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Home / Tips and Tricks / Galaxy S21 Ultra: All the great new camera tricks (and how to use them)

Galaxy S21 Ultra: All the great new camera tricks (and how to use them)


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra has an incredible camera that̵

7;s one of the best you can find on any of today’s top phones. It is able to take great zoomed photos and compete with the iPhone 12 Pro Max in overall image quality. It’s packed with great features to help beginners and professionals alike capture stunning photos on the go. While it may not be a dramatic overhaul of the Galaxy S20 Ultra (with headline specs like the 108-megapixel sensor and 100x zoom common to both phones), there are some new tricks to know.

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

Let’s dive in to see what features are new and how to use them.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Single Take

Single Take is a feature that allows the phone to capture multiple photos and video clips – each with a different effect – by pressing the shutter button once. The goal is to let you take a whole host of interesting photos and videos of, say, your child unwrapping a birthday present, without having to choose a particular style, zoom, or filter beforehand.

It was a feature launched 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 Single Take camera mode in the mode dial next to the shutter button. Then all you have to do is tap the shutter button and wait for the 10 seconds it takes to capture everything. The idea is that you move, maybe pan the camera between faces, so the phone has more material to work with to create all the different options for you.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

When you’re done, you can go to the gallery and find your Single Take file and swipe up to see the different items it created. There will be still images, various fragments of videos, GIFs – all of which will have effects. You can save them all or choose your favorites to share with friends and family.


Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Using the zoom

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

It works exactly the same whether you’re zooming in when shooting a still image or when recording video.


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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 standard camera mode, but when it gets really dark, scroll down to More on the mode panel next to the shutter button and you’ll see a whole host of different shooting options.

One is called Night and is represented by a picture of a moon. In this mode, the phone takes a picture 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 steady as possible, or even better by stabilizing your hands on a nearby wall or other object to minimize hand shaking .


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View of the director

A new feature for the S21, Director’s View, is a video feature that shows you thumbnails of what the scene you’re shooting will look like with the different zooms. You’ll find it on the same menu screen as Night Mode (tap More on the mode 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 record video with the front and rear cameras at the same time. The idea is that you can film a scene in front of you, while also recording your own reaction to it. When you’re in Director’s View, you’ll see a square box at the top right of the screen (when held in portrait position, or top left in your landscape position). Tapping this will allow you to select how you want your front-facing video to be displayed; as a split screen view where your face takes up half the screen, or as a smaller picture-in-picture style, where you are represented as a small window overlaying the main screen.


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Tapping one of these will bring your face into view, and pressing record will allow you to record video with both sides at the same time. However, remember that the phone will permanently bake both videos into a single file, so don’t shoot with the front and rear cameras at the same time hoping to separate them into separate videos later.


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108-megapixel images

The main camera sensor’s 108-megapixel resolution is huge and while it’s the same resolution as the S20 Ultra, it’s had 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 at the top of the screen (or left, if you’re holding it in landscape mode), one of which is for the aspect ratio and indicated by numbers like: 3:4, 1:1 or full.

Tap it and you will see the 3:4 108MP choice. Tapping this will activate high-resolution mode, but keep in mind that that mode won’t allow you to use zooms as they rely solely on the main camera’s image sensor.


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12-bit raw

Samsung has apparently given the S21 Ultra a boost in its raw shooting skills with support for 12-bit raw files. Raw files are essentially “digital negatives” that don’t store information like white balance or digital sharpening, providing a better base image for later editing of the shot. 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, meaning more detail in the highlights and shadows. It might be a pro feature, so it’s no surprise you have to go in on More and then activate the Pro mode. This will show all the manual settings for exposure, white balance and autofocus, so it’s only worth experimenting with if you’re confident in your photography knowledge. However, activating raw mode takes an extra step; tap the settings gear, go to Layout and advanced options and turn on RAW copies, which allows the phone to create both a raw image and a standard JPEG.

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

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