iPhone 13 Pro Max vs Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra CAMERA TEST


The Samsung galaxy s21 ultra has had the best set of cameras that you can get on a smartphone and since it launched it's also had some major updates on top of that but the iPhone 13 pro and iPhone 13 pro max are on paper apple's single biggest camera upgrade since the very first iPhone so we've got 12 short categories and through them we're gonna find out side by side who is the 2021 camera champion and right off the bat the iPhone 13s are a bit of a turning point because in every single camera test that I've done for like the last five years apple has always lost points for lack of camera features software modes and just fun things to do but with the iPhone 13 pro apple has added photographic styles to reframe shots for your preferences they've added a macro mode which has changed how close you can focus on things from 10 centimeters to now two centimeters and cinematic video which I'd say is not perfect but it's by far the best attempt a company has had at this concept Samsung still has more features that phone can technically record 8k video it can shoot from multiple cameras at the same time but I would say that this iPhone does push the battle of software modes at least ones that people would use to about a draw but Samsung does get an early win here in the form of zoom so the iPhone 13 pros have a three times optical zoom camera it is a step up from last year's phones which capped out at 2.5x but it's not looking particularly promising up against Samsung who has both a 3x and a 10x optical zoom camera built in and so unsurprisingly if you wanted to zoom in some crazy distance like 30 times Samsung's is going to be somewhat usable the iPhones is going to look like a water painting the only caveats i would add to that though are one for me at least most zoom photos that i take are probably not 30 times but more like five times or seven times and when you're using zoom ranges like that and you're not activating Samsung's specialized 10x optical zoom camera to be honest they're pretty comparable and actually iphone's 3x zoom camera does actually get you a little closer to subjects than samsung's 3xzoom and also too just the simple fact that for some reason iphones seem to be the only phones that can seamlessly switch to their zoom cameras without lagging so i'd still give this category to samsung but only slightly oh and just a reminder i have literally bought 10 iphone 13s myself to give away to you rules to enter that are in the description below now the other category that i'm just sort of used to handing to samsung is macro you bring that phone close to a subject and it'll automatically switch to its ultra-wide camera which can now focus really close and not many phones have been able to compete with that till now with the 13 pro apple has added in the same feature and it works in an almost suspiciously similar way but it can get even closer while samsung can focus at up to around three centimeters away from the subject the iphone can do two centimeters you can take really small things and just blow them up to large proportions i found this very useful but more often than not samsung's result is a little crisper and that's just as important roughly a draw but okay i think it's time we address the the tim cook in the room thank you very much see a huge part of the iphone 13 pro selling point specifically centers around the new camera sensors on them and how much more light they can let in versus the last generation apple quoted figures of up to 2.2 times better low light performance 2.2 times that should be at least two generations worth of improvement so here's some low light how's the performance well my very first observation was huh i started off by taking a couple of quick photos in ultra low light and I was quite surprised to see that samsung was not just a head but was actually pulling in a whole extra layer of detail plus i was on the lookout for how much brighter my iphone photos were about to be you know because they quoted 2.2 times more light but to be honest samsung's brightening power also seemed to be way higher but then i realized something i realized that while samsung defaults to capturing for between three and nine seconds when you're using night mode apple has set this new iphone to only ever capture for between one and three seconds i thinkthey do this because capturing for shorter periods of time does mean that you're less likely to move your hands and blur the photo and you can see the benefit in some shots but it also means that by default you're not getting nearly the full night mode experience check this out this is that same scene from earlier and this is what happens when you manually force both phones to capture for 10 full seconds the iphone goes from about equal sometimes worse to way ahead this room was literally pitch black i couldn't see anything and this is not the only thing apple does right here it's also able to better render out natural realistic colors even when your eyes can't while samsung's prone to being coerced by the warmer lights you usually find in indoor scenarios the iphone is incredibly strong and just not going too warm it's also more detailed most of the time that said samsung's ultra-wide is better about 60 of the time as is of course it's ten times zoom camera but samsung's three-time zoom camera doesn't work well in the dark so up until you get to 10 times actually the iphone zoom is better and just to reiterate I've personally found that even in the shots where the iphone's ultrawide is potentially not as strong if you force both phones to capture for 10 seconds apple benefits much more than samsung does from that extra time this is not a particularly fancy camera setup when you think about it three lenses all 12 megapixel resolution three times optical zoom nothing about it is extraordinary but i think it's a pretty good example of how more than ever the camera software is just as important that said it's also an example of how apple software can be patronizing and not conducive to better photos now one thing that apple has always done well is portrait mode however credit where do when i first tested the s21 ultra in january portrait mode was disappointing but thanks to a few key updates where they've clearly buckled down on it it's slowly become one of the better phones for it in fact the software on the samsung feels really good now i think apple just edited it out because of how its three-time zoom camera is a little better than samsung's 3x zoom camera and the 3x zoom is generally how you would take portraits but it's really close this extra organic quality just means the apple can get away with less artificial sharpness and i think really that's the main difference now one of the main visual changes coming from the iphone 12 pro to the iphone 13 pro is a smaller notch on the front and in case you are worried about how this has affected selfie camera performance it hasn't and so where that leaves us is that as far as video is concerned both iphone and samsung are much of a muchness strong stabilization copious levels of detail and very similar ability to cope with harsh backlighting i just think samsung's is a bit more flattering this applies to pretty much every facet of the cameras to be honest if your priority is looking good then samsung's got that nailed down you can also shoot cinematic video on the iphone's front camera and portrait video on the samsung's apples is slightly more realistic but it's clear that both features really need some work and this is an audio test so right now you're listening to the microphones on the iphone 13 pro max now you're listening to the microphones on the samsung galaxy s21 ultra i don't think either of these is sufficiently better that it should be a deciding factor though but what about just selfies well on paper this should be a whitewash samsung has a 40 megapixel resolution with a larger sensor size apple has a tiny 12 megapixel one but for most photos samsung doesn't look too far ahead yes its larger sensor does translate to a little bit more natural background blur it gives the slight inkling of yeah i took this on a proper camera whereas the iphone front camera still feels like a front camera but for most shots there's not that much in it and apple's lens is wider so slightly more room if you fancy a group selfie but there's two things that i would say tip the balance in samsung's favor one being portrait mode i think more often than not samsung's selfie portraits are more accurate with sharper edges and this really solidifies just how much work samsung has put into portraits while they're not quite as good when taken on the rear cameras the main reason why seems to be just the inferior quality of hardware on the lens being used but on the front where samsung has actually put in the resources to create better hardware than 




