Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max camera samples leak — and it's not close

samsung galaxy s21 plus
(Image credit: Evan Blass (Modified))

The Samsung Galaxy S21 range’s specs leaked a while ago, but they only tell half the story. If we want to know how the phone performs, especially with photography, we need some hands-on time.

YouTube channel Random Stuff 2 got hold of the Galaxy S21 Plus and put its camera to the test against the iPhone 12 Pro Max. The results weren’t even close.

While Random Stuff 2 has more general impressions with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus, we are really focussed on the camera at this point. After all it’s one of the features that can make or break a phone, and poor performance is not a good look if the older phones from competitors do a better job.

Unfortunately that’s exactly what seems to be happening with Random Stuff 2’s photos. While the Galaxy S21 Pro’s photos aren’t awful, Apple’s top-tier camera does a much better job. Since the S21 Plus is set to have the same camera specs as the standard S21, that means the base-level model probably has similar performance.

The main problem is that, in comparison, the S21 Plus’s photos look more washed out. The images look brighter than the iPhone 12 Pro Max’s, but the actual content doesn’t look nearly as good.

It’s almost as though Samsung artificially ramped up the brightness in post-shot processing, or never even bothered to compensate for the excess sunlight in California (where these images appear to have been taken).

In some of the shots, like the giant metal hand, the background also looks a lot blurrier on the S21 Plus. In addition to the same issues with contrast and poor coloring.

Video quality is also noticeably worse in comparison. It looks choppier, and everything in the distance blurrier and more pixelated compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max. So all round, not a particularly favorable comparison for Samsung.

On their own the Galaxy S21 Plus’s camera quality isn’t terrible, but compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max it’s very clear who the winner is. The only question is why? What is the iPhone doing that Samsung isn’t? Those aren’t questions we can really answer based on a five minute YouTube video.

Of course, as Random Stuff 2 points out, this is still a pre-release version of the Galaxy S21 Plus. The phone isn’t due to launch until January 14, and won’t release until the end of that month. Assuming the issues with the Galaxy S21 Plus’s photos are software related, there’s still time for Samsung to roll out some updates and fix the problem. Or lessen the gap between itself and the iPhone, at any rate.

Everything else about the S21 Plus sounds positive, though, and Random Stuff 2 was very excited about how the phone was performing. Particularly of note was the battery, which he said lasted him well through the day. It seems those Snapdragon 888 optimizations are being put to good use. He was also a fan of how small the bezels were, and how tough the rear camera lens is this time round.

So right now it’s not a good look for Samsung, particularly since it so far hasn’t been able to beat its biggest rival in the camera game. Hopefully things do improve in the weeks before release, or at the very least the Galaxy S21 Ultra, which does have a different camera setup, does a better job of snapping great photos.

Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.

  • PM Grey
    It mostly looks like the S21 is missing a CPL.
  • Shrillcaleb10e9gg
    admin said:
    An early Galaxy S21 Plus hands-on has leaked, and compared to the iPhone 12 Pro Max it's camera does not come out well.

    Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus vs. iPhone 12 Pro Max camera samples leak — and it's not close : Read more
    The galaxy series has always had killer phone cameras but they've always lacked with the software part of the camera for post production.. I don't use the regular camera when I take pictures with my galaxy I use pro mode, it uses the great cameras but without the weird overly saturated pictures. I wonder if the galaxy 21 they used was in pro auto mode or reg mode with the ai turned off.. it really makes a difference.
  • Burner2k0
    Pictures were actually taken here in Miami. A lot of these locations I've been to, the hand is in the Holocaust museum and the arena is the American Airlines Arena. But that's besides the point, these epicures are very disappointing and I highly doubt Samsung are going to keep it as is.
  • Gelgar3673
    So the pre-releSe mid grade Samsung isn't as good at taking pictures as the top end Apple phone, am I reading that right? And that's the ONLY thing they could find the way I read it..
  • jonmoyo
    Even the previous Samsungs (S20 and S10) take better photos than the over exposed photos shown above.

    Every website wants to be first with a scoop, but this is one instance where it would be better to wait and test the S21 on official release.