Cellphone camera technology has officially hit the point of wowing me. I remember the EARLY days of phone cameras when the picture quality was on par with a floppy disk video game’s VGA graphics, lol
Enter the Samsung S21 Ultra:
One spec sneaked into that pic already; the FRONT camera is 40 Megapixels. By comparison my Nikon D3400 is a 24 Megapixel camera:
That’s nearly identical to the kit I got at a big box membership store before our honeymoon in Hawai’i. The camera let me take some pretty spectacular shots. Most of the ones I posted here from that trip were actually taken with my iPhone 10 simply because the file sizes were too big with the Nikon:
Suffice it to say the Nikon turned out images that were twice as good and enlarged better. We have five of them on our dining room wall. Apple is still plodding along at 12 megapixels for it’s newest camera phones. The lens quality is better with each new version, BUT the iPhone 13 is still 1/2 the base level image quality of the Nikon.
Let’s get back to the Samsung though:
Yes, you read that correctly… The primary ‘wide angle’ lens is 108 megapixels!
Samsung is also claiming a 100x “Space Zoom” on it. The folks at the local phone store said one recent customer zoomed in on a water tank on a hill in the distance (eyeballing it, it looked like about 2 miles away), and they were all able to read the print on the water tank.
What is “Space Zoom”?
I had to look this one up myself. It’s a combination of optical and digital zoom. Any true camera nut will tell you that there’s no substitute for true optical zoom. It’s real picture quality vs artificial enhancement. HOWEVER… all you have to do is look at the picture above this one to see that the camera phone definitely seems to have good lens quality also.
Test Drive Pending:
Will it replace a true 35mm DSLR camera? We shall soon find out. My spouse and I got fed up with our insanely high bill from AT&T, and switched carriers. We’re going to save over 30% monthly on our bill and get two new S21 Ultras. We’re just waiting for the phones to be delivered. After some test driving, I’ll report back on the camera quality. Maybe I’ll even do a full review.
Our Nikon D3400 is considered an “entry level” 35mm camera. There are ones out there with higher resolution capability. Most of them come with extremely high price tags also. I’m skeptical that the Samsung’s phone can compete with a professional level DSLR with a good lens kit. Lens size, and even file format makes a difference. RAW files save an incredible amount of detail that even a JPEG loses.
An Expert Explanation (AKA Don’t Believe the Hype)
In fact, I found somebody who did a quickie comparison on YouTube already:
If you don’t want to watch the 5 minute comparison… The image quality was extremely close in most cases, however, when he got back to file format / size and the ability to edit pics at a professional level, here’s what he had in the notes of the video:
“Why did I lightly edit the Canon 1DX Mark II pictures instead of the Galaxy S21 Ultra pictures? Because the highly compressed .jpg images coming out of the Galaxy S21 Ultra would probably have fallen apart if I tried to push the color as much as I did with the Canon 1DX Mark II.”
He goes on to explain that camera image sensor and lens size make a huge difference in how much light can be captured, and thus how much fine detail can be captured. A dedicated DSLR camera has 12x the lens and camera sensor size.
The fact that the newest camera phone can turn out 99% equal quality base images is due to the phone essentially photoshopping the image immediately after taking it. Settings like portrait mode use a combination of minor lens manipulation and built in filters to enhance the the clarity and color of picture.
A camera phone isn’t likely to replace a true professional’s camera kit for years to come. For the rest of us who simply want our vacation photos to look as good as possible, the need for a dedicated camera may very well be drawing to an end.
Despite the above video being very credible, I will be doing my own testing and posting the results here. We’ll see for ourselves if a camera phone has finally reached the point of replacing a 35mm DSLR for the typical home photographer.