Here's our winner of this year's Zero 1 Award in the category of Best High-End Smartphone Camera.
As one moves up the price ladder, expectations rise, and most people buy a high-end smartphone believing it will be able to take photos as good as the premium flagships. While there’s still a long way to go, 2019 saw the high-end phones bridge the gap further with the help of multi-camera setups and high-end sensors, similar to what the mid-rangers did this year. The presence of a better ISP resulted not only in better photos in the day, but also sharp and detailed shots at night. Almost all high-end cameras now come with dedicated night mode as well. We also saw features like video bokeh, super slo-mo, and high-resolution RAW output. Yet, the high-end smartphones have a long way to go in reproducing the right colours, with adequate sharpness across the frame. Focusing was still an issue, although less so than the budget and mid-rangers. There have been no dearth of options this year in this segment and most of these high-end smartphones did offer a full suite of options to help you take that tricky shot. Here are our winners.
The moment Google launched a budget Pixel device this year, we were certain the camera would give tough competition to the existing challengers like the OnePlus 7T. Still, we hoped the gap would be wider considering Google claimed it’s using the same camera as the Pixel 3 XL. In reality, the Pixel 3a XL is certainly the more consistent and reliable shooter, but it’s only slightly better than the OnePlus 7T. Slightly or not, better is the keyword here. Google relies on complex computational photography algorithms to transform an average photo taken by the camera into something gorgeous. You get vivid colours, and the dynamic range brings out details in the shadows without clipping the highlights. Unfortunately, videos from the Pixel 3a XL lack the punchy colours of the photos, and there are moments when the subject separation in portrait photos isn’t accurate enough. Even then the Pixel 3a XL is far more consistent and reliable in taking photos in both day and night, and as a result, it’s our winner for this year’s Zero 1 Awards for the best high-end camera.
The OnePlus 7T’s cameras are a tad behind Google’s offering. The reason we had to dock points off the OnePlus 7T’s camera performance is the inconsistency in the camera. Sometimes, the OnePlus 7T’s 48MP primary camera will take a shot so good that you’d feel like it’s better than the premium flagships. And other times, the shots will be close to what we expect from mid-rangers. There are also gaping inconsistencies between the primary and ultrawide camera in terms of the colours and sharpness. Having said that, the OnePlus 7T does offer a wider range of options to shoot as well as better video capabilities to the tune of smooth 4K videos at 60 FPS. The OnePlus 7T camera also keeps improving thanks to constant updates.
Everything that the OnePlus 7T offers, the Realme X2 Pro can do, at a much lesser price. In fact, the primary camera on the Realme X2 Pro has a larger sensor and higher resolution than the OnePlus 7T. Albeit it’s not as good as the 7T, but it’s not too bad either. The photos are pretty well-tuned to deliver higher sharpness and dynamic range with vibrant colours. The X2 Pro also brings an ultrawide and macro camera that works quite consistently. The place it falters is low-light performance because of higher noise level and lower sharpness. Then again, the X2 Pro is much more affordable than the OnePlus 7T, and with the difference in quality only discernible if you pixel peep. So, the Realme X2 Pro is one of the best buys this year.
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