How to take a picture of a fly with the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra


I keep thinking of poor Mike Pence. The former US vice president was so infamously captured with a fly sitting on his head – starkly contrasted on his white hair – during the vice-presidential debate last year. It’s become an internet meme in its own right, as much as Bernie Sanders in his seat at yesterday’s inauguration.

What made me think of Pence and his pet fly was that I noticed an insect on the roof fan in my study, and couldn’t work out if it was a fly or spider.

Using the Galaxy S21 Ultra


As it happens, I’m testing the new Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. It is a remarkable phone in just about every way, and is arguably the most sophisticated smartphone the world has ever seen. Until the next round of launches, obviously. That’s when the competition will try to outmuscle Samsung, which retains it’s number one spot in global smartphone sales.

With its 108-megapixel camera and extraordinary zoom capability, I was able to look at the tiny black spot on the fan as it went round and round. I took a few photographs and, sure enough, it was a spider. Obviously, I stopped the fan so the spider could get off but not before using this remarkable zoom lens and its brilliant capabilities to see.

It might sound like a trite use of a hugely sophisticated electronic marvel, but I am a little shortsighted and I couldn’t quite see clearly enough. It’s something that, unfortunately, happens to me a lot. As much as I love live rugby games, for instance, I often struggle to see what’s happening on the field, hence why I always take binoculars.

The S21 Ultra is obviously much more than a sophisticated camera phone. And I often feel a little foolish talking about such incredible high-end devices only in terms of the camera. But for many people, after all of the communications things that we do with our phones (the email, the messaging, the social networks), the most important thing is the camera.

I’m unashamedly one of those heavy camera users, because I have a three and a half-year-old son. Obviously like all Jewish fathers, I believe my son is a genius and highly photogenic. (It has been independently verified by an independent grandmother that both of these are true).

But it’s more than that, I obviously take pictures for review purposes, and also to use on Scrolla.Africa –  the other news publication I publish.

The picture quality is sensational and I have long believed that the current smartphone generation is more than sufficient for most of our personal photographic needs.

I have even shot lots of footage for use on my TV show, including in 1080p resolution. I’ve used it freehand or the phone being held by the DJI Osmo Mobile 3 — a handheld gimbal used for stabilisation.

I figure this camera array takes up about a sixth of the back of this 6.8in phone. That’s a lot of camera. This device obviously is called Ultra because it is the top of the range phone in Samsung’s range.

The 5G in the title is, in itself, highly impressive. Especially when you take as many photographs – as a Jewish father, or any father for that matter –  of the child you have to store them somewhere. If you back up files, as I do, to various cloud services – including Dropbox and Google Photos and Microsoft OneDrive – you need a decent amount of speed.

I am pleased to say that the 5G uploads are wondrously fast. So is any kind of downloading, including gigabyte video files. Of course, most people use Wi-Fi if they can (for such big uploads and downloads), but I wanted to test the 5G and was willing to sacrifice a couple of gigs of my monthly allocation brackets (it doesn’t hurt that it is close to the end of the month, I’m not foolish).

I’m also pleased to report that my somewhat giddy spider has left the ceiling fan. I cannot confirm what happened with the fly on Mike Pence’s head, however.

This newsletter was originally sent out on 21 January 2021. 


About Author

Toby Shapshak is editor-in-chief and publisher of Stuff, a Forbes contributor and a Financial Mail columnist. He has been writing about technology and the internet for 20 years and his TED Global talk on innovation in Africa has over 1,5-million views. He has written about Africa's tech and start-up ecosystem for Forbes, CNN and The Guardian in London. He was named in GQ's top 30 men in media and the Mail & Guardian newspaper's influential young South Africans. He has been featured in the New York Times. GQ said he "has become the most high-profile technology journalist in the country" while the M&G wrote: "Toby Shapshak is all things tech... he reigns supreme as the major talking head for everything and anything tech."

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