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Samsung’s Single Take camera mode on the Galaxy S21 isn’t a gimmick for newbies

Do you never want to miss a photo opportunity, but sometimes aren’t sure if a photo or video will work best to capture the moment? Samsung’s Single Take mode is for you. It leans on Samsung’s enhanced artificial intelligence (A.I.), comprehensive editing suite, and multiple cameras to take all the work out of making sure you’ve got the entire scene covered, and all you have to do is point your phone in the right direction.

Don’t think this is just a gimmick or something only useful to those who aren’t experienced photographers. It’s much more than that. Single Take launched on the Galaxy S20 series, but it’s back for the Galaxy S21 series and has been upgraded to Single Take 2.0 at the same time. I’ve been using it on the Galaxy s21 Ultra, and here’s what’s new, and how to get the best from this unusual and very helpful feature.

What you need to use Single Take 2.0

You need a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, or a Samsung Galaxy S21. These all have the latest One UI 3.1 software onboard, while the cameras and processor are competent and powerful enough to operate Single Take 2.0. While it’s likely version 2.0 will make it to other older Samsung phones in the future, not every feature will be included, as some are only made possible by the superior A.I. and other technology inside the S21 phones.

What does Single Take 2.0 do?

Single Take creates 14 different individual compositions from a single short video clip, ranging from a “golden” best shot, a black-and-white photo, and a filtered still, to a boomerang-style video, a slow-motion video, and several shots created using filters and at different video speeds. If you can’t decide whether to use video, shoot a still, use wide-angle, or even the 108-megapixel mode, just use Single Take. It covers all these and more.

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Version 2.0 improves over the first version by including more scene options to create more content from your one video. It makes use of the improved processor and A.I. to capture more facial expressions too, so when your subject is a person the edits it makes will capture smiles and open eyes, rather than blurry faces and blinks.

First steps with Single Take mode

Finding Single Take inside the camera is easy. Open the camera app and look at the menu slider under the viewfinder. Single Take is the first option to the left. Swipe across to activate it. Before you start, it’s important to remember Single Take is a video mode, not a stills mode, therefore it needs movement in your scene to work. It really can be anything, as long as something is happening.

If you use Single Take a lot, or want to remind yourself to use it, change one of the camera settings to always open up the camera app in the mode you last used. That way, when you go to take a video, you don’t have to switch modes provided you used Single Take the previous time you opened the app. To do this, go to Single Take, tap the gear icon to open the Settings menu, scroll down to Settings to Keep, tap it and switch the Camera Mode option on.

Single Take customization

Single Take 2.0 will create up to 14 different scenes and stills from your main video, with the amount of new content generated being dictated by the amount of movement and excitement in the original clip. Not all Single Take’s custom shots are gold though, and if it always makes one from your least favorite style it can be frustrating to see. Luckily there’s something that can be done to avoid this.

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There is a hidden menu that lets you remove certain custom options from Single Take’s repertoire. Tap the downward-facing arrow in the top right of the viewfinder to see a list of what Single Take can generate. For example, if you don’t like the highlight videos just tap the arrow next to that option, and it won’t make one again.

Video recording length

Single Take is pre-set to shoot video clips lasting 10 seconds. Just tap the shutter button to start, and it will automatically end once it reaches that time, although you can stop it beforehand if you prefer. Depending on what you are shooting, 10 seconds may be too long, or too short, but there is a way to adjust Single Take’s recording time.

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In the bottom right of the viewfinder, you’ll see an icon saying 10s. Tap this and a slider lets you adjust the recording length from between five and 15 seconds. Single Take needs at least five seconds to capture enough video to generate its custom content.

In the Gallery

Single Take shots are shown in the Gallery app as usual, and you can tell them apart by a small circular icon in the bottom left corner of the thumbnail. Open one up and then swipe up on the screen to show all the different Single Take custom shots. Tap each one to show them in the main preview, and then tap it again to show the share and edit controls at the bottom of the screen.

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Although Single Take has generated a custom photo or video for you, the look of each has not been set in stone. Tap the edit button and you can change every aspect of the photo or video, just like you would on any image taken in the other modes. There really are few downsides to using Single Take if you’re just looking for variety from your videos.

Is it worth using?

Single Take doesn’t really require much effort to use, but does that mean you should be using it on a regular basis? Yes, but it does depend on what you regularly take photos and videos of. If you shoot flowers, scenery, buildings, or anything that doesn’t really move, Single Take won’t be very beneficial. If you take videos of your family, friends, or pets, along with sports events, cars, or action in general, give Single Take a try, as that’s exactly the circumstances it’s made for.

How about the results? There are some impressive things about Single Take, and it will often create a photo you may have struggled to capture in the moment. During my tests when tracking a car, for example, it isolated one frame, zoomed-in, cropped to a 16:9 aspect ratio, and perfectly centered the vehicle, all while giving the background some motion blur. I would have struggled to take this exact shot in the moment, but Single Take did it for me with almost no effort on my part at all.

It’s easy to pass Single Take mode off as one for photo newbies, but even if you consider yourself a capable photographer, there’s plenty of creative opportunity in Single Take. Used with care it may end up inspiring you even further, and it’s fun to challenge Samsung’s improved A.I. to come up with something perhaps you hadn’t seen in the moment at all.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s camera is superb, and due to the technical advancements in the phone, Single Take has evolved to become even more capable than when we first saw it on the Galaxy S20 Ultra. It’s one of the few additional camera features we see added to smartphones we recommend people actually spend time using and experimenting with. It may sound a bit like a gimmick at first, but it’s not. Single Take is well worth your time, whatever your photographic skill level.

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