Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Z Fold 3 camera comparison: Which one is better?

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Last updated: October 24th, 2021 at 20:03 UTC+01:00

The Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 3 are Samsung’s best high-end smartphones of 2021. While the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is the company’s most expensive smartphone, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a more flexible and higher-specced camera setup. But is there a considerable difference between their image and video quality in the real world? Let us find out.

We shot a few images using all the cameras on the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Galaxy Z Fold 3. Let us start with the rear-facing cameras. The Galaxy S21 Ultra’s primary camera has 108MP resolution, while the Galaxy Z Fold 3 has 12MP resolution. There is very little difference between the two when it comes to details, at least while using the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s default settings. Images captured in the 108MP mode have more details but also more noise.

Galaxy S21 Ultra vs Galaxy Z Fold 3 camera comparison

Images captured using the Galaxy Z Fold 3 have slightly higher saturation. Colors pop a bit more. Galaxy S21 Ultra’s images have slightly higher details, more true-to-life colors, and a slightly wider dynamic range. Similar is the case with the ultrawide and telephoto cameras. You can see all the comparison shots below. The images captured using the Galaxy S21 Ultra are on the left, while the ones from the Galaxy Z Fold 3 are on the right.

Ultrawide shots from the Galaxy S21 Ultra have more details and are slightly sharper towards the corners. There is higher purple fringing in the ultrawide photos captured using the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

As you can see above, color pop a bit more in the image shot using the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s primary camera. There is very little difference when it comes to details. When it comes to dynamic range, the Galaxy S21 Ultra wins by a hair.

The Galaxy S21 Ultra can zoom a little further, thanks to the 3x telephoto lens compared to the 2x telephoto lens on the Galaxy Z Fold 3. It is interesting to see that the Galaxy S21 Ultra saves 12MP images even though it uses a 10MP sensor, which means some upscaling is happening here. And, of course, the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 10x telephoto lens makes it a clear winner when it comes to zooming in on stuff and makes the Galaxy Z Fold 3 feel extremely outdated.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Camera Sample - Rear Telephoto 10x Zoom
S21 Ultra – 10x Zoom

Once again, you can see that the Galaxy Z Fold 3 chooses higher saturation and warmer skin tones. My actual skin tone is somewhere closer to the image from the Galaxy S21 Ultra. You can also see clouds more clearly in the image on the left, showcasing a slightly wider dynamic range and better colors.

When switched to the Live Focus mode, the Galaxy S21 Ultra chooses 2x zoom by default despite featuring a 3x optical zoom lens. It means that the phone is cropping in using its primary camera. Still, it captures more details than the Galaxy Z Fold 3, which has a native 2x optical zoom camera. But unless you pixel-peep, you can’t notice that the Galaxy S21 Ultra has slightly more details on the face. The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s image has a more natural-looking bokeh effect, though.

Now, onto the selfies. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a 40MP front-facing camera with autofocus. The Galaxy Z Fold 3 has a 10MP primary selfie camera and a 4MP under-display secondary selfie camera. Both phones capture excellent selfies with similar colors. There are a few differences, though. Images from the Galaxy S21 Ultra have marginally higher details, and the background is naturally blurred without having to use Portrait mode.

In Portrait (bokeh) mode, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a stronger background blur effect, but that’s the only noticeable difference between the two phones. The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s 4MP under-display camera is worse in every way compared to the 10MP selfie camera. It has much lower detail, muted colors, and an overall hazy look.

I captured a few macro shots, too. The Galaxy S21 Ultra automatically switches to the ultrawide camera when you move close to an object. As a result, macro images are sharper, but noise is higher than the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s primary camera. When the Focus Enhancer feature is turned off, the primary camera struggles a bit to focus on subjects. The Galaxy Z Fold 3’s primary camera is more reliable when focusing on close-range subjects.

As you can see in the images below, the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a wider dynamic range. I pointed both phones towards the brighter part of the sky (it was a bit cloudy that day, though). You can see that the Galaxy S21 Ultra still managed to distinguish between white clouds and the blue sky through the leaves. The same area is overexposed in the image captured using the Galaxy Z Fold 3.

Is the Galaxy S21 Ultra significantly better than the Galaxy Z Fold 3?

The Galaxy S21 Ultra captures slightly more detailed and sharper images with colors that are closer to reality. But the Galaxy Z Fold 3 is not far behind. Photos captured using Samsung’s latest flagship foldable phone have a bit more saturation, but unless you compare images from both phones side-by-side, most people will be satisfied with the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s camera. The only area where the Galaxy S21 Ultra has a significant lead is at 10x or higher zoom levels. If you don’t zoom a lot, you will be perfectly satisfied with the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s camera.

In low-light, both phones capture images with similar details and noise levels. In fact, the Galaxy Z Fold 3’s primary camera captures videos with lower noise in low-light conditions, thanks to bigger native pixels. The foldable phone might not have as impressive a camera setup as the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but it managed to surprise us, and being able to use it in Flex Mode for hands-free photography is an advantage worth mentioning.

If you were thinking of buying the Galaxy Z Fold 3 but were afraid of its inferior on-paper camera specs, you don’t need to worry a lot as its image and video quality are more than satisfactory. Just be sure you don’t want the latest in zoom tech and you’ll be very happy.

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CameraPhone Galaxy S21 UltraGalaxy Z Fold 3
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