Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

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


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.


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.

Editors' Recommendations

Andy Boxall
Senior Mobile Writer
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
New Galaxy S24 Ultra rumor teases a major camera upgrade
The back of the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, showing the camera lenses.

It's no secret that the Galaxy S23 Ultra's cameras are impressive, but it seems like the S24 Ultra may be one-upping its predecessor. Aside from the addition of its 200MP sensor, there wasn't much of a difference between the S22 Ultra's camera array and the one found on the S23 Ultra. However, a new leak suggests that the S24 Ultra will be taking a major step to elevate camera performance.

In a post to Twitter, leaker @Tech_Reve claims that the Galaxy S24 Ultra will be ditching the S23 Ultra's 3x and 10x telephoto lenses in favor of a single 3x to 10x variable folded telephoto lens. While the change may seem subtle, the difference in what the S24 Ultra can accomplish with its camera array could be vast as a result.

Read more
This is the most unusual Galaxy S23 Ultra camera test I’ve ever done
The Galaxy A54 and Galaxy S23 Ultra's camera modules.

Comparing phone cameras is a fine balancing act, where everything from the price of the device to the functionality is considered before taking the first photos. So, under normal circumstances, the Samsung Galaxy A54 would never face the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. After all, they’re worlds apart in both of those areas. So why are you about to see a comparison between the two?

It’s simple. Because they are so different, just how much better or worse is one compared to the other? Or are they closer together than Samsung would like you to think? Let's see if we can save you money or convince you to spend more with one of the most unusual camera comparisons we've done yet.
Just how different are the cameras?
Samsung Galaxy A54 (right) and Galaxy S23 Ultra Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Read more
I’m no camera expert, but this S23 Ultra app makes me look like one
Close-up shot of the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra.

When I hear someone has used Photoshop or Lightroom to edit a RAW photo, I imagine it has taken a considerable amount of time, and required a fair degree of expertise and understanding of photography to do it. The Galaxy S23 Ultra can take photos in RAW format, and it recommends the Lightroom for Samsung app to edit them. As a keen photographer and someone who likes to edit photos in other apps, I wanted to give RAW photos and Lightroom editing a try.

The question is, do you have to be an expert to use the Expert RAW app and Lightroom’s editing tools? I was about to find out.
You’ll have to pay to get the most from it

Read more