BGR India Awards 2017: Best camera smartphones of the year

These five smartphones impressed us with their camera capabilities in 2017.

  • Published: January 22, 2018 11:11 AM IST

It’s no secret that smartphone cameras are getting better every year. In 2017, we saw substantial upgrades, be it in the mid-range or flagship smartphones. Some of these upgrades include better sensors with bigger pixel size and lower apertures for improved low-light performance. Throughout 2017, we got to review some of the best camera smartphones, and here are the top five picks by BGR India.

Google Pixel 2 / Pixel 2 XL

The Google Pixel 2 (and the Pixel 2 XL) has the best camera on a smartphone till date. Period. No, we are not saying this because it got the highest score of 98 from DxOMark, but we have put it through the paces when we reviewed it, and the results have been fantastic. We even pitted the Pixel 2 XL with other flagships – the Apple iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8, and were impressed with the performance.

Now, if you look at one of the trends of 2017, most smartphone manufacturers integrated dual-cameras for adding DSLR-like bokeh effects to your photos. Google, on the other hand, is using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to add software based bokeh effects to the photos, and the results have been nothing but great. At the rear, you have a 12.2-megapixel sensor of aperture f/1.8, whereas the front has an 8-megapixel sensor of aperture f/2.4.

Both cameras offer fantastic results, irrespective of the lighting conditions. And in both cases, you can capture portrait photos with background blur. We tested the camera in harsh sunlight, in the evening, and even in low-light, and its performance is such that you won’t easily find on any other smartphone out there.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

In 2016, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge set the bar for camera smartphones, and in 2017, it continued further with the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8. In fact, the Galaxy Note 8 is Samsung’s first smartphone to come with dual-cameras at the back. And while there are different setups manufacturers go for, Samsung has chosen a wide-angle and telephoto lens setup.

Both are 12-megapixel sensors – where the wide-angle lens has an aperture f/1.7, and the telephoto lens has an aperture of f/2.4. The Galaxy Note 8 is also the first dual-camera smartphone where both lens come with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) support. Together the combination lets you add DSLR-like bokeh effects to your photos, and also adds 2X optical zoom capabilities.

We have also put the Galaxy Note 8 camera through the paces and it has been delivering fantastic results. Yet, it is not as superior as the Google Pixel 2, which is marginally better. Up front, you get an 8-megapixel sensor with auto focus which is capable of clicking some detailed selfies.

Apple iPhone X

The iPhone X from Apple is special in every possible way. It marks the 10th anniversary of the iPhone, it features an edge-to-edge display, comes with a glass back design, and it ditches the fingerprint sensor for 3D facial recognition. The iPhone X also comes with dual cameras at the back – both are 12-megapixel sensors – one is a wide-angle lens of aperture f/1.8, and other is a telephoto lens with aperture f/2.4.

The camera setup allows for clicking portrait shots with blur background, and also allows for 2X optical zoom. Along with these, there is also a portrait lighting mode, which makes your photos look like they were lit by a professional photographer. There are five modes here, natural light, studio light, contour light, stage light and stage light mono.

What it actually does, is it analyzes the subject’s face in real-time, and changes the lighting accordingly, giving your photos a studio effect. The portrait lighting mode also works on the front camera, which is a 7-megapixel sensor of aperture f/2.2. During our test, we found that the iPhone X was capable of clicking natural looking photos with good details, and that too in any lighting conditions.

Honor 8 Pro

Now, while the Pixel 2, iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8 are the respective champions in the high-end segment, with prices upwards of Rs 60,000, the Honor 8 Pro costs exactly half of that – Rs 29,990. Like others, this one too features dual-camera setup at the back, but there is a small change in the sensors.

Both are 12-megapixel sensors of aperture f/2.2, but one is an RGB sensor (color) whereas the other is a monochrome sensor. They work in tandem to let you capture better photos, even in low-light conditions. During our review, we found that the smartphone is able to capture good photos with enough details, and it is commendable to see such performance in that price range.

Honor has also added a wide aperture mode in the camera app that lets you add shallow depth-of-field (bokeh effects) to your photos. With the aperture mode, you get a slider to vary the aperture from f/0.95, and going all the way up to f/16. This essentially keeps the subject in focus and adds background blur, where the intensity depends on the aperture that you vary. Up front is an 8-megapixel camera of aperture f/2.0, which is also capable of clicking some good selfies in different lighting conditions.

Xiaomi Mi A1

Sure, the Honor 8 Pro costs half of the Galaxy Note 8, and what Xiaomi has managed to do here is something completely noteworthy. Priced at Rs 13,999, the Mi A1 is the first Xiaomi smartphone to run stock Android One interface, and comes with dual cameras at the back.

Out of the two cameras, both 12-megapixel sensors, one is a wide-angle lens of f/2.2 aperture, whereas the other is a telephoto lens of f/2.4 aperture, a first for any smartphone under Rs 15,000 price point. The setup allows for portrait mode with DSLR-like blur background, and 2X optical zoom functionality. We were impressed with the photos that we clicked using the smartphone while using the smartphone.

Up front is a 5-megapixel sensor that clicks decent selfies. If you ask about the photo quality, it is nowhere close to the Galaxies and Pixels and iPhones, but for a smartphone that is under Rs 15,000, it does a better job which not even a Rs 25,000 device can do.

Besides these, there have been other smartphones too, such as the HTC U11, OnePlus 5T and Nokia 8 among others that offer decent cameras. Soon, Samsung is expected to launch the Galaxy S9 flagship smartphone, which is expected to come with variable aperture camera (f/1.5 – f/2.4).

We have also heard about rumors of Nokia working on a smartphone with penta-camera setup. Sure, while 2017 had an interesting line-up of camera smartphones, 2018 looks even more interesting and we can’t wait to see new technologies that brands will be unveiling to make smartphones cameras even more powerful.

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  • Published Date: January 22, 2018 11:11 AM IST