Razer Phone review
Dual 12MP snappers
There's no real point in beating about the bush here - camera was clearly not a priority for Razer. On paper, the dual main setup looks decent enough, which is probably good enough for the PR effort. However, most every aspect of Razer's first smartphone camera experience is underwhelming.
On the hardware side of things, Razer opted for the trendy wide+telephoto setup. So far so good. The wide camera is equipped with a decently bright f/1.8 lens. However, the telephoto is only f/2.6.
This, in itself, limits its use severely, since Razer can't exactly confidently switch over to it under anything short of excellent lighting conditions. Worse still, Razer decided to use the pair in what it calls "seamless zoom" - a feature that sounds good on paper but is a terrible idea in practice. What the handset does is it constantly interpolates and switches between its two snappers as you zoom in or out linearly. This effectively means you can never use the second camera to its full potential and there is no indication whether you are shooting at the native optical zoom or with digital interpolation.
But, before we show you the samples so you can see what we mean, let's take a step back and talk about the camera UI. Razer opted for a very bare-bones approach, with more than a few glaring feature omissions.
You get no modes, not even panoramas, no filters, nothing really, beyond a timed shutter, a toggle for guidelines, the dual-tone flash and HDR. Even more disappointingly, the latter has no auto setting. Yes, you have to toggle HDR manually each and every time. And judging by our experience, you will be reaching for it quite often.
The camera settings are also minimal at best. But probably the most glaring omission of all, in our opinion, is the lack of any high frame rate video capture mode. There isn't even a 60 fps mode at FullHD, which is nothing short of wasted potential, considering the Snapdragon 835 under the hood. Razer needs to address this ASAP.
On to some samples then. If you've read our earlier hands-on coverage of the Razer Phone, then you already know we had a lot of fun taking it out sightseeing through the streets of London. We can't exactly say the phone felt at home, even in broad daylight.
Avoiding sunlight as best we could seemed to help quite a bit. Even so, shots came out noisy and a bit too soft, especially near the edges of the frame. Lots of fine detail is lost and the dynamic range is about average.
Sunlight is what the Razer Phone really struggles with. It is really trigger-happy when it comes to exposure. Even when you go in for some spot metering, the phone quickly decides otherwise and can't really seem to make up its mind. Consecutive shots in such conditions end up over and underexposed more often than not.
The lack of any form of auto HDR is really apparent. Enabling the mode manually is also a hit and miss affair. You do need to double and triple-up your shots just for some piece of mind.
The situation only worsens when you add Razer's "seamless zoom" to the mix. You can never be quite sure what camera you are using at any given zoom level and our best guess is interpolation is inevitable. Here are some of the best shots we managed to get, accompanied with their respective wide shots.
HDR on the telephoto camera helps out as well. Overall, we would suggest just leaving it on all the time, wide or tele.
Here are some more samples from the wide camera for you to check out. As we move indoors, the overall quality definitely improves.
It's all pretty much downhill under less than favorable lighting conditions.
Naturally, we didn't skip on our typical set of samples either.
Some of these clearly show the Razer Phone's tendency to opt for an overly warm color balance.
You can check how the Razer Phone stacks up against competitors in our photo compare tool as well.
We can't really say the 8MP, fixed focus, f/2.0 selfie camera impressed us much either. In terms of extra features, Razer opted to include none here as well. Not even a beautification mode, so quite a few Instagram points need to be deducted.
Again, indoor lighting is definitely preferred. HDR really is a must with selfies as well, so just toggle it and leave it on indefinitely.
Starting on a positive note here, we do appreciate that Razer included a dedicated video mode with a proper viewfinder. This makes it immensely easier to line up precise shots.
Razer also implemented some form of EIS in 1080p mode, which we do appreciate. However, it definitely needs some work, as it tends to randomly drift the viewfinder sideways from time to time, especially while the phone is sitting stationary on a tripod. Also, it has a weird inertia effect to it with sudden movements.
4K videos get recorded in AVC format, with an AAC audio stream. Bit rate stays solid at about 42 Mb/s, accompanied by a 96 kb/s stereo audio stream. The only number that rubs us the wrong way here is the 30 fps. To Razer's credit, the video never dips below that 30 fps mark. Then again, this is hardly a surprise, considering the capabilities of the Snapdragon 835.
We still think the total lack of any high frame rate modes, not even a 60 fps one, is wasted potential.
In terms of quality, videos come out really sharp, although not as detail-rich as we have come to expect from flagships. Some of that appears to be due to unreliable exposure metering, which, just like with stills, can under or overexpose in a heartbeat.
The overall tendency towards a warmer color pallet is also present. But the really noticeable issue with the otherwise pleasing 4K videos is the lack of any stabilization. Shooting hand-held is almost nauseating at times.
1080p videos get captured in the same format and with the exact same 30 fps limitation. Video bit rate sits stable here, as well, at just over 20 Mb/s. Audio is encoded in the same 96 kb/s stereo track. Overall, the quality is not a major step down from 4K, which is good.
However, all the issues with exposure, color and dynamic range are carried over. The viewfinder is quite aggressively cropped, since there is some form of stabilization in place at this resolution. Like we already mentioned, however, it is prone to random drifts in framing sideways and has a little bit of an inertia effect to it. There is no way to turn it off either.
Last, but not least, you can use our Video Compare Tool to see how the Razer Phone stacks against rivals in both 4K and 1080p modes.