Samsung Galaxy S21 launch: 10x superzoom camera phone unveiled

Samsung is attempting to fully replace high-end cameras and out-zoom its smartphone competition with the new Galaxy S21 Ultra, the firm’s first to feature a large 10x optical zoom.

Announced as part of the company’s Unpacked live-streamed event, the new £1,149 Android superphone has two different optical zoom lenses for switching between 3x and 10x magnification. It leads Samsung’s Galaxy S21 line for 2021 which also includes two smaller and cheaper models.

The phones each have 20% faster processors than the S20 series last year, up to 16GB of RAM and 512GB of storage, plus faster fingerprint scanners in their screens.

Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Galaxy S21 Ultra has a new quad-camera system on the back with two separate telephoto cameras for 3x and 10x optical zoom. Photograph: Samsung

The Galaxy S21 Ultra is the largest of the bunch with a 6.8in 120Hz OLED screen, a big battery, and a glass and metal body with a new camera cluster design that wraps around the side of the device.

It is the quad camera system that sets the phone apart from the competition. It has an ultra-wide camera, a 108-megapixel main camera and two 10-megapixel telephoto cameras with differing lengths of optical zoom – a first for the company and rivalling Huawei’s P40 Pro Plus from last year.

One camera has a 3x optical zoom for photographing objects that are relatively close, while a second camera has a 10x optical zoom lens for extended magnifications. Samsung’s digital “Space Zoom” system then takes the magnification up to 100x.

The camera system can also shoot 4K video at 60 frames a second across all lenses for the first time, something rival Apple has made a headline feature of its iPhone in recent years.

“Apple regularly sets the benchmark for photography and video on smartphones, but one area where Samsung has a competitive edge is zoom capabilities on its cameras,” said Ben Wood, chief of research at CCS Insight. “It is good to see further improvements to Samsung’s Space Zoom feature and as well as 3X optical zoom on the S21/S21+ and 10X optical zoom on the S21 Ultra.”

The S21 Ultra is also the first in the S-line to be compatible with the S Pen stylus, something previously reserved for Samsung’s largest Galaxy Note and tablet lines.

Galaxy S21 and S21+

Galaxy S21+
The Galaxy S21+ has a 6.7in screen making it larger than the standard S21 but smaller and cheaper than the S21 Ultra. Photograph: Samsung

Sitting below the Ultra, the S21 and S21+ have 6.2in and 6.7in 120Hz OLED screens. The smaller models also feature Samsung’s new camera cluster design but they only have triple cameras on the back with ultra wide, main and one telephoto lens.

All three new phones will be available from 29 January with the Galaxy S21 costing from £769 and the S21+ from £949.

Galaxy Buds Pro

Galaxy Buds Pro
The Galaxy Buds Pro add active noise cancelling and improved audio to Samsung’s popular true wireless earbuds. Photograph: Samsung

Alongside the phones, Samsung also announced a new set of its well-received and popular true wireless earbuds. The Galaxy Buds Pro merge the design of the Galaxy Buds+ and the recent Galaxy Buds Live creating fairly small earbuds with traditional silicone ear tips and a small charging case.

The earbuds have active noise cancelling, separate 11mm woofer and 6.5mm tweeter speakers and IPX7 water resistance. They support seamless switching and spatial audio virtual surround sound with Dolby Head Tracking technology, similar to that offered by Apple with its AirPods Pro. They last up to 18 hours with noise cancelling active and are made of 20% recycled materials.

The Galaxy Buds Pro will cost £219 available from the 29 January.

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