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Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon) Camera test: The better S21

This device has been retested in the latest version of our protocol. Overall, sub-scores and attributes are up to date. For detailed information, check the What’s New article
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The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE (“Fan Edition”) 5G (Snapdragon) offers many of the features, including the Snapdragon 888 chipset, of the standard S21 5G model, at a slightly more affordable price point. FE users can compose images on a large 6.4” Dynamic AMOLED display with FHD+ resolution and power is supplied by a 4,500 mAh battery.

With 12MP primary and ultra-wide cameras the camera setup on the back of the device looks quite similar to the standard S21, but the tele camera only offers an 8MP sensor instead of the S21’s 64MP variant. Let’s have a closer look at how the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon) performs in the DXOMARK Camera tests and compares to its rivals.

Key camera specifications:

  • Primary: 12 MP sensor, f/1.8-aperture lens
  • Ultra-wide: 12 MP sensor, f/2.2-aperture lens
  • Tele: 8 MP sensor, f/2.0-aperture lens
  • LED flash
  • Video: 2160p at 30/60 fps, 1080p at 30/60 fps (1080p/30fps tested)

About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 3000 test images and more than 2.5 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary

Scoring

Sub-scores and attributes included in the calculations of the global score.


Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon)
117
camera
119
photo
95

116

108

117

91

115

97

114

85

115

69

81

60
bokeh
60

80

64
preview
64

81

111
zoom
77

116

100

115

107
video
83

115

104

115

90

115

94

115

86

116

73

86

102

115

Use cases

Use case scores indicate the product performance in specific situations. They are not included in the overall score calculations.

Outdoor

Photos & videos shot in bright light conditions (≥1000 lux)

Indoor

Photos & videos shot in good lighting conditions (≥100lux)

Lowlight

Photos & videos shot in low lighting conditions (<100 lux)

Please be aware that beyond this point, we have not modified the initial test results. While data and products remain fully comparable, you might encounter mentions and references to the previous scores.

Pros

  • Good exposure and contrast
  • Nice color in indoor and outdoor images
  • Good texture in bright light
  • Pretty accurate subject isolation in bokeh mode
  • Accurate exposure, white balance and focus preview when zooming
  • Good exposure in low contrast video
  • Accurate white balance and color in bright light and indoor video
  • Generally good video autofocus
  • Good video stabilization for static scenes

Cons

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon) camera does a respectable job, earning itself a DXOMARK Camera score of 120 that puts it into a mid-field position in the Premium segment. The score is one point higher than the S21 5G (Snapdragon), making the FE model a great alternative to the standard model for photocentric users. This said, with the S21 5G having been available at retailers for several months now its street price has come down to a level that is very close to the FE. Overall, the camera performs on a very similar level to the other models in the S21 series from Samsung.

This indoor image offers accurate color rendering without any casts. However, slight color fringing and huw shifts are noticeable.

In this shot and the graph below, we can see that the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE’s texture performance has been improved over the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G. Textures are slightly more refined in all light conditions.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), low light texture
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), crop: slight loss of texture
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), low light texture
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), stronger loss of texture, stronger noise
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), indoor texture
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), crop: slight loss of texture
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), indoor texture
Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon), stronger loss of texture, more highlight clipping

 

Texture comparison: the S21 FE Snapdragon is very slightly improved over the S21 5G across all light levels. The difference is most noticeable in low light.

The preview image in bokeh mode is very close to the final capture.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), preview image
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), crop: preview only slightly different to final capture
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), final capture in bokeh mode
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), crop: similar bokeh effect to preview image

In bokeh mode, images can sometimes be slightly underexposed, but the simulated bokeh effect provides mostly accurate depth estimation, with only a few visible depth artifacts.

Bokeh mode: good depth estimation

When using the tele zoom, exposure is generally accurate and stable, but dynamic range is limited, which can result in highlight clipping in high contrast scenes. Our testers also observed a loss of detail at most tele and ultra-wide zoom settings, as well as some autofocus failures.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), long range zoom
Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), crop: good exposure but loss of detail

In video mode, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon) records footage with good exposure in low-contrast scenes. However, in more difficult high-contrast conditions video clips tend to be underexposed. The comparison devices below are doing better in this respect.

Our testers also observed some color and white balance instabilities but overall white balance and color rendering are generally accurate when recording in bright light or under typical indoor conditions. In low light, an orange cast is more intrusive than on the comparison phones. Noise is quite visible in all conditions, it’s particularly strong in low light. We also noticed frame shift and ringing artifacts in all conditions. Video stabilization does a good job in static scenes and is on a similar level as the competitors.

In this sample clip, we can see that at the start of the video the subject is slightly underexposed. Strong color and exposure instabilities are noticeable between 00:19 and 00:25 are visible. We can also see frame shifts and an exposure adaptation issue towards the end of the clip when the model turns around.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon), slight subject underexposure, strong color and exposure instabilities, slight frame shift

Google Pixel 6, slight underexposure, white balance instabilities, slight loss of focus, exposure adaptation issues

Oppo Reno 6 Pro 5G, slight underexposure, focus instabilities, frame shift, noticeable exposure adaptation

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