Photography War: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Vs Huawei P40 Pro Plus

Aadhya Khatri - Feb 10, 2021


Photography War: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra Vs Huawei P40 Pro Plus

To see how far Samsung has gone this year, we pitted the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra against the Huawei P40 Pro Plus - last year’s best camera phone

Samsung Galaxy S21 lineup remains relatively unchanged in terms of photography compared to last year’s S20 series. However, the South Korean tech giant does offer something new and exciting.

To see how far Samsung has gone this year, we pitted its most premium phone - the S21 Ultra, against the Huawei P40 Pro Plus - last year’s best camera phone.

Let’s dive into the details:

Daylight Smorgasbord

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Thiet Ke Khong Ten

Huawei P40 Pro Plus

Thiet Ke Khong Ten

At full frame, the two handsets take very high-quality shots with the primary sensor. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is capable of more saturation but the pictures are less jarring than those taken by the S20 Ultra. The colour palette is also cooler and the HDR technology promises better-lit background. Photos taken by the Huawei P40 Pro Plus come out warmer and darker, with an occasional red tint.

Overall, the two phones ensure solid white balance and exposure in daylight. 

Diving a little deeper, both handsets offer a great number of details.

Flower Crop Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Flower Crop Huawei P40 Pro Plus
Huawei P40 Pro Plus

Pictures taken by the S21 Ultra bear some haloing effect and softness outside the main focal point, however, the effect is subtle enough so they don’t stand out in full-frame images. Huawei phone, on the contrary, overdid the colour saturation so images it yielded look a bit unrealistic.

Bus Crop Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Bus Crop Huawei P40 Pro Plus
Huawei P40 Pro Plus

While there is a big difference in colour balance, the colour processing of the two phones is relatively identical. However, a closer look at the pictures produced by the S21 Ultra reveals more reliable post-processing to enhance images, evident in the sharpening in the trees.

When taking pictures of tougher scenes like those with dark shadows, the two phones start to show their strengths and weaknesses. Those taken by Samsung handset is noisier than pictures of Huawei P40 Pro Plus but have details that are completely absent of those of Huawei. 

Photos taken by Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra show some issues with highlight exposure which is shown in the blurry details.

This portrait shot is the evidence of Samsung’s over-processing on the skin and hairlines. While the phone smoothes the face textures too much, Huawei comes out better with a more natural look on the skin textures and details.

In good lighting, the two phones offer excellent edge detection, dynamic range, and solid colours. The most noticeable distinction is the S21 Ultra’s tendency to overexpose shots while Huawei P40 Pro Plus tends to underexpose pictures.

Wide-Angles

The two phones take decent shots with their wide-angle lenses with equal processing ability to that of their main cameras.

Since the S21 Ultra offers a wider field of view, users can squeeze more details into shots, but on the flip side, you will end up with the fishbowl effect in shots. It does a very good job of keeping distortion under control.

Wide Crop Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Wide Crop Huawei P40 Pro Plus
Huawei P40 Pro Plus

Huawei P40 Pro Plus has a narrower field of view, which promise cleaner cropped pictures. The amount of details is exceptional and way better than many of its rivals.

Enhanced Zoom

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra:

Galaxy S21 Ultra 3x 10x zoom
3x and 10x zoom

Huawei P40 Pro Plus:

Huawei P40 Pro Plus 3x and 10x zoom
3x and 10x zoom

Both phones are capable of 3x and 10x zoom and at the former zooming level, you will be hard-pressed to notice any standing-out difference - they offer great white balance, exposure, and colours.

At 10x zoom, Huawei P40 Pro started to underexpose shots. This problem is shown on pictures taken by the S21 Ultra also as photos turn out darker compared to those with 3x zoom.

While both phones are capable of 100x, neither of them can capture any detail at that range. Lowering the zoom level to 30x and their shots still appear being processed too much.

Overall, the two phones have great zoom capability but the S21 Ultra is a tad better at extreme ranges.

Low Light

In low light, Huawei’s red tint problem resurfaces in the snow pictures, resulting in a blanket warm hue. The overall colours are washed out but users won’t notice the issue in shots with less white content. 

Night 1 Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra
Night 1 Huawei P40 Pro Plus
Huawei P40 Pro Plus

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra yields a way better white balance with a higher level of dynamic range in shots. Cropping the pictures and you will see details that S21Ultra preserves that are nowhere to be found on the Huawei P40 Pro Plus’s images.

While when cropping into 100%, Samsung still heavily processes shots, the snow and the building have more notable definition. Huawei’s pictures seem to lack finer details - a problem caused by the way the phone denoises pictures.

Much like with daylight shots, smudging and smearing are noticeable near the main camera’s edges, visible in the trees’ tops. Samsung’s flawed lens distortion correction algorithm also stretches the perspective of the house.

While both of them do well in low-light situations, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra comes out on top with white balance and colour processing.

The Verdict

As you may expect, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and Huawei P40 Pro Plus are two high-end phones so they have a very similar level of competency in photography.

Huawei phone offer softer and more natural shots and its wide-angle lens is among the best on the market. However, the red tint that shows up in some shot is a serious drawback and sometimes shots come out darker than users may expect.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra is more consistent when it comes to white balance, exposure, and HDR processing, more than enough to make it a better camera phone.

>>> Samsung Galaxy S21 And Galaxy S21 Ultra Drop Test: Too Vulnerable!

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