This Galaxy S21 camera guide explains everything you need to know about the Galaxy S21 Camera app: how to access (open) the Camera app, the layout and meaning of all buttons in the app, and touchscreen gestures supported in the Galaxy S21 Camera app.
Although Galaxy S21 Ultra has a more sophisticated camera system, compared to Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21+, the Camera app on all these 3 models of Galaxy S21 phones are almost identical. So, this guide applies to all Galaxy S21 phones.
Update 2: In the Android 14 (One UI 6) update for Galaxy S23, S22, and S21, there are many new features you should try. For the Camera app, there is a new resolution button. You can also use the camera widget to access any specific camera mode from the Home screen. Document scan (Auto Scan) is also separated from the Scene Optimizer.
How to access Galaxy S21 Camera app?
There are a few different ways to access (open) the Galaxy S21 Camera app, including:
- Tap the camera icon on the Home screen or Apps screen.
- Quickly press the side key twice (Quick Launch).
- Swipe the camera app icon on the lock screen.
- Use voice commands (Google Assistant or Bixby).
You can choose any of these methods based on different scenarios.
Method 1: Tap the camera icon on the Home screen or Apps screen
The traditional way to open Galaxy S21 Camera app is by tapping the camera icon on the Home screen (or Apps screen).
You can always find the camera icon on the Galaxy S21 Apps screen. By default, the icon is also added to the Home screen.
Method 2: Quickly press the side key twice (Quick Launch)
As explained in this guide, you can use Galaxy S21 Camera Quick Launch, even when the phone is locked.
Of course, you can customize the Galaxy S21 Side key and assign this gesture to other apps.
Method 3: Swipe the camera app icon on the lock screen.
You can swipe the camera icon inside (to the left) to open Galaxy S21 Camera app.
Please note that you need to swipe to the left side. Tap the icon will not open the camera app.
You can use the Galaxy S21 camera when the phone is locked. If you access the camera app when the phone is locked, you can take photos and record videos with all models and most of the settings.
But you can only view photos or videos taken in that specific session. You cannot view any photos or videos taken before you launch the camera app. This is to protect your data.
Method 4: Use voice command to launch Galaxy S21 Camera app
You can also use voice commands to launch the Galaxy S21 camera app or even take photos directly.
Both Google Assistant and Bixby Voice can be used depending on your preferences.
You can simply say, “OK Google, open the Camera app” to open the camera app, or “Take a photo” to open the camera app and take a photo directly.
If you have updated your Galaxy S21 to Android 14 (One UI 6), you can also use the camera widget to launch the Camera app in the pre-defined camera mode.
The layout and contents of the Galaxy S21 Camera app
By default, when you open the camera app on Galaxy S21, the app will be in the Photo mode (or the last used mode if you turn on this option in Galaxy S21 Camera settings).
In the Photo mode (aka Auto mode), you will get the following layout, in addition to the navigation bar at the bottom if you are using navigation buttons (default).
1. Preview screen
The preview screen allows you to preview the scene before you press the shutter button.
In addition, you can use various touchscreen gestures on the preview screen (read on) to lock the exposure, zoom in/out, switch the front/rear camera, switch camera modes.
You can tap the shutter button to take photos.
If you hold the shutter button on Galaxy S21 Camera app, a short video will be recorded until you release the button.
Burst short photos (burst mode) can be accessed by swiping down the shutter button to the bottom. Up to 100 burst shot photos will be taken until you release the button (or until 100 photos have been taken).
You can customize the swiping down from the shutter button gesture to create GIF animations (explained here), if you do not want to use the burst mode.
3. Camera switch (front/rear)
You can use this button to switch between the front and rear cameras.
of course, you can swipe upwards or downwards to switch the camera.
4. Shortcut to Gallery app
The thumbnail view of the last taken photo will be shown. You can tap it to open the Gallery app.
5. Camera modes
Although the default Photo mode (Auto mode) is sufficient for many situations, you may want to use different camera modes for some special events.
You can choose a different camera mode whenever you want. By default, only 3 camera modes (Single-take, Photo mode, and Video mode) are added for quick access. Other camera modes can be accessed by tapping the More button.
6. Zoom and camera lens selection
By default, on Galaxy S21 Ultra, 4 pre-set zoom levels (0.6x, 1x, 3x, and 10x) are shown, as shown above.
You can tap any of the icons to choose the zoom level. At the same time, once you tap the icons, you will see more pre-set zoom levels up to 100x (Galaxy S21 Ultra).
7. Scene optimizer
Galaxy S21 scene optimizer uses AI technology to optimize the camera settings for the given scene. Some effects may be applied automatically.
