I ditched my DSLR and took the Samsung S21 Ultra to the $3,000 a night Soneva Jani resort in the Maldives and the results were just spectacular.

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches


There’s no visual experience more compelling than the human eye. But every experience begs a memory, which is why we have photographs. While holidays and cameras have always been symbiotically beneficial for memories and Instagram feeds alike, the smartphone world has considerably reduced the bulk for travelers. By upping their game, we have seen a world of improvements leading up to arguably the epitome of smartphone camera elitism – the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches
Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

There’s a lot to shoot at Soneva Jani that can really prove the mettle of any smartphone camera. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra comes mighty close to a DSLR, so much so that you could conveniently leave that bulky old shooter of yours back home. There are two things you would like to capture when you’re faced with the incredibly azure stretches of the Maldives. The landscapes, and them through a wide-angle lens.

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Shooting the turquoise waters and expansive walkways was a delight. You can see the ripples all the way into the distance, where the sky kisses the ocean, the hues are vividly clear and spectacular. Samsung’s scene optimizer does a fabulous job, which is remarkably impressive from a software standpoint.

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches
We had never seen so many hues and shades of pink in a single day. But it was just another sunset at Maldives. Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

The Samsung S21 Ultra combines four different lenses, namely the Ultra Wide, Wide Angle, and 3x and 10x telephoto zoom lenses. That’s a lot of choices for amateur photographers to dabble with. Each of these lenses produces dramatically different results, so if you’re on a vacation, it’s best that you try them all out. When it comes to landscapes the regular Ultra Wide is a great choice since it gives you a 120-degree field of view and captures maximum subjects in a single image.

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Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches
Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

The wide angle lens offers a completely new perspective. Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

If you are planning a shot of the outside while perched on the upper deck, the Wide Angle would suffice. The telephoto lenses are ideal if you are shooting objects in the distance since it captures maximum visual detail.


The vastness of the property offered ample shots to test the wide-angle and the 108-megapixel output, which was surprisingly effective. While professionals who have the resources and knowledge to edit would capture the images in a RAW format, the default camera settings deliver quite the punch. The woody hues of the beach villas contrasted softly against the turquoise backdrop but the definition seemed quite clear in the photographs. Every shot looked like it was taken straight out of the catalog of an exquisite coffee-table book.

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

As beautiful the Soneva Jani looks in the night it is equally difficult to photograph it. The property has absolutely minimal outdoor lighting and even the common areas are dimly lit. Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Soneva’s indoor spaces welcome in ample natural light and this can be a double-edged sword for smartphone photography, especially when you’re addicted to ‘Auto’. The S21 effortlessly adjusts to the shots taken within the villa, factoring in the natural light and adjusting the brightness and white balance with expert proficiency. The results show the rooms well documented, with highlights and shadows recorded the way you would want them.

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches
Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Samsung has continuously improved the food shot optimizer, which proves to be handy, more often than not, especially on a trip to the tropics. The food here is colorful and it generally comprises fruits and wonderful garnishing. Soneva’s kitchens not only prepare food that is a treat for taste but also for the eyes. Even shots captured towards early dusk managed to take in most of the visual information needed. The one-touch, in-built editing app makes it easy to bring out more vivacious aspects of the images.
When the moon shines on Soneva Jani. Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

The Soneva Jani has one of the largest telescopes’ in the Maldives where is offers a scrumptious dinner paired with an astronomy session. Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches
So Wild By Diana Von Cranach offers a plant based menu right in the middle of a garden. Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

With just a candle as a light source, the S21 Ultra’s camera picks up all the details without over exposing the shot. Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Soneva Jani transforms after sundown, turning into an enchanting haven for sky-gazers and party animals alike. The sky is bedecked with stars and the observatory is a wonderful gathering point for guests. There are bonfires to look forward to and also some stunning restaurant settings that blend in with the natural setting that forms its backdrop. The S21 is phenomenal when it comes to capturing night shots. You just have to hold the phone very still, while it picks up maximum light information after the shot and processes the image in real-time.

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100X zoom with some phenomenal image stabilization allowed me to capture this playful Dolphin which was a good 60 feet away from our moving yacht. Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

Dhiram Shah / Luxurylaunches

The zooming capabilities of the telephoto lens aren’t close to those unreal lenses you can add to your DSLR ensemble, but it does a fair job. With the sights and hues that Soneva Jani offered us, there was more a little opportunity we had to truly test the potential of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and boy, did it live up to its billing.

Note – None of the images are edited or processed in any way. There are only resized for faster loading.

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