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Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. Xiaomi Mi 11 camera comparison: One flagship smartphone clearly has the edge

Which flagship smartphone has the best camera?
Which flagship smartphone has the best camera?
Our camera review features the following contenders: The Xiaomi Mi 11 vs. the Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. Our camera comparison between the Xiaomi and the Samsung smartphones reveals which "entry-level" flagship phone from the two manufacturers offers the best camera experience in the end.
Marcus Herbrich, Brian Burriston (translated by Stephanie Chamberlain), 🇩🇪 🇳🇱 ...
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Even though both smartphone models are separated by about 250 Euros (~$297) in terms of recommended retail price, the Xiaomi Mi 11 and the Galaxy S21+ are the entry-level devices in the flagship series (in the phablet segment) of both manufacturers. Accordingly, the cameras have to make clear sacrifices compared with the absolute high-end smartphones from Samsung (Galaxy S21 Ultra) and Xiaomi (Mi 11 Pro/Ultra). The exact specifications of the camera modules can be found in the detailed individual reviews of the Xiaomi Mi 11 and the Galaxy S21+.

In this camera comparison, we will clarify how both flagship smartphones perform in a direct comparison and which one offers the best overall camera package. All photos in this comparison are taken with the help of artificial intelligence. The camera settings are left in their respective factory settings.

Daylight photography with the Mi 11 and the Galaxy S21+

Neither the 108 MP main camera in the Mi 11 nor the 12 MP lens in the Galaxy S21+ show any weaknesses in good lighting conditions - even in very windy conditions (subject No. 4), the sharpness in the pictures is appealing. Due to the significantly higher-resolution photos, more details are displayed with the Xiaomi phone, even in pixel-binning mode (27 MP), as long as subjects are properly in focus. We like the sharpness of the Mi 11 better than that of the Galaxy S21+ especially in the edge areas, where the latter often sharpens subjects considerably.

In contrast, Samsung delivers very good pictures in portrait shots. Both the sharpness and its transitions into blurriness are good despite the fine hairs of the kitten subject. The Mi 11 also convinces with nice bokeh effects, but image sharpness drops slightly here.

Xiaomi Mi 11 | Portrait mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Portrait mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Portrait mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Portrait mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Portrait mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Portrait mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Photo mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Photo mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Photo mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Photo mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Photo mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Photo mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Photo mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Photo mode

Due to the absence of a telephoto lens, the Mi 11 shows a visible drop in quality compared to the Galaxy S21+ when taking zoom pictures. Beautiful photos with a 5x magnification are possible with the Samsung phone in bright light. However, the Galaxy S21+ is also a step above the Mi 11 in terms of ultra wide-angle cameras. Wide-angle pictures are clearly blurrier, have less details, and also show lower contrast with the Xiaomi phone.

Xiaomi Mi 11 | Ultra wide-angle
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Ultra wide-angle
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Ultra wide-angle
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Ultra wide-angle
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Ultra wide-angle
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Ultra wide-angle
Xiaomi Mi 11 | 5x zoom
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | 5x zoom
Xiaomi Mi 11 | 5x zoom
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | 5x zoom
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Night-time photography with the Mi 11 and the Galaxy S21+

In terms of low-light photography quality, both the Xiaomi Mi 11 and the Galaxy S21+ are miles away from the camera flagships of the previous year - the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Mi 10 Ultra are considerably better in this discipline.

Compared with the Galaxy Plus model from Samsung, we like the pictures taken with the Mi 11's main camera in the dark a bit better as well. The illumination is more homogeneous, image sharpness is often better, and details are also more pronounced in the photos of the Mi 11.

Xiaomi Mi 11 | Photo mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Photo mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Photo mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Photo mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Photo mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Photo mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Night mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Night mode

At night, it's advisable to avoid ultra wide-angle shots with both smartphone models. However, as in daylight, the Galaxy S21+ takes visibly better and more detailed photos. Especially the image sharpness and illumination are qualitatively superior compared with the Mi 11, where the ultra wide-angle camera can hardly benefit from Night mode - only minimal improvements (if any) are visible compared with Photo mode.

Xiaomi Mi 11 | Ultra wide-angle
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Ultra wide-angle
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Ultra wide-angle
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Ultra wide-angle
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Ultra wide-angle
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Ultra wide-angle
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Ultra wide-angle (Night mode)
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Ultra wide-angle (Night mode)
Xiaomi Mi 11 | 5x zoom
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | 5x zoom

Photography with the front-facing camera in the Mi 11 and the Galaxy S21+

In our opinion, the Galaxy S21+ clearly offers the best selfies. The 10 MP front-facing camera of the Samsung phone provides really nice, high-contrast pictures in bright light. In contrast, the resulting photos of the Mi 11's 20 MP front-facing camera look very softened, and exposure isn't always optimal.

Xiaomi Mi 11 | Portrait mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Portrait mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Portrait mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Portrait mode
Xiaomi Mi 11 | Photo mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ | Photo mode

Verdict - The Xiaomi Mi 11 shows weaknesses when it comes to ultra wide-angle photos

In review: Xiaomi Mi 11 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. Test devices provided by Trading Shenzhen and Samsung Germany.
In review: Xiaomi Mi 11 vs. Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus. Test devices provided by Trading Shenzhen and Samsung Germany.

If the two flagship smartphones Xiaomi Mi 11 and Galaxy S21+ were rated exclusively according to the quality of the main camera, the result of our camera comparison would be very different - because we like the pictures of the Mi 11 better overall here. Especially the lower details of the Samsung phone have a negative effect in this discipline.

Those who only use the main camera in a smartphone will be better off with the Mi 11 in most situations. However, the Galaxy S21+ clearly offers the better camera package.

In contrast, the Mi 11 can't compete with the Galaxy S21+ in terms of the photo quality of the ultra wide-angle, zoom, and selfie pictures. The differences in quality are clearly visible here, and the Xiaomi phone is only somewhat convincing in a direct comparison, especially when it comes to wide-angle shots.

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Marcus Herbrich
Editor of the original article: Marcus Herbrich - Senior Tech Writer - 254 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2016
I have always been very passionately interested in mobile technologies, especially smartphones. Being a tech enthusiast means the half-life of my devices isn’t exactly long, and being the latest hardware is not enough to suffice as the manufacturer and operating system play a minor role – the most important aspect for me is that the device is state-of-the-art. After posting for Mobi Test I joined Notebookcheck in 2016, where I have been pursuing my enthusiasm for technology by reviewing the latest smartphone, tablet, and accessory trends.
contact me via: @Marcus_Herbrich
Stephanie Chamberlain
Translator: Stephanie Chamberlain - Translator - 369 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2020
I've been fascinated with technology ever since I got my very first Android smartphone, which was quite a while ago. The power packed into such a small footprint still amazes me. Learning to program made my understanding of technology deeper, and at the same time, it expanded my interest to the area of desktop computers and laptops. All this led me to enjoy reading and watching reviews of new devices, and that's how I stumbled upon Notebookcheck. I immediately found their reviews to be very comprehensive, and luckily, I've even had the chance of translating them since 2019. When it comes to the huge field of technology, I'm currently also interested in specializing in Java programming.
contact me via: LinkedIn
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Samsung Galaxy S21 vs. Xiaomi Mi 11 camera comparison: One flagship smartphone clearly has the edge
Marcus Herbrich, 2021-03- 9 (Update: 2021-03-10)