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Mobile Mondays: Exploring Iceland, the ultimate test for a smartphone camera

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As a Samsung fan, I took my Samsung S21 Ultra to Iceland as my primary means of photography. Since Iceland features nearly every natural wonder one can think of, I thought it would be a good test for the phone.

For those unfamiliar with the S21 Ultra, it features five cameras (front, wide, ultra wide and two telephoto). The wide rear-facing camera takes full advantage of a 108MP sensor, while one telephoto provides a 10x optical zoom! Due to the grayish weather that was predicted, I wasn’t sure if I’d get a chance to witness the improved color fidelity and clarity, so I snapped a photo in Reykjavik before heading out to less populated areas.

But, as luck would have it, the sun made a brief appearance as I visited the Golden Circle. A quick test at Thingvellir National Park showed promising panoramic quality.

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The wide lens constantly impressed me on this trip. Here it was used to capture the enormous Gulfoss waterfall.

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Then I took a ferry to the Westmann Islands and ran into a great opportunity to use the telephoto. It was so quick to zoom thanks to the lens switching feature. But my sheep friend was the only animal here the telephoto could capture. The puffins and other seabirds darting in and out of the cliffs were too small and far away to nab with the phone.

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How does the camera do in the pouring rain and near freezing temperatures at the base of a 200ft waterfall blowing into you? I don’t think it’s any worse than any other camera in this situation, considering my “waterproof” jacket is soaked through, my fingers are shivering, and the screen is mostly water. But this is an example of why I love real world tests … no one in marketing is going to show you an image in a situation like this.

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The basalt columns of Iceland offered a great opportunity to check the clarity of detail provided by the camera, even when using the 12MP ultra wide lens.

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As I circled the island, I encountered more tests. Glaciers and diamond beaches, colorful craters and valleys, frigid and foggy shores. The camera went aboard whaling trips, climbed tall peaks, and descended down into lava tube caves.

For videographers, Samsung’s pro grade video was almost as impressive as the sites I was shooting. Through it all, the Samsung S21 Ultra captured a thousand memories at a quality that I’ll enjoy for a lifetime.

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