Can the 108mp Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra stand up against a $6,000 pro DSLR?

I said I wasn’t going to post any more of these. The “winner” in pretty much all cases is obvious. Or is it? There is no doubt that a $6,000 flagship DSLR (even if it is a generation old) is going to hammer a smartphone (of any resolution) when it comes to absolute image quality, dynamic range and all the other reasons we buy flagship bodies. But does it always really matter?

This video from photographer Kevin Raposo puts the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra’s 108-megapixel sensor up against the 21.5-megapixel Canon 1DX Mark II in this rather interesting (and quite thoughtful) comparison and, well, when you look at the images scaled for a video side-by-side they’re actually pretty close.

There is no doubt that smartphones are not going to replace flagship bodies like Canon’s 1DX line, Nikon’s D6 or the new Sony A1. At least not yet. But this side-by-side comparison just goes to show that smartphones and computational photography have come a very long way in the last few years. But can the phone hold up for personal work or vacations vs a $6,000 flagship?

In most of the comparisons shown in the video, unless you look at the zoomed-in sections of the photographs right next to each other, it’s actually quite difficult to tell which camera shot which image. There are some subtle telltale signs, like the way the highlights roll off, some little differences in saturation, but they are pretty close.

Kevin put one or two things in there to try to throw us off, too. Even the depth of field isn’t really a great clue as to which camera shot which image some of the 1DX II photos were stopped down to create a deeper depth of field while the Galaxy S21 Ultra was going all “Portrait Mode” with a simulated shallow depth of field to try and trick us!

When you look at the images zoomed in, though, you really do notice the difference. Despite the 108-megapixel Samsung Galaxy 21 Ultra boasting five times the resolution of the 21.5-megapixel 1DX Mark II, the way each “sees” the scene before them is very different. As is the way they’re presented to the photographer.

It’s an interesting look at the benefits and drawbacks of both systems and why more megapixels isn’t always (or possibly even often) better. But if all you’re shooting for is yourself and social media, then maybe something like a 1DX II isn’t always offering that much of an advantage over the camera that’s always in your pocket.

Could you tell the difference without looking at the zoomed-in bits?

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