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

OTHER AVAILABLE TESTS FOR THIS DEVICE

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


Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (Snapdragon)
120
camera
126
Photo
84

111

102

107

92

109

98

111

73

102

67

77

56

82

60

80

62

80

63
Zoom
75

140

45

58

104
Video
95

118

100

107

94

109

77

99

75

105

71

94

95

103

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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