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5 Android phone cameras to watch out for

LiveMint logoLiveMint 02-05-2017 Vishal Mathur

For many users, smartphones with improved optics, dual cameras and better image-processing software have become the default photography devices . Who carries a digital point-and-shoot or a DSLR separately these days?

The Apple iPhone 7 Plus remains the benchmark smartphone camera. The 12-megapixel dual camera set-up, with a dual aperture of f/1.8 (wide angle) and f/2.8 (telephoto), is among the highest in smartphones, and the performance has no direct competition yet from Android phones.

This is one of the few phones that also has optical zoom (up to 2x), which ensures that zoomed-in images are not cropped digitally, and that the photo quality is significantly better. The sheer consistency of photos across different lighting remains unmatched.

The current bunch of flagship Android phones, however, is trying to catch up. Here’a a list of some of the options. 

Sony Xperia XZs

Rs51,990

What it has: 19-megapixel (MP) rear camera, 13-MP front camera

Sony’s MotionEye camera in the Xperia XZs uses a 1/2.3-inch sensor, an f/2.0 aperture and a larger 25mm wide lens (the older XZ had a 24mm wide lens). This is to accommodate larger pixels (1.22um), which improves the quality of low-light photos. The image-processing algorithms are less aggressive in noise reduction than earlier Xperia phones, and the photographs look crisper. The standout feature perhaps is slow-motion videos—it can record at 960 fps, the finer details tend to show up in most of the slow-motion videos and your action and travel memories will look more dramatic. The Xperia XZs camera also deploys predictive capture, clicking four photographs between the time you position the camera and tap the shutter button—in case you miss something. The phone’s compact design is an added advantage, particularly while taking selfies. 

LG G6

Rs51,990

What it has: 13-MP dual rear camera, 5-MP front camera

The LG G6’s dual cameras have an aperture of f/1.8 and f/2.4, respectively, a 1/3-inch sensor size and 1.12um pixel size. In comparison, its predecessor, the G5, had a 16-megapixel and an 8-megapixel dual camera and a 1/2.6-inch sensor size. The G6 reproduces the finer details well.

The only shortcoming is that the camera app’s default image processing tends to sharpen the images a bit too much at times. The high dynamic range (HDR) aspect is where the G6 does really well, with details such as clouds in the sky being reproduced in detail. Colour accuracy, which the G5 struggled with, has largely been rectified with the G6, which even has a food mode.

Buy this for very detailed photographs, particularly for landscapes and close-ups. 

Google Pixel and Pixel XL

Rs57,000 onwards 

What it has: 12.3-MP rear camera, 8-MP front camera

This is one of the best smartphone cameras in the Android ecosystem. It may not have the predictive capture of the Xperia XZs, for instance, but the Pixel cameras reproduce finely detailed and accurately coloured photos. The primary camera has a large, 1.55um pixel size, 1/2.3-inch sensor size, and an aperture of f/2.0 (slightly smaller than the f/1.7 of the Galaxy S8). Low- light performance is good, and the performance of both Pixel phones stands out in good-light photos.

We have often praised the iPhone 7 Plus’ camera versatility across all lighting conditions, and this comes the closest among Android phones. Selfies, thanks to the fairly big 1.4um pixels, will be bright and well detailed too.

HTC U Ultra

Rs52,990

What it has: 12-MP UltraPixel 2 rear camera, 16-MP UltraPixel front camera

The UltraPixel 2 camera has an f/1.8 aperture, 1/2.3-inch sensor size (the same as the Pixel XL, for example) and large 1.55um pixels. On paper, this seems to balance the best of both worlds—the wide aperture that the Galaxy S8 leans towards, and the bigger pixel size that the Google Pixel vouches for.

However, the default camera app and algorithms return unappealing images. It’s when you install a third-party camera app such as Camera FV-5 (free; Rs199 for the Premium version) that the U Ultra shows its true colours. Though low-light photographs may sometimes have a slightly uneven exposure, daytime and landscape photography are its strong points.

Despite more megapixels in the front camera, it falls behind the likes of the Pixel phones in the selfie stakes.

OnePlus 3T

Rs29,999 (64 GB); Rs34,999 (128 GB)

What it has: 16-MP rear camera, 16-MP front camera

The 3T’s main camera has an f/2.0 aperture, 1.12um pixel size and a 1.28-inch sensor, with robust image-processing algorithms and software. The HDR images are more accurate than earlier (for example, the sky doesn’t look blown out or overexposed) and the colour tone is realistic. There is considerable amount of detailing in every image, even in low light, and the depth-of-field effect for close-ups is better too. The camera takes full advantage of both optical image stabilization (OIS) and electronic image stabilization (EIS) features.

The selfie camera does a credible job, considering the smaller 1um pixels have a disadvantage. If you don’t have a budget for the expensive flagship Android phones, the OnePlus 3T’s camera may be the right choice. 

*Prices may vary.

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