OnePlus 9RT vs Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G camera comparison: a close affair

It’s raining smartphones and just after the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (review), OnePlus also announced a performance-oriented variant of its popular OnePlus 9 (review) smartphone. The device, dubbed the OnePlus 9RT, is packed with premium specs and even has an immersive camera setup. Seeing how both the S21 FE 5G and OnePlus 9RT compete in the same price range, I decided to compare the performance of their cameras against each other to see which smartphone offers a better experience for budding photographers. Let’s see.

Let’s talk about the specs first. The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G comes with a 12MP Sony main sensor that works together with a 12MP ultra-wide angle lens and an 8MP telephoto sensor. For selfies, the device comes with a 32MP camera beforehand. As for the OnePlus 9RT, the smartphone features a 50MP Sony IMX766 main sensor paired with a 16MP ultra-wide camera and a 2MP macro snapper. For selfies, the handset has a 16MP front camera.

Daylight (HDR)

For the most part, the cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G match the sensors on the OnePlus 9RT. That said, I did notice that shots from the 9RT were exposed a bit better and the images also showed meatier sensor detail. The same was evident when I panned to the edges of a photo and objects at the edge of the frame were rendered sharper on the 9RT’s composition.

A good example, the slider above and here, you can see that the bark of the tree on the far left of the photo looks much sharper on the image from the 9RT.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (left), OnePlus 9RT (right)

Similarly, the exhaust fan positioned towards the top of the blue building also seems more defined by the 9RT’s lens. I’d add that both phones click on slightly oversaturated images, but between the two, the photos from the S21 FE 5G tend to be a better representation of the actual scene.

Here’s another example that further substantiates my findings. In the slider attached above, you’ll notice that the flower pots on the left side of the frame look sharper in the photo of the 9RT. Other than that, the two shots are neck-and-neck, with similar detail around the center of the frame. I would also like to point out that the image of the Galaxy S21 FE 5G has more authentically represented the green in the leaves of the bushes.

Wide angle, telephoto and close-ups

Moving on, let’s take a look at the wide-angle images of the two phones. In that regard, shots from the OnePlus 9RT look more appealing for several reasons. First, the 9RT keeps the fisheye effect to a minimum, resulting in fewer frills to the edges of the photos compared to the Galaxy S21 FE 5G’s shot.

I’d also like to add that the 9RT’s wide-angle sensor exposes shadows much better. The image of the S21 FE 5G, on the other hand, seems a bit dark and the device fails to bring out the details in the branches of the trees near the stone fence.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G also has a few trump cards up its sleeve, mind you. In particular, shots taken at 2x or 3x zoom offer much sharper textures in the S21 FE 5G’s images. Unfortunately, the 9RT doesn’t come with a dedicated telephoto sensor and digitally zooms in on the subjects accordingly.

Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G (left), OnePlus 9RT (right)

The close-ups taken with the two phones are a matter of squeezing. On the one hand, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is faster to capture on focus and the device takes more lifelike images. On the other hand, the OnePlus 9RT offers noticeably better details and the smartphone doesn’t smudge the color red as much either. For example, if you look at the comparison shot attached above, you’ll notice that the red petals provide more definition in the 9RT’s composition.

On the other hand, the close-up of the yellow flower looks more lifelike through the lens of the Galaxy S21 FE 5G.


That said, the Samsung Galaxy S21 FE 5G is undoubtedly the better buy for selfie enthusiasts. Firstly, the handset’s 32MP shooter offers a plethora of frame details.

In addition, despite disabling all beautification features, the 9RT’s image – for lack of a better word – seems faked.

Little light

The lowlight images of both phones were similar to each other. While the OnePlus 9RT’s post-processing swung in favor of a sharper image, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G’s shot, while softer, had noticeably less noise in the frame.

I’d also add that both phones handled lens flaring equally well, so no complaints here.

So, where does that leave us? Well, the OnePlus 9RT is certainly no slouch when it comes to cameras and the device can capture high-quality photos with an abundance of detail. That said, the Galaxy S21 FE 5G is a more versatile camera phone and the smartphone has a fantastic telephoto camera and a more capable selfie snapper. Accordingly, I would recommend the OnePlus 9RT to anyone who has a tendency to pixel-peep the photos they click with their phone. Furthermore, the high-res mode of the smartphone should come in handy if you want to crop the images and upload them to social media. On the other hand, the S21 FE 5G is better suited for selfie enthusiasts. Let us know in the comments below which phone you’d rather buy, and as always keep an eye on our blog for more in-depth comparisons and reviews.

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