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Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency

Coming to market in January 2021, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s launch price puts it into the Premium ($600-$799) segment. Like its Exynos twin, it comes with a number of attractive features, including a triple-camera setup. Our team of battery experts recently put it through our DXOMARK testing protocol; what follows is a summary of the results.

Key specifications:

  • Battery capacity: 4000 mAh
  • 25W (charger not included)
  • 6.2-inch, 1080 x 2400, 120 Hz OLED display
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G (5 nm) chipset
  • Tested RAM / storage combination: 8 GB + 128 GB

About DXOMARK Battery tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone battery reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests over a week-long period both indoors and outdoors. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. (See our introductory and how we test articles for more details about our smartphone Battery protocol.)

Test summary

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 1Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 2

69

battery

Pros

  • Good efficiency both during charge up and when in use
  • Charger has very low residual power drain both during trickle charging and when phone is not connected
  • Wireless charging is convenient

Cons

  • Below-average charging speed
  • Above-average battery drain when screen is off in idle, music streaming and calls

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) racks up an above-average overall score in its segment, beating its Exynos sibling and doing largely better than the two competitor devices in this review, the Apple iPhone 12 mini and the Google Pixel 5, due primarily to better performance in our autonomy tests. The table below shows the battery capacity, charger, display type and resolution, and processor specifications for the Snapdragon version of the S21 5G and for the Apple and Google devices.

 Samsung Galaxy S21 (Snapdragon)

Apple iPhone 12 miniGoogle Pixel 5
Battery capacity (mAh)

4000

22274080
Charger

25W

20W18W
Wireless charging

15W

12W

12W

Display type, max Hz

OLEDOLED

OLED

Display resolution

1080 x 24001080 x 2340

1080 x 2340

Chipset

Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5GA14 Bionic

Qualcomm Snapdragon 765 5G

Autonomy (55)

How long a battery charge lasts depends not only on battery capacity, but also other aspects of the phone’s hardware and software. The DXOMARK Battery autonomy score is composed of three performance sub-scores: (1) Stationary, (2) On the go, and (3) Calibrated use cases. Each sub-score comprises the results of a comprehensive range of tests for measuring autonomy in all kinds of real-life scenarios.

Light Usage

71h

Light

Active: 2h30/day

Moderate Usage

50h

Moderate

Active: 4h/day

Intense Usage

31h

Intense

Active: 7h/day

Among its competitors, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) puts in a good performance, with a score that is above average for its segment, but just under the average for the entire Battery protocol database.

In terms of linearity, the battery percentage indicator on the Samsung S21 5G (Snapdragon) is very accurate and reliable.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 4

Stationary

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

57

104

Vivo Y72 5G

Best: Vivo Y72 5G (104)

A robot housed in a Faraday cage performs a set of touch-based user actions during what we call our “typical usage scenario” (TUS) — making calls, video streaming, etc. — 4 hours of active use over the course of a 16-hour period, plus 8 hours of “sleep.” The robot repeats this set of actions every day until the device runs out of power. 

In our TUS tests, the Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) lasts more than 56 hours, which is both above average for its segment and longer than its rivals, with the Apple iPhone12 mini coming in at 43 hours 22 minutes and the Google Pixel 5 lasting for 47 hours 30 minutes. However, the Samsung’s results are around four hours less than the average for all tested devices in our database.

Typical Usage Scenario discharge curves

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 5

On the go

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

55

96

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (96)

Using a smartphone on the go takes a toll on autonomy because of extra “hidden” demands, such as the continuous signaling associated with cellphone network selection, for example. DXOMARK Battery experts take the phone outside and perform a precisely defined set of activities while following the same three-hour travel itinerary for each device.

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)’s performance is very close to that of its rivals except for calling, where it did noticeably better than the Apple and Google devices (though only around the average for other devices in its price range).

Estimated autonomy for on the go use cases (full charge)

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 6

Calibrated

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

58

100

Samsung Galaxy M51

Best: Samsung Galaxy M51 (100)

For this series of tests, the smartphone returns to the Faraday cage and our robots repeatedly perform actions linked to one specific use case (such as gaming, video streaming, etc.) at a time. Starting from an 80% charge, all devices are tested until they have expended at least 5% of their battery power.

Both the Samsung and Google devices beat the Apple iPhone12 mini across the board, and while the Samsung takes the lead in 4G streaming and gaming tests, the Google Pixel 5 is ahead of the Samsung for 3G calling and video playback.

Estimated autonomy for calibrated use cases (full charge)

Charging (73)

The DXOMARK Battery charging score is composed of two sub-scores, Full charge and Quick boost. Full charge tests assess the reliability of the battery power gauge; measure how long it takes to charge a battery from 0% to 80% capacity and from 80% to 100%; and measure how long and how much power the battery takes to go from an indicated 100% to an actual full charge. With the phone at different charge levels (20%, 40%, 60%, 80%), Quick boost tests measure the amount of charge the battery receives after being plugged in for 5 minutes. 

Wired

Wired

Wireless

Wireless

Power consumption and battery level during full charge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 7

Full charge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

78

106

OnePlus 9

Best: OnePlus 9 (106)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G went from 0 to an 80% in 48 minutes 34 seconds, which is better than its rivals, but it needed more than 45 minutes to charge from 80% to full capacity. Our engineers note that its charger never reached its maximum power of 25W.

While it takes the Snapdragon version of the S21 5G one hour longer to achieve a 100% charge via wireless charging, it is still a convenient option.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 8

Quick boost

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

67

108

Oppo Reno6 5G

Best: Oppo Reno6 5G (108)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) provides more than two hours of autonomy when charged at 20%, 40%, 60%, and 80%, beating both the Apple and Google devices for longevity following a 5-minute charge. Even so, the Samsung’s performance is below average for its segment.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)Apple iPhone 12 miniGoogle Pixel 5
Autonomy boost (hh:mm)20%2:382:432:16
40%2:452:312:16
60%2:091:531:46
80%1:571:201:13
Percentage boost20%7.4 %9.5 %6.9 %
40%7.7 %8.8 %6.9 %
60%6 %6.6 %5.4 %
80%5.5 %4.7 %3.7 %
Energy consumed20%1466 mWh1