven’t already. To activate it, start in standard camera mode and you’ll see some icons along the top of the screen (or on the left, if you’re holding it in landscape mode), one of which is for aspect ratio and indicated with numbers like 3: 4 1: 1 or Full

Tap on it and you will see 3: 4 108 MP option. Tapping this will activate high-resolution mode, but keep in mind that you won’t be able to use zoom lenses with that active as it relies solely on the main camera’s image sensor.

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Andrew Hoyle / CNET

12-bit raw

Samsung has apparently given the S21 Ultra a boost in its raw recording skills with support for 12-bit raw files. Raw files are essentially “digital negatives” that do not store information such as white balance or digital sharpening, creating a better base image to edit the shot later. Raw files are mostly used by professional photographers who want the utmost control and quality of their images.

12-bit RAW files theoretically capture more dynamic range, which means more detail in the highlights and shadows. It might be a professional position, so it’s no surprise that you have to get into it Lake and then activate it Pro mode. This will display all of the manual settings for exposure, white balance, and autofocus, so it’s only worth experimenting with if you’re confident in your photography knowledge. Activating the raw mode, however, requires an extra step; tap the gear with settings, go to Format and advanced options and turn on RAW copies, which allows the phone to create a raw image as well as a standard JPEG.

However, keep in mind that raw files take up a lot more space than JPEG images, so if you’re short on space, make sure you don’t leave this mode turned on and accidentally fill your gallery with high-resolution raw images of your pet. Unless you feel like it.


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