Different scenes and subjects including Face, Baby, Person, Dog, Cat, Food, People, Beaches, Sky, Mountain, Sunset, Sunrise, City, Snow, Waterfall, Watersides, Scenery, Stage, Vehicles, Drinks, Flowers, Trees, Greenery, Animal, Shoes, Backlit, Indoor, Text, Clothes and Night View, can be recognized by Galaxy S21 Camera app.
You can turn on or turn off the scene optimizer for the Photo (Auto mode) by tapping the button. Other camera modes (e.g., Portrait mode) may use it in different ways, and you cannot control it.
Of course, you can turn off the scene optimizer completely in Galaxy S21 camera settings.
In the Android 14 (One UI 6) update for Galaxy S21, the document scan feature is separated from the Scene Optimizer and named Auto Scan.
8. Enhanced focus
The Galaxy S21 camera does NOT have a dedicated macro mode. You can use the enhanced focus to improve photos with objects which are too close to the camera lens.
This enhanced focus icon appears automatically when the camera detects the close object.
As an alternative, you can zoom in when you want to take macro photos.
9. Galaxy S21 Camera settings
You can tap the gear icon to open Galaxy S21 Camera app settings.
Please refer to this guide on the meaning of Galaxy S21 Camera settings.
For Galaxy S21 Camera, you can choose 3 different flash modes: On, Off, and Auto.
In the Auto flash mode, Galaxy S21 Camera app will enable or disable flash automatically based on light conditions.
Unless you are very sure, it is recommended to turn the LED flash off.
When it is inconvenient to tap the shutter button, you can use the timer (or voice control) to take photos.
You can set the timer of 2, 5, or 10 seconds for the Galaxy S21 camera.
When you take photos in very low light conditions or use zoom levels higher than 20-30x, you may get blurry photos easily. In this case, you can consider using a timer (and a tripod).
12. Photo size
On Galaxy S21, you can only set the aspect ratio of the photo, not the size (resolution) of the photo. For each aspect ratio, Galaxy S21 will use the maximum resolution at that ratio.
The supported photo size (aspect ratio) on the Galaxy S21 Camera app includes 4:3 (best for printing), 16:9 (best for TV/ digital photo frame), 1:1 (for design. Instagram), and 20:9 (full screen)
You may check this photo size guide for Galaxy S10, S20, and S21.
If you need to resize the photo size, you can do it in the Gallery app, as explained in this guide.
13. Motion photo
You can use Motion Photo to add context to the photo.
If enabled, you can capture a few seconds of action leading up to when the shutter button is released. Similar to burst shot photos, you can choose a different frame as the final photo.
When sharing photos, you have the option to share the Motion Photo as a video file.
You can add effects (filters) to the photos to be taken.
Of course, you can add effects when editing them. But some owners may prefer to add them when taking the photo.
15. Super Steady
When you record a video, you will see the Super Steady button, as shown below.
The Super Steady function can reduce the blurry of the videos when Galaxy S21 is not held stationary.
16. Frame rate
You can also set the frame rate to 30 or 60 for normal videos.
Use touchscreen gestures in Galaxy S21 Camera app
As mentioned above, you can use various touchscreen gestures on the Galaxy S21 camera app, including:
- Swipe up/down on the preview screen to switch the front/rear camera. This gesture can be turned on/off in the Android 14 (One UI 6) update for Galaxy S21, S22, and S23.
- Swipe left/right on the preview screen to choose shooting modes.
- Tap on the preview screen to change focus.
- Tap and hold (long tap) on the preview screen to lock AF/AE.
- Pinch or spread on the preview screen to zoom in/out.
- Tap and hold the shutter button to record a video (instead of capturing a still image)without switching to the video mode.
- Swipe from the shutter button to the bottom edge to take burst shot photos (or create GIF animations). You can configure the functions of this gesture in Galaxy S21 camera settings.
Do you have any questions about Galaxy S21 Camera app on Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra?
If you have any questions about the Galaxy S21 Camera app on Galaxy S21, S21+, and S21 Ultra, please let us know in the comments.
The community will help you.
You may also share your thoughts on Galaxy S21 vs Galaxy S21+ vs Galaxy S21 Ultra in the comment box.
If you have any questions on using Galaxy S21, you may check our detailed step-by-step Galaxy S21 guides:
- Galaxy S21 new features guides.
- Galaxy S21 how-to guides.
- Galaxy S21 camera guides.
- Galaxy S21 accessories guides.
You can also post questions or share your thoughts on our Facebook page.
The official Samsung Galaxy S21 user manual (PDF) in your local language can be read and downloaded here.
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Enjoy your Galaxy S21.