Cam­era phones

The hottest smart­phone snap­pers

Digital Camera World - - CONTENTS -

Ap­ple iPhone Xs Max From £1,099/$1,099 www.ap­ple.com

The lat­est iPhone gets off to a strong start with its stun­ning 6.5-inch OLED dis­play, boast­ing Ap­ple’s ex­cel­lent True-Tone tech­nol­ogy that au­to­mat­i­cally ad­justs colour in re­sponse to changes to am­bi­ent light. Dolby Vi­sion and HDR10 cer­ti­fi­ca­tion, along with the dis­play’s wide colour gamut, make both photo com­po­si­tion and view­ing im­ages a real plea­sure.

Dual 12MP rear-fac­ing cam­eras cater for wide (f/1.8, 26mm-equiv) and tele­photo (f/2.4, 52mme­quiv) fo­cal lengths. Whichever you choose, Ap­ple’s pro­cess­ing en­sures light­ing-fast fo­cus­ing and re­li­ably ac­cu­rate ex­po­sure me­ter­ing, while op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion works well in low light.

It all adds up to ex­cel­lent im­age qual­ity. Ap­ple’s Smart HDR pro­cess­ing ties with the Note 9 and the Pixel 3 for dy­namic range, and avoids Google’s slightly over-pro­cessed look. Colour ren­di­tion is class-lead­ing, and though out­right de­tail isn’t quite on par with the ra­zor-sharp Pixel 3 and the Mate 20 Pro, it’s not far off.

Google Pixel 3 XL £869/$899 http://store.google.com

The orig­i­nal 2016 Google Pixel was a show­case for how ad­vanced im­age pro­cess­ing could over­come the lim­i­ta­tions of a small im­age sen­sor. The Pixel 3’s 12MP, f/1.8, 28mm-equiv cam­era pro­duces im­ages that are the sharpest of the group, con­tain­ing the most high­light and shadow de­tail here thanks to Google’s great HDR+ al­go­rithm. But this does come with some pro­cess­ing arte­facts around high­light-shadow tran­si­tions, along with more fring­ing than we’d like.

At a time when dual- and triple-lens cam­eras cater for dif­fer­ent fo­cal lengths, the Pixel 3’s sin­gle rear cam­era seems lack­ing in ver­sa­til­ity. Google’s an­swer is Su­per Res Zoom, which com­bines a burst of im­ages to pro­duce a dig­i­tally zoomed im­age. In prac­tice, Su­per Res Zoom falls well short of the de­tail re­solved by an op­ti­cally zoomed im­age. Re­sults at 2x zoom are use­able, but go fur­ther and im­ages re­sem­ble those shot with any old dig­i­tal zoom.

HTC U12+ £699/$799 www.htc.com

The U12+ is a lit­tle older than most of the other phones on test, and its con­ven­tional (notch­less) 6-inch 18:9 LCD screen lacks the out­right vi­brancy of the lat­est OLED dis­plays here, even if it is HDR-ca­pa­ble and boasts a high 1,440 x 2,880 res­o­lu­tion. We’re also not con­vinced by HTC’s fixed, pres­sure-sen­si­tive edge but­tons.

Dual rear-fac­ing cam­eras pro­vide wide 27mm-equiv­a­lent and tele­photo 54mm-equiv­a­lent fo­cal lengths for 2x op­ti­cal zoom. Im­age qual­ity from the f/2.6 tele­photo cam­era is strong, and a match for the Huawei, Sam­sung and Ap­ple tele­photo cam­eras. The pri­mary, wide-an­gle 12MP cam­era man­ages to re­solve very good de­tail – al­most as much as the class-lead­ing Pixel and Mate 20 Pro – but is let down by sub-par HDR per­for­mance that pro­duces both murky shad­ows and blown high­lights. Low-light shots are also no­tice­ably noisier than those taken on the Ap­ple, Google, Huawei and Sam­sung phones.

Huawei Mate 20 Pro £899 www.huawei.com

Since Huawei formed a smart­phone cam­era part­ner­ship with Le­ica in 2016, its phone cam­eras have be­come a match for any­thing you’d ex­pect from Ap­ple and Sam­sung. The new Mate 20 Pro boasts a trio of rear-fac­ing cam­eras to give you a ver­sa­tile se­lec­tion of fo­cal lengths: wide (27mm-equiv), ul­tra-wide (16mm), and tele­photo (80mm).

The pri­mary (wide) cam­era tech­ni­cally uses a 40MP sen­sor: while you can shoot at this res­o­lu­tion, the best re­sults come from its 10MP mode. This of­fers im­age qual­ity that leads the pack, al­beit by a whisker. In good light, de­tail is up there with the pin-sharp Pixel 3, and although shadow ar­eas aren’t quite as pro­nounced, the Mate’s im­ages have a more nat­u­ral look. It’s a pity Huawei’s auto HDR isn’t quite as ef­fec­tive as some ri­vals, though.

We’ve got no com­plaints with the Mate 20 Pro’s stun­ning bevel-edged 6.39-inch screen, how­ever. It’s bril­liantly vi­brant and a treat for the eyes.

LG G7 ThinQ £559/$750 www.lg.com

De­spite be­ing the least ex­pen­sive phone in our lineup, the G7 sports a mod­ern de­sign, with a 6.1-inch notched screen pack­ing a huge 564 ppi pixel den­sity. It can’t match the Mate 20 Pro’s dis­play for sheer eye candy, but it comes close.

The cam­era specs are also promis­ing, with dual 16MP rear-fac­ing snap­pers cater­ing for wide (30mm-equiv) and ul­tra-wide (16mm) fo­cal lengths. But those ex­tra megapix­els over its 12MP ri­val phones aren’t put to good use. Fine de­tail is non-ex­is­tent; the dy­namic range is dire, with hugely blown high­lights; and the pri­mary cam­era has a ten­dency to slightly over­ex­pose. The two avail­able fo­cal lengths are also con­fus­ing, with the 30mm main cam­era giv­ing an an­noy­ingly tight field of view, yet the ul­tra-wide op­tion can of­ten be too wide.

Over­all, the G7 ThinQ’s im­age qual­ity re­sem­bles that from a cam­era phone that’s two or even three gen­er­a­tions old.

Sam­sung Gal­axy Note 9 £899/$1,000 www.sam­sung.com

Sam­sung’s Note phones are phys­i­cally larger than the com­pany’s famed Gal­axy S-se­ries mod­els, but the Note 9 is by no means un­wieldy next to an iPhone Xs Max. The 6.4-inch bev­elled Su­per AMOLED dis­play is a feast for the eyes, and the phone con­ceals a sty­lus so you can even have a go at some free­hand graphic de­sign. It’s also nice to see a Mi­croSD slot present for stor­age ex­pand­abil­ity.

Photography-wise, a pair of rear-fac­ing 12MP cam­eras give you use­ful 26mm and 52mme­quiv­a­lent fo­cal lengths. Both have op­ti­cal im­age sta­bil­i­sa­tion tech­nol­ogy, and the wide-an­gle cam­era ben­e­fits from a fast f/1.5 aper­ture. Im­age qual­ity from both cam­eras is ex­cel­lent, with good de­tail and colour ac­cu­racy, as well as classlead­ing dy­namic range.

The Gal­axy Note 9 just loses out to the Mate 20 Pro in this Mini Test, how­ever, as fine de­tail in im­ages isn’t quite as well-re­solved, and you don’t get an ul­tra-wide cam­era.

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