Last year we saw the pixel-binning practice become extremely commonplace amongst Android smartphones, with many OEMs initiating the megapixel wars once again. This year, we saw camera sensors hit up to 108 megapixels in resolution, but only delivering stunning results at the lower resolution, binned result. Needless to say, camera tech has definitely come a long way as we even saw longer telephoto lenses become more commonplace. There were, however, a few outliers that delivered image and video quality head and shoulders above the rest, and those are the smart- phones we’re here to recognize.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max ditches the high-resolution sensors by sticking to a 12 Megapixel slab of silicon, but increases its surface area to yield and effective pixel pitch of 1.7μm. Apple has also introduced sensor-shift based image stabilization to the primary sensor, allowing Apple to use a lens with an additional lens-element, for effectively sharper images. The telephoto lens is now a longer 65mm lens and the ultra-wide remains at 13mm. What’s really changed this year is that now all three cameras can utilize Night Mode, Smart HDR3 and Deep Fusion. On top of that, all three cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro Max are capable of shooting video in Dolby Vision HDR colour. In our testing, the iPhone 12 Pro Max delivers with consistent sharpness, low noise and very impressive dynamic range across all three cameras. The iPhone 12 Pro Max also adds a LiDAR scanner to aid it in improving its low- light AF capabilities. Apple’s hardware and software comes together to make the iPhone 12 Pro Max the best camera phone this year.
The OnePlus 8 Pro uses a commonplace 48-megapixel sensor, but edges out the competition because of its ultra-wide, 48 MP camera that pixel bins into a 12-megapixel image, yielding superb quality. The 8MP telephoto lens with a 3x zoom factor and an aperture of f/2.4 delivers decent images during the day, all the way up to sunset. The array of focusing technologies such as phase detect AF and Laser AF makes the OnePlus 8 Pro one of the best performing cameras on smartphones. Where it loses out to the iPhone 12 Pro Max would be the video quality, which is lacking in dynamic range and the finesse in audio fidelity in comparison to the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
The Apple iPhone 12 was the real surprise when it comes to imaging this year. While Apple chose to limit the large sensor for the Pro Max, the iPhone 12 manages to pack quite a wallop. The iPhone 12 is currently one of the cheapest ways to shoot Dolby Vision HDR video, which is a trick no other smartphone (besides the iPhone 12 series) offers. In terms of the camera stack, the dual wide and ultra-wide camera system both sport all of Apple’s best software features, allowing for better output than we’ve seen before. This improvement is particularly visible in the photos from the ultra-wide camera, which in comparison to the previous years’ iPhones, now exhibits improved dynamic range. The iPhone 12 lacks the Pro’s LiDAR sensor for better low light focusing and low light portrait mode, but, as a daily driver, offers not only some of the best looking photos in all shooting conditions, but also does so with exceptional consistency. The quality and consistency of the result when factored in together make the Apple iPhone 12 the best buy for this year’s Digit Zero1 Awards.
About Digit Zero 1 Awards:
With a legacy of 20 years, the Digit Zero 1 Awards is recognized as the Industry’s only performance-based awards. Digit rewards brands for putting in years of research in developing and introducing performance-driven products for their audience. All products are made to pass through a rigorous and scientific test process and compete with competitor brands in the same category. The Winner in each category is announced on the basis of their total score post complete performance analysis done across an average of 56 tests conducted for every category, across key performance parameters. The test process for the Zero1 Awards does not consider scores for features, price or design. The aim is to identify the very best products that money can buy, celebrate the innovations that push the industry forward, and reward the products that dare to disrupt the market.
Digit's resident camera nerd, (un)official product photographer and the Reviews Editor