200MP vs 1-inch - testing the best Android phones for photography

17 March 2023

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Nick Tegrataker, 20 Mar 2023The out-of-focus area on the main camera photos looks signi... moreYour assessment is spot on! Vivo seems clearly superior to the S23Ultra, just as you described.
That being said, one of the peculiarities of cameraphone photography (in stark contrast to traditional mirrorless cameras or DSLRS) is a subpar consistency between different shots: A given cameraphone may absolutely nail one scene in terms of exposure, color, texture etc and miserably fail at the next, slightly different shot.
So, there is definitely some inherent inter-shot variability, most probably akin to the high amount of computational photography processing that sometimes "catches" a scene better or worse, depending on a myriad of poorly predictable factors.

Even this review addresses this issue by stating that some of the scenes were captured better than others by the same phone.

I am still using a fairly "old" cameraphone from 2019, but I manage to get best possible shots out from it (during family gatherings or parties, sports events etc), almost always people ask me for my pictures ("your phone makes so nice photos"). However, one of the reasons for this is that I learned, how this cameraphone behaves in different lighting and shooting conditions; I can pretty well predict, when the AF is going to struggle and when not; or when the picture will get blurry or not. You need to know your tools and only then one can make best possible use of them.
So, I guess, that in the hands of someone how got very familiar with the pros and cons of it, might get better or more consistent results from the Sammsung phone than someone unexperienced from the Vivo X90pro.

    Terrific review - well done, gsmarena, well done!
    It's this kind of reviews that has made and kept GSMarena one of my favourite smartphone (and cameraphones in particular) review site.

    Interestingly, over the past half decade Vivo has accumulated a lot of refinement on their camera system; Even dpreview proclaimed the Vivo X60+ their favourite cameraphone a couple of years ago - and this had a much inferior main sensor when compared to their current flagship.

    And honestly, if I had to choose between a photographically great 50 mm zoom and a mediocre 75mm or 90 mm zoom, I would prefer the option that allows for higher quality. I only wish vivo had taken this approach one nod further and used an even bigger sensor with their zoom lens. A sensor size of 1/2.4" is still fairly small and limiting, even though it seems to beat the competition in terms of IQ.

    After all, the Chinese brands need to take a lesson from Samsung and substantially improve global availabilty (as of now, neither the Xiaomi 13 Pro nor the Vivo X90 pro are available through amazon or in electronic stores in some of the biggest western/central European countries) and sustainability: To my knowledge, Samsung is the vendor to provide the longest update/software support (I think it was 4 or even 5 years) compared with Xiaomi/Vivo.

    So, even if I were to purchase a non-Samsung cameraphone right now, I probabily couldn't do that without resorting to grey market or other dubious channels, And I would have to accept fairly limited software support - let alone hardware support in case the phone needs repair.

    And that's why I still stick with my venerable P30 pro which still takes great photos, despite being outdated in terms of sheer sensor size and performance. BTW: It still gets regular security updates despite being a phone from 2019.

      B52, 20 Mar 2023No way! Just look at the bokeh daytime photos on both. ... moreThe out-of-focus area on the main camera photos looks significantly noisier and busier on S23 Ultra, the portrait shot is better exposed on X90 Pro, too. I don't think there's even a comparison here - Vivo wins hands down.

      As for the low light scene you mentioned, X90 Pro captures a significantly cleaner image without losing details in the deepest shadows, which is especially evident towards the corners of the frame. S23 Ultra blows out the highlights and is a lot noisier for no particular reason. The gap widens when they use the night mode on both phones, where S23 Ultra simply oversharpens everything and fails to capture ANY highlights, which in turn results in a worse image quality than when the regular auto mode is being used. I think it's evident in this comparison that there's something seriously wrong with the way Samsung handles details and exposures.

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        • gLC
        • 20 Mar 2023

        Nick Tegrataker, 20 Mar 2023I know, and I responded that having Samsung's image pr... moreNo way!

        Just look at the bokeh daytime photos on both.
        And after that look at low light photos of the restaurant and the brick wall with BOSS logo on it.
        Samsung smashed Vivo at those despite having a worse sensor (and so less absorbed light).

          B52, 20 Mar 2023I strictly meant the camera software (and image processing ... moreI know, and I responded that having Samsung's image processing on a Vivo phone is a bad idea since Vivo's image processing is simply better.

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            • gLC
            • 20 Mar 2023

            Nick Tegrataker, 20 Mar 2023"software environent like Samsung has would be the abs... moreI strictly meant the camera software (and image processing algorythm).

              Such a comparison cannot be finished better.

              "We believe that if you put any of these phones (or any other, really) in the hands of a person with a good eye for capturing the moment, all the technicalities will fade away. At the end of the day, photography is about capturing an interesting scene, the moment, the fleeting feeling, that smile, that frown, that rainbow, that time of happiness shared with the people you care about."

