Lenovo Phab2 Pro review: Tango One

GSMArena Team, 3 December 2016.

Average 16MP camera

The Lenovo Phab2 Pro has a 16MP camera that helps you see everything that Tango is doing. This camera features phase-detection auto-focus and an f/2.0 aperture, it also makes use of a dual-tone LED flash.

While the camera on the Lenovo Phablet is part of the Tango arrangement of sensors, it does not display any of the other sensors in the Camera app's viewfinder. In other words, there is no way to view the raw image coming from either the IR camera or the extra wide depth sensor. Not that the average person would like to play with them, perhaps just us techies.

Lenovo Phab2 Pro review

Let's start with the camera UI. It's quite basic, but it is also simple and straightforward. When holding the phone in landscape, your quick controls like HDR mode, flash, and toggle for switching to the front camera are to the left of the viewfinder. When in selfie mode, the 'touchup' bar is on the right side of the viewfinder and goes from 0 to extremely artificial-looking (10).

Viewfinder: Main camera - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Viewfinder: Selfie camera - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
Viewfinder: Main camera Selfie camera

Make sure you touch the toggles accurately. If you miss even a little bit, the camera will instead focus on this point behind the button in the viewfinder. You then can't tap any buttons until the camera is done refocusing on this useless focal point on the edge of the frame.

The camera offers a few settings like switching between 720p and 1080p on the video mode (there is no 4K, by the way), turning off the shutter sound, "touchup mode" (beauty filter), white balance presets, a manual exposure offset, and a shutter timer mode. You can also change the aspect ratio from 16:9 (default) to 4:3, albeit at a reduced resolution.

Also, hitting the grid button on the lower right corner of the viewfinder will let you change to the other camera modes like AR camera (covered in Tango section), Group selfie, Panorama, and Night mode.

Settings - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review More settings - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review More settings - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
Settings More settings

Now that we're familiar with the camera UI, let's take a look at what the Phab2 Pro can do.

Still images

The images taken with the Phab2 Pro in the bright sunlight were quite good. The level of details is pretty good and we can see some really great textures.

Dynamic range in these scenes was also pretty good as long as your subjects are not backlit. Photos with lots of shadows are quite well balanced but some of the details in the shadows get lost. One would think that HDR would help the situation, but using HDR in bright sunlight will yield a different result every time. Sometimes the shadows are rendered ever so slightly brighter, and yet other times the whole exposure would shift and the shadows will become even darker than they were in Normal mode. You might be better off sticking to the default shooting mode when you are outdoors.

Sample shots - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Sample shots - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Sample shots - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Sample shots - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
Sample shots - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Sample shots - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Sample shots - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Sample shots - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
Sample shots

Photos that were not taken in sunlight were taken on a cloudy and rainy day. The user experience with the camera makes a sharp turn for the worse when the lights go down. Pictures in less than ideal lighting conditions appear very soft while textures and colors are just washed out. These are the situations where HDR produces better images. As long as you have a steady hand (which you'll need regardless), photos are much sharper and more saturated in these conditions when using HDR.

HDR: Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review HDR: On - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review HDR: Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review HDR: On - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
HDR: Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review HDR: On - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review HDR: Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review HDR: On - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
HDR: Off On Off On Off On Off On

The downside to using HDR is that photos take about 2 full seconds per shot, during which the screen freezes briefly. If taking an HDR shot in really low light, the shutter can take upwards of 4 seconds to snap a photo. So if you don't have a steady hand, you'll definitely lose the shot.

HDR does not really bring up the shadows, rather it only seems to bring highlights down a little and raise mid-tones up. Shadows stay the same and in some cases are darker than the Auto mode counterpart.

Here are a couple of scenes taken with the Galaxy S7 edge for comparison. Here is where you can see exactly how much color is washed out.

Galaxy S7 edge HDR: Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Galaxy S7 edge HDR: On - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Galaxy S7 edge HDR: Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Galaxy S7 edge HDR: On - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
Galaxy S7 edge HDR: Off On Off On

Low light capabilities are questionable. The Phab2 Pro is not able to produce a photo at night without gobs of blur and noise. There is actually a 'Night' mode in the camera, but it's quite bad. The photos can peek a little more into the shadows, but at the expense of ever more noise so it isn't worth using at all. You're better off using HDR mode in low-light for more usable shots, but you'll need a really steady hand (or a tripod). We also tried LED flash and there is a sample photo below so you can compare.

HDR Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review HDR On - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Night Mode - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review LED Flash On - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
HDR Off HDR On Night Mode LED Flash On

Selfie

The Lenovo Phab2 Pro features an 8MP camera on the front with a f/2.2 aperture. If you count the selfie camera, this would bring the total number of cameras on the Lenovo Phab2 Pro to four. We do wish that the camera on the Phab2 Pro at least had an LED flash like Lenovo's Moto phones have had for the past couple of generations.

Touchup mode level: Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Touchup mode level: 10 - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Touchup mode level: Off - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review Touchup mode level: 5 - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
Touchup mode level: Off 10 Off 5

Selfies were okay, the included "touchup" mode overlays a filter over facial features, thought it doesn't play too well with unkempt facial hair. Results with the touchup mode will vary depending on exposure and the beautification feature tends to make colors a tad bit cooler. Images are a bit underexposed for our tastes, which some might not find very flattering for themselves.

Panorama

This phone takes run-of-the-mill panorama shots where you just sweep and the image continuously stitches everything into an image. If you want to get a taller image, you can sweep the scene while holding the phone in portrait orientation.

Panorama 1 - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
Panorama 1

The resulting panorama image is 1856 pixels tall, and you can take a panorama all the way around. It's not quite 360 degrees, but more like 300 degrees. Unfortunately, the mode doesn't blend variations in the light across the scene quite well, but at least stitching is pretty good with little to no visible stuttering.

Panorama 2 - Lenovo Phab2 Pro review
Panorama 2

Video

The Phab2 Pro doesn't record in 4K, but it records in 1080p and 720p. Unfortunately there is no digital image stabilization so videos are as shaky as can be. We can understand the lack of 4K (well, not really!), but the lack of some kind of image stabilization is unfortunate for a phone of this price range. We tried to keep the video as steady as we could without a tripod and you will see we failed miserably.

Other than that, details are not bad, but colors are a bit on the warmer side of the spectrum and just a tad bit underexposed.

The Phab2 Pro is capable of recording in 5.1 Dobly surround, though if you are using this phone to film something more serious, you might want to invest in a gimbal or tripod, as handheld filming will not yield much usable footage.

Speaking of which, the audio bitrate on a video is 537kbps at 48 kHz, much higher than we've seen from many other smartphones. 1080p videos are about 20 Mbps while 720p videos are in the upper 13 Mbps.

As always, you can also download the raw video files here: 1080p, 43MB / 720p, 30MB.