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The camera has never been a point in favour of a BlackBerry smartphone. However, with what we have experienced during testing of the Z10, things have changed for the better, much better.
Camera performance has never been a strong point of BlackBerry phones, but that could change considerably for the better, with the Z10 at least (read our comprehensive review of the Z10 here).
The BlackBerry Z10 features an 8MP camera at the back, and a 2MP video calling camera at the front. There is a single LED flash, and the rear camera can record 1080p HD videos. The rear camera features an F2.2 lens and Back Side Illumination for better low-light performance.
BlackBerry says that the camera also has a dedicated image signal processor, with 64MB frame buffer space. The video camera can record 1080p HD videos. To help with smoother and less shaky videos, the Z10 camera has 4 DOF (Degrees of freedom) video stabilization. The Time Shift mode is also an option, for adjusting individual elements of your picture.
The iPhone 5 (read our review) has an 8-megapixel iSight camera, which can also record 1080p HD videos. There is the Panaroma mode for those who like to capture a landscape in its entirety. The Z10 misses out on the tap to focus feature, and HDR, things the iPhone 5 has.
So, just how does the Z10’s camera compare to the camera on the iPhone 5? To answer that exact question, we have taken comparison shots, to give you an idea of where each camera stands, in isolation, and in relation to each other.
The Camera App
The Z10 camera app can be accessed multiple ways – the shortcut on the lock screen by long pressing the icon, by selecting the app from the drawer or by tapping the camera icon on the dock below the app drawer and the oft open widgets page.
The camera opens up fairly quickly and is ready to shoot faster than quite a few high end Android phones. The feature set is limited, but the rapid shutter speed means you will usually not miss out on a shot! You have the tap to click feature on the entire screen when the camera is open. Convenient for the most part, but it is fairly easy to accidentally tap and click while shuttling in and out of the settings menu.
There is no tap to focus, and despite fairly quick shutter speeds, the focus can sometimes take a bit of time – the iPhone 5 has a very slight advantage in that aspect.
The feature that we missed the most on the Z10’s camera is the HDR feature. We believe it is almost a necessity for the flagship phones. The image stabilization mode is one of the three, along with the standard shooting mode and the burst mode. Flash is not available in the IS and burst modes. Alternatively, you can switch to the video mode or the Time Shift camera from the three options available at the top right of the interface.
The Comparison Images
We directly pitted the Z10’s camera with that on the iPhone 5, and the Z10 proved to be surprisingly close to the iPhone 5 camera, for the most part. Over the period of the testing, we have taken various similar shots on both devices, in an attempt to compare the two on as even a platform as possible.
Indoors- Test scene (Natural light)
This is the test shot in a typical indoor scenario, with a generous amount of natural light coming in. Both cameras are at par in terms of depth and crispness. At exactly the same distance from the scene, the iPhone 5’s camera captures more area, while the Z10 goes more close up. Again, the exposure difference between the iPhone and the Z10 is visible.
Indoors - Close up (low-light)
Close up, the BlackBerry Z10’s camera is actually better than the iPhone 5. The shots taken by the Z10 seem more even in terms of exposure and colour.
You don’t need to look closely to see that at the same distance in the same light, the exposure on the Z10 is more natural and even than on the iPhone 5, which seems to be more sensitive to the extra light coming in from one side. The readability of the alphabets on every individual key is at par in both images.
Indoors - Close up (near darkness)Just to get an idea of how these cameras compare in a typical scenario where most guests of the party are drunk and no one really cares that it is 2am and the lights have been broken.
The iPhone 5’s camera allows slightly more light to come in, and the results of this are most visible in this comparison. The iPhone 5 took that shot in one go, without flash. The Z10 struggles in the picture taken without flash, and flash just makes things worse to look at. For low light shots, the iPhone 5 is a better bet overall.
Indoors – Static object
This is the comparison of how the Tata Sky HD remote looks from the perspective of both cameras. The iPhone 5 brings out richer colours, on the remote as well as the background. The text seems slightly crisper in the iPhone 5’s picture. Detailing is surprisingly inconsistent on the Z10 this time around, because if you zoom in on the iPhone 5 image, you can see some dust around the “R” and “Plan” keys, while these details are missing on the Z10’s shot. The image taken by the Z10 is marginally softer as well, but we cannot complain about any possible lack of crispness.
Outdoors – Static object
If you look at the comparison shots of the pretty flower, the one taken by the Z10 looks slightly less bright than the iPhone 5. But the surprising amount of crispness and detail is something that is indeed very good on the Z10’s shot. Honestly, this is better than what we expected.
If you zoom in to the same shot, there are areas where the Z10 and the iPhone 5 alternately trade the top spot for which one offers more detail.
Outdoors – Landscape
For the landscape shots, the Z10’s camera offers more natural colours, while the iPhone 5 has a slightly warmer tone to it. If you look closely, the Z10 offers more detailing in the ground where the cars are parked, and also for the text on the advertising on the building side.
These are surprisingly good results from the Z10 camera, something that has us all surprised at how close it runs the iPhone 5, and even beats it in some cases. The basic feature set could be a bit of an issue, and it misses out on HDR, for example. This will hurt low light performance to a certain extent.
Outdoor – Full zoom
These are the shots focusing on a static part of the same landscape shot we have talked about just now. Both phones were set to their maximum zoom capabilities, and the image was clicked from exactly the same distance.
We had talked about the surprisingly missing detailing and softer rendering of the Tata Sky HD remote image by the Z10. That algorithm actually helps it in the full zoom shot, because quite a bit of noise has been removed. All this while, we had found out that the iPhone 5’s shots have a tad more exposure than the Z10’s shots, but in this case, the Z10 has a more exposed image, and a definitely better looking one.
Not only this, there is the brilliant Time Shift feature on the Z10 camera. It can take a series of shots at very close intervals, and you can run through the timeline to select which one you like the best for the final image. This is very good, if you are taking moving objects. An illustrative example of the Time Shift feature is given with these images.
While using the Time Shift mode, the images tend to be slightly darker than usual. This mode is best used outdoors in good light conditions. Admittedly, the crispness and detailing are not compromised in any shot taken in this mode, which is a huge bonus. The perfect group shot may not be too far away!
Which is better?
Yes, we are as conflicted as you are in terms of which is better. The iPhone camera shows its prowess in taking better shots in low light conditions, for the most part. The Z10’s surprisingly rocks it like a champion when it comes to most outdoor shots, with better detailing in parts. The iPhone 5’s slightly warmer colour tone does skew the whites to a certain extent. All in all, we are fairly surprised to see that the Z10 camera matches up so well to the iPhone 5. This is a huge step forward for BlackBerry. Maybe a richer feature set in the future would make this even more fun to use.