Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra camera just leaked — and there's a big surprise

samsung galaxy s21 ultra
(Image credit: OnLeaks)

The closer we get to the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S21, the more we’re going to hear about what this flagship has to offer in its battle against the iPhone 12. And now we have the best look yet at the Galaxy S21 Ultra.

We’ve already seen one render showcasing what the S21 Ultra might look like, but apparently it wasn’t quite accurate. So we have a brand new render with one crucial new detail —  a fifth camera lens we haven’t seen before.

This new render comes from OnLeaks, the same person who gave us our first look at both the Galaxy S21 and the S21 Ultra. Now he’s come back with a brand new render of the latest S21 Ultra design prototype, which he says is based on more accurate information from his sources. 

As you’ll see in the image above, it comes with five rear camera lenses, or as OnLeaks claims is more likely four cameras and an extra sensor.

While rumours have suggested the S21 range could get a ridiculously big 180MP or 150MP camera lens, more recent rumors claim the Galaxy S21 Ultra would come with the same 108MP main camera lens as the S20 Ultra. We’ve also heard the possibility that it would come with two telephoto lenses, offering both a 3x optical zoom and 10x periscope zoom.

So now the question is, what are all these sensors on the back of OnLeaks’ new S21 Ultra render? Naturally, the main lens will be joined by an ultra wide-angle lens of some sort, since that’s now a mainstay on all premium smartphones. Likewise, if we assume there will be two telephoto lenses, that leaves us with one mystery sensor that we haven’t heard anything about.

The simplest explanation would be that it’s a Time of Flight sensor, which has been included on ultra-premium Samsung phones since the launch of the Galaxy S10 5G. ToF sensors are designed to more accurately measure distance by emitting a series of infrared light pulses and calculating an object’s distance based on how long it takes that light to bounce back. It’s been touted as a lens that improves 3D imaging, augmented reality, gesture recognition and other features that rely on being able to accurately map what the camera sees.

That said, it could be something else entirely. Apple introduced LiDAR on its iPad Pro range to accomplish much the same thing, and recently included the sensor on the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. But while similar to ToF, LIDAR is said to be more accurate because it uses multiple laser beams rather than an infrared pulse. 

ToF has been around for a couple of years, and LIDAR would be a sensible upgrade, especially since the Ultra model is supposed to be the very best of the best.

Other phone makers have included different types of lenses in the past, macro lenses being one of the most prominent recent examples. The OnePlus 8T’s monochrome lens is another example, though we can’t imagine Samsung would be so frivolous with its hardware like that.

So our guess is either Time of Flight or a LIDAR upgrade. But maybe Samsung has something new and unique lined up for us instead. We’re just going to have to be patient and see if we hear anything else before the Galaxy S21's rumored January launch window.

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.