Photography

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a hidden camera mode: Macro

The ultrawide camera on the Galaxy S21 Ultra doesn’t just take ultrawide photos. When you get right up close, some clever software and artificial intelligence processing activate an effective macro mode. The quality of the photos you get, and how easy they are to take, quickly banishes all those bad feelings towards macro cameras you may have, after potentially being disappointed by low-megapixel macro cameras on phones recently.

How does it work?

Samsung’s improved A.I. abilities make the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s macro mode possible. When you get within 10 centimeters of an object, the camera knows to switch over to its close-up mode. Best of all is that it has autofocus, so it operates in the same way as the other cameras on the phone and ensures what you point the camera at stays in focus. It’s all as simple as that, although there is one thing you have to do to make it work — switch to the ultrawide camera.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

How do you know it has worked? Sometimes you will get a notification that says, “Enhanced Focus” on the screen — Samsung’s name for the macro/close-up mode — when it activates, but this doesn’t always happen. The easiest way is to just look at the screen, as the object will quickly come into focus. None of this happens if you’re using any of the other camera lenses.

Macro modes are (usually) terrible

Why do I like Samsung’s close-up mode? Because it’s really good. Padding the number of camera lenses a phone has with a substandard macro camera has been an unfortunate trend over the past couple of years. The 2-megapixel macro cameras rarely take a photo that was worth looking at, let alone sharing. Sure, manufacturers may claim it makes a difference to the quality of artificial bokeh shots, but the Google Pixel 4a does a solid job without one. I’d rather they weren’t there at all.

It’s very different on the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The ultrawide camera is technically very impressive. It has 12MP and a sensor that’s larger than the primary camera on the old Galaxy Note 10+, and its ability is harnessed by the Snapdragon 888 or Exynos 2100’s superior A.I. to take macro photos which really are worth sharing.

Close-up photos taken with the Galaxy S21 Ultra

Leaf

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This is a good example of what to expect with the Enhanced Focus mode. Shot from just a few centimeters away from the leaf, the fish-eye effect brings the veins into focus at a specific central point, leaving other parts out of focus or shrouded in some pleasing natural bokeh. The colors, balance, and dynamic range are all excellent.

Snowflake

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The same central focal point works really well here, introducing what looks like movement around a single, sharply focused snowflake. In fact, this was taken through a skylight window with the snow settled on the glass, yet the camera’s excellent autofocus still happily focused on the tiny snowflake, despite it being so close.

Watch face

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Here’s where the distorted wide-angle lens doesn’t always work in the photo’s favor. The watch face looks exceptionally large (it’s not), and the lugs and strap are completely obscured, but the level of sharpness and detail in the center is very impressive. Reading the name of Seiko’s movement (the V157 marking) is difficult with the naked eye as it’s very small, but it’s clear in the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s photo.

Can ring pull

Andrew Martonik/Digital Trends

Taken by Digital Trends’ Mobile Editor Andrew Martonik, the text on the can’s ring pull is sharply in focus, again demonstrating the effectiveness of the camera’s autofocus system. The sensor also captures color really well, and the sensor’s size means it handles reflections from the can itself too.

Frosty roof tiles

This shot shows where the edge distortion can let a photo down, but it’s still an effective demo of how the camera catches detail, and doesn’t miss color or texture.

The rest of the camera is great too

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera is versatile, capable, and exciting. I love the detailed zoom photos it takes, and helpful features like Single Take, because just like the close-up macro mode they work without any hassle, and produce excellent results.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is not just the pick of the latest Galaxy S21 series range, but it’s also the phone anyone wanting an Android phone with a high-end camera system this year should buy too.

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Photography | Digital Trends

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