apples the results speak for themselves and the second thing is that when you're in some indoor and lower light scenarios I think the iPhone is too harsh my guess is that because its selfie camera hardware is a little bit worse it has to use more artificial sharpening and so it's more likely to draw out every single imperfection you have on your skin if someone started a dating profile with this photo they'd probably get banned for violation and the final thing before we get to the really important categories is slow-mo I used to get quite excited about slo-mo and the latest developments in it but for the last few years, I've just had this distinct feeling that none of these companies care about it anymore the feature has barely evolved and we're still in the same position that we were in in 2018. both phones can shoot footage that's eight times slowed continuously and the quality is pretty comparable but then samsung's can go slower being able to shoot short bursts of 32 times slowed footage but the fact that this super slo-mo still looks like this in 2021 it's pretty criminal samsung can have this victory but slo-mo as a category seems to be drifting into irrelevance you can also take slo-mo on the front of both phones but i'm yet to find a use for it Okay let's talk about photos general daytime photos it's a bit of a toss-up in fact no it's a bit of a mess like i wish i could tell you that there was a clear winner here but honestly even my preferences change literally every photo for example for a straight up landscape i prefer the poppy colors and slightly cooler tones of the samsung but on a technical level the iphone's image is just packed with detail you can zoom into any part of a daytime iphone 13 pro photo and it is completely noise free that's not quite the case on samsung but then in challenging lighting samsung's aggressive dynamic range is better able to control the bright areas and this is especially true for the ultrawide cameras where the iphone can end up overexposed but then the iphone's lower contrast is quite often more flattering on faces if you get closer up to a camera and samsung realizes that you're a person then it will brighten your face but if you're further away then it will just treat you like a landscape or in other words aggressively starting to sound a bit odd and then indoors i do think of the two the iphone is more realistic but there is something to be said about its shots also looking a little clinical and Lifeless but it's really tough to draw a line like this is my cat milo and i think this iphone shot is more representative of the real scene but if i was going to post one of these photos it wouldn't be the iphones it makes the cat look really Ugly sorry milo this new option to choose your photographic style it does kind of help you can adjust the tone and tweak the color temperature but you still couldn't recreate what samsung does equally though in these indoor lighting scenarios the iphone is slightly more consistent at keeping its focus and minimizing blur from moving animals and people slightly so for general Photography i'm handing out a draw however there is one big category for which the iphone steamrolls the samsung and that's video iphone video is brighter it's more crisp it's far less prone to noise and it's also more tonally balanced to be really honest don't know what samsung's doing here like their video is not bad but it should be better than this given that they're the ones with the larger higher resolution sensor part of it is apple's optimization like when they design their chip to power this phone it has been built around being able to capture videos in a certain way and this even applies to ultrawide video and even zoomed video until you go past 10 times after which the samsung will of course overtake it plus samsung's footage also seems to degrade faster when the lighting falls like if we go to a somewhat dim room and try to start recording it is immediately struggling and then the darker it gets the more these differences are Exaggerated the only caveat that i would say for the iphone is that it does still have these annoying little lens flares when you point it directly at bright sources they had it last year they didn't fix it but yeah for video the iphone wins in daylight it wins in indoor light it wins in low light and so if you're one of those people who takes more video than you do photo on your phone there is no better tool than the iphone 13 pro and the final category before we pick a winner is stabilization in 98 of cases you'll probably find them identical the differences only come when you push them to the extreme like you try sprinting then you will actually feel samsung's advantage in this field that lead can also be increased with the use of samsung's super steady mode but it caps your resolution at 1080p which honestly i mean i've had this s21 ultra for seven months now i've not once used it because i'd rather have bouncier video than video that's literally a quarter of the quality but yeah i feel pretty comfortable handing stabilization to samsung so who won if we count up this little tally i've been keeping you can see that of these 12 categories samsung has won 6.5 just over half but do remember that different categories are obviously of different importance and some were close wins others were thrashings so that score is only to give you an idea my gut feeling having spent the last four or five days taking hundreds upon hundreds of shots with both of these is that the samsung has the potential to be more surprising it's on balance the more amusing camera to use both in terms of how expressive its images are and also the tools it gives you to achieve them however the iphone 13 pro is more reliable it loses to the samsung in things like slow motion and maximum zoom but it won't lose in any of the big categories raw photos raw videos are continuously strong and rarely falter and the nighttime performance is a nice bonus i wish i could give you a more concrete answer of which one wins outright but hopefully you've seen that in this case it really does just depend.

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