                B52, 20 Mar 2023For me it really looks like Vivo definitely has the best se... more"software environent like Samsung has would be the absolute king"
                IMO that would be absolutely a waste of the great hardware that Vivo has.

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                  • gLC
                  • 20 Mar 2023

                  For me it really looks like Vivo definitely has the best sensor but its software is not up to the task.
                  Vivos lens and sensors with a software environent like Samsung has would be the absolute king.

                    [deleted post]My avatar is Katarina from League of Legends

                      Tech Jesus Gattuso, 19 Mar 2023Who uses flash today on smartphones? Having xenon won'... moreNobody because smartphones nowadays don't have Xenon flashes. The only thing the flash is used for is to be a torchlight.

                        Man, Vivo's still the low light champ. Their night photography is just so good. Preferred most of the Xiaomi 13 pro's shots for the daylight category though, Samsung went for a more gritty look...somewhat like the Pixel.

                          A LARGER sensor, will outproduce "mega" megapixels...but you have to look at the photos in RAW mode. The "AI" in the post processing can trick the end user into thinking they have a good photo.
                          In most cases, the millions of megapixels help when you take the post photo, zoom in and crop the photo, without losing as much detail.
                          Also, with all of those super tiny sensors crammed together, in low light conditions, the gain has to be turned up, so it is able to capture what little light is available.
                          Then, the phone software will have to try and stamp out the "noise" which can result in a flat looking image.

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                            • bEC
                            • 20 Mar 2023

                            KOT, 19 Mar 2023It's not good test, it doesn't show what the best... more200mp is just a gimmick. Even when you pixel peeping your barely see a difference except in a very good light condition. The 0.6x4 micron = 2.4 micron pixel binning is very misleading in the first place since they are reading the same image data and the result should be 0.6x4 and then divided by 4 again.
                            Overall, Samsung 200mp turn out to be a very mediocre and noisy sensor when compared to 1 inch sensors. Worse, it doesn't get pixel computing tech to help.

                              I need to see and review RAW files in any camera review. To me JPEGs are usually of little use, as they do not represent what the sensor is capable of in most cases. A single download of a single Apple Pro Res RAW told me all I needed to know about just how dreadful its large sensored main camera in the 14 Pro/Max is and saved me a lot of money, as Jeremy Northrop will agree, so these babies merits need downloadable raw files for us to be able to consider the case for buying one. I use a Lumia 950 with a 20 MP RAW dng Sony sensor from 2015 that is STILL better than anything for sale at the moment, unfortunately.
                              And I say unfortunately because hi-res monitors and TVs reduce in size onscreen the lower pixel count image at 1:1, and of course if you use a low-res image to fill your 4K/6k/8k screen it just stretches it out, losing definition AND contrast etc in the process, so new machines with 40-50MP resolution (N.B.) sensors are now most welcome.
                              Unfortunately these are as usual quad bayer etc with a quarter of the stated resolution, and this type of sensor using one pixel per colour, instead of one with with ALL colours, reduces possible acuity and sharpness so much in so doing that they are only barely bearable.
                              Can you publish their edited RAW derived jpegs? And can you include a couple of Huaweis best offerings like the P40/50 pros? Thanks.

                                Anonymous, 19 Mar 2023Came here to see some Xiaomi fanboys, wasn't disappoin... more*Talk trash about other people who are simply praising Xiaomi's image processing*
                                *Also declare that you're a Sony user even though nobody asked which phone you use*

                                Definitely not a troll lol.

                                  [deleted post]To be fair, A xenon flash would be pointless for general low-light landscape photography, which many manufacturers seem to be focusing on improving recently. It's useful for medium to low-light portraits (Often in combination with slow sync), but there are definitive cases where you shouldn't be using it from a moral standpoint (Street photography, against animals/pets etc). It's a nice-to-have feature but I would be surprised if anyone decided to put it on their flagship phones.

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                                    • mAW
                                    • 19 Mar 2023

                                    [deleted post]those phones without a xenon flash would have looked like garbage at night
                                    1 inch sensor phones don't need flash at all. My x90 pro+ captures more details that my own eyes in very low light without even using night mode so i see no point ruining the mood of the picture with extra light

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                                      • Anonymous
                                      • 7X9
                                      • 19 Mar 2023

                                      Pixel is still 👑

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                                        • mAW
                                        • 19 Mar 2023

                                        GregLu, 18 Mar 2023digital zooms always bee sh#t, what's new pal? Use ... moreexcept is shit only on samsung, taking 6x picture on samsung will look much worse than 7x on vivo especially indoor and low light
                                        vivo looks the same as samsung on 10x while on hybrid zoom while samsung on pure optical, this says a lot about the quality of the sensors