The Nokia G21 has a relatively exciting camera setup, headlined by a 50MP primary camera, with two basic extra units for close-ups and depth detection. You wouldn't expect to see a telephoto in this market segment, so the absence of one is understandable. But there isn't an ultrawide either, and that's a bit surprising, given that the G20 had one, as does pretty much every phone for this money.
The main camera is based on what is apparently the Samsung JN1 sensor. It's a 1/2.76" type imager with tiny 0.64µm pixels. It uses a Tetrapixel color filter array and bins pixels 4-to-1, so effectively, you get 12.5 million 1.28µm pixels. The lens has an f/1.8 aperture and a focal length that's not specified but is in the 25-27mm region.
You then get two 2MP cameras, one is labeled 'Macro', the other one - 'Depth'.
On the front, there's a basic 8MP camera for selfies. Its aperture is f/1.8, and its focus is fixed.
The camera app is one of few customized bits of software on the Nokia G21, but it does look more or less like any other camera app. Side swipes let you switch modes, and you can switch multiple ones at a time or tap on a mode for direct access. Extra modes, including Macro, are in the 'More' pane, but you can't move them to the main carousel. The selfie camera is accessed from the button next to the shutter release - there's no swipe action for it.
The only has one real camera, but there is a zoom selector that lets you choose between the native 1x, and a digital 2x zoom. These are now visualized with numbers as opposed to the tree designation of older Nokias.
At the far end of the viewfinder, you get a settings button, Google Lens shortcut, a toggle for Motion photos, self timer (3s or 10s), an aspect ratio selector (where you can also enable the 50MP mode), and a flash mode selector. There's no 'Pro' of 'Manual' mode on the G21.
The Nokia G21 captures photos that aren't too great - not in absolute terms (which would be fine, having in mind its price), but also not in comparison to other phones in its class. Photos are both soft and heavily sharpened at the same time, and skies exhibit an unusual type of noise that has a checkered pattern to it. Colors are off, too, with a reddish-brown tint on greenery and overall warmth that's not looking natural. Dynamic range, for one, is pretty good.
Zoomed-in shots have the sharpening dialed further up, making for strong halos around contrasting edges. Detail is limited, and noise is now even more pronounced.
The full-res 50MP mode looks very much like the 2x zoomed shots on a pixel level. That is to say, it doesn't offer any advantage in detail rendition over the regular 12.5MP photos.
Low-light photos from the Nokia G21 are decently sharp and detailed for the class. The problem is, they're also very noisy. So noisy that you can almost see it in the thumbnails - okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly noise is very pronounced already at fit-to-screen magnifications. You could try to apply noise reduction in post, but then you'd inevitably lose some of the detail alongside it as well plus, the question remains if the Nokia G21 is aimed at those that do a lot of post-processing on their photos?
On a positive note, colors have no issues with odd casts, and the dynamic range is reasonably wide for the class.
Night mode introduces significant changes both in the global image properties, as well as on a pixel level. Shadows get a considerable boost, improving what was already a solid performance in terms of exposure and dynamic range. Noise is aggressively treated (some still remains), but that also means some loss of fine detail, though it's looking like a most welcome trade-off here.
You probably wouldn't want to pixel peep into the 2x zoom shots because they're both soft and noisy.
Night mode helps partially by removing some of the noise, but these are even softer images and have a somewhat bleach quality to their colors.
Once you're done with the real-world samples, head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Nokia G21 stacks up against the competition.
The 'macro' camera takes unimpressive closeups. They're low on detail have limited dynamic range, and desaturated colors.
Shots taken in Portrait mode actually have competent subject detection (perhaps that 2MP 'depth' camera isn't entirely useless). Minor exceptions include the messed-up wall paneling (a scene where cheap and expensive phones can fail just as well) and unruly hair, which can get blurred into the background. A more pressing issue is the lack of HDR in this mode, which will make contrasty scenes less pleasing to the eye.
For its unassuming hardware, the Nokia G21 actually takes some pretty decent selfies. Detail is generally very good, and the noise is reasonably well controlled, particularly in more balanced lighting. The colors are accurate, and the dynamic range is respectable for a camera in this class.
Portrait mode is similarly capable on the selfie camera as it on the rear one, though it comes with the same caveats as well - no HDR and unnaturally blurred strands of hair that fall outside of the main subject outline.
The Nokia G21 has limited video recording capability. Its resolution maxes out at 1080p, and even there, it's only at 30fps (no 60fps mode). While that's also the case on the Galaxy A22 and the Redmi 10, the Realme 8 does offer 4K30 and 1080p at 60fps.
As 1080p goes (and compared the Redmi and the Galaxy above), the Nokia's footage is as good, or marginally better. It captures very good detail, and its sharpening, while pretty heavy-handed, is still not at aggressive as that on the Redmi. The Galaxy, meanwhile opts for more natural processing but has a distinct soft look. In the video we're witnessing the same off colors that we saw in stills, so that's not great. Dynamic range is good, though.
The camera sensor has enough pixels to do 2x zoom at 1080p with no loss in quality, and indeed the clips are looking similarly detailed as ones at 1x.
Since there's no video stabilization on the G21, you're better off not attempting video capture while walking. A tripod or other means of support are recommended.
Here's a glimpse of how the Nokia G21 compares to rivals in our Video compare tool. Head over there for the complete picture.