The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra proves the megapixel war is now a battle of the zooms Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra launch spent a painful three minutes gushing about its “unforgettable” black paint job, but the phone’s new telephoto cameras were the real stars – and they’re an important upgrade that proves zoom is going to be this year’s battleground for the best camera phones.

Yes, we had the ‘Space Zoom’ gimmick at last year’s S20 Ultra launch. But this time we’re talking about genuinely useful optical zoom. Like the Huawei Mate 40 Pro Plus, the S21 Ultra combines two dedicated telephoto cameras – one offering 3x zoom, the other 10x zoom. 

And the result could, in theory, be the best zoom experience we’ve seen on a smartphone so far.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

(Image credit: Samsung)

This is exciting because zoom is about much more than just being able to snap distant skylines. Having two cameras with dedicated telephoto focal lengths in your pocket is, as we’ll discover, a creative bonus that makes phones feel more like DSLRs or mirrorless cameras. For photographers, this is way more interesting than a 108MP sensor that was, as I argued last year, never really the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra’s real headline feature.