Camera

A penta-camera setup seems all but confirmed for the Galaxy Note 21 Ultra

Following today’s Exynos 2100 announcement that Samsung wrapped up mere moments ago, we have a much better idea of what to expect from the company’s 2021 flagships. Including the Galaxy Note 21 series that’s expected to launch in late summer, despite some purported second thoughts on Samsung’s part.

While the Galaxy S21 Ultra that’s scheduled for an unveiling later this week will seemingly miss out on a five-camera system, it would appear the technology is getting prepped to launch with the Galaxy Note 21 Ultra. After all, Samsung SLI would have hardly bothered with implementing hexa-camera support into the Exynos 2100 otherwise (the sixth shooter being the selfie one).

And as it turns out, that’s precisely what the newly introduced system-on-a-chip offers: the ability to control six mobile cameras at once.

Will the Galaxy Note 21 be the ultimate smartphone for photo retouching?

Based on the last several product generations, it seems highly unlikely that the entry-level Galaxy Note 21 — if it exists — will feature the same number of rear-facing cameras as its more expensive counterpart. Much less certain is the actual composition of the Galaxy Note 21 Ultra’s camera setup. It should go without saying that the Galaxy S21 line might not be an accurate indicator of the exact sensor-lens combo Samsung has in store for its next family of stylus-equipped smartphones.

The same was true last year when the company dropped the gimmicky 100x zoom between its two major flagship releases. And recent reports suggest one of the five cameras found on the back of the Galaxy Note 21 Ultra might mark Samsung’s return to high-end time-of-flight sensors.

It bears repeating that a potential penta-camera setup will still be limited on the kernel side of things. Namely, today’s virtual event confirmed that the Exynos 2100 will “only” be capable of operating up to four cameras at once. Possible ToF capabilities notwithstanding, it’s probable that the Galaxy Note 21 Ultra will hence feature two telephoto lenses of different focal lengths. A zoom-superzoom combo wouldn’t just maximize the smartphone’s photographic versatility, but would also be in line with the technologies Samsung reportedly incorporated into the upcoming Galaxy S21 Ultra.

In terms of image fidelity, the Exynos 2100 will be capable of handling resolutions of up to 200 megapixels. That doesn’t guarantee the Galaxy Note 21 Ultra will actually allow for capturing of 200-megapixel stills, but it definitely spells good news for Samsung’s hybrid zoom technology. After all, getting away with a digital crop is much easier when your image signal processor is working with 200 million pixels.

Then again, a higher pixel count will inadvertently burden the smartphone’s low-light performance. The good news is that the neural processing boost packed inside the Exynos 2100 might alleviate the results on this front. Especially if the much-rumored new partnership between Samsung and Google ends up having anything to do with AI-processed imagery.

Not to take away from the immense improvements in mobile imaging Samsung demonstrated over the last several years, yet software was hardly ever the company’s forté. Regardless, mobile photography aficionados have much to look forward to this summer as the Galaxy Note 21 Ultra is truly shaping up to be the retoucher’s dream. So, fingers crossed?

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