Digit Zero 1 Awards 2019: Best Performing Budget Smartphone Camera

Digit Zero 1 Awards 2019: Best Performing Budget Smartphone Camera

Subhrojit Mallick | 09 Dec 2019

Here's our winner of this year's Zero1 Award in the category of Best Performing Budget camera smartphone

As recently as a year ago, all you could expect from budget smartphones was the bare minimum. This year however Xiaomi, Realme, Samsung, Motorola, and Vivo ensured that those who don’t have deep pockets won’t miss out on the latest in smartphone innovations. A good camera has always been something reserved for the premium products, and while the gap is still there, it’s closing in fast. Auto-focus, sharpness and a few other things still need to be ironed out, but 2019 saw the introduction of 48MP camera phones not just in the high-end segment, but also under `10,000, followed by the widespread adoption of the ultrawide camera. Some even offered a dedicated macro lens. We put a bunch of budget phones to the test to find the best budget smartphone camera for you.

2019 Zero1 Award Winner: Xiaomi Redmi Note 8

The Redmi Note 8 arrived late in the year and set a benchmark for other budget phone makers to follow. With a 48MP quad-camera setup, the Note 8 is both flexible and reliable when it comes to photography, even though it wasn’t able to match up to the quality that more expensive smartphones with 48MP cameras offer. Still, the details, sharpness and the dynamic range were the best we have seen in the budget segment so far. During the day, the camera is more than capable of taking shots worth sharing on social media, but it’s the low light capabilities of the camera that sets the Note 8 apart from the rest. The dedicated night mode in the Note 8 works well to boost details and sharpness, which was previously unheard of even in more expensive smartphones. The 48MP mode of the Note 8 is also quite capable of reproducing far-away details, but loses clarity and colours in the process. The Note 8’s wide-angle camera is also a new way to look at the world. With an ex
panded  field of view, you can cram a lot more in the frame while the macro camera gets you really close to the action.

2019 Zero1 Runner-Up: Realme 3 Pro

The Realme 3 Pro initially went up against the Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 Pro, but after a recent price cut, it is now competing with all other budget devices. That just proves how far budget phones have come in the same year.  The Realme 3 Pro uses the same camera sensor as the OnePlus 6T last year, and the 16MP camera is well-tuned to take bright and vibrant photos in the day and sharp and detailed photos at night. We liked how the Realme 3 Pro controlled the noise level in low light photos allowing for a cleaner image. The nightscape mode uses multi-frame processing to make sharp low-light photos, but at the cost of speed. The phone uses a special algorithm called Chrome Boost that accentuates the colours, making photos look more palatable. But it’s only a dual camera smartphone with an additional depth sensor, so you won’t be able to take those sweeping wide-angle shots.  

2019 Zero1 Best Buy: Realme 5

The cameras on the back of the Realme 5 are quite similar to the Redmi Note 8, in the sense that it offers the same lens arrangement, sans the 48MP sensor. Even then, the Realme 5 can take decent shots when the lighting is adequate, and photos shot using the Nightscape mode aren’t half bad either. Only, you won’t get the extra layer of details the 48MP sensor brings to the table, but then again, unless you’re planning to get a poster made out of the photo, you don’t really need it.

Subhrojit Mallick

Eats smartphones for breakfast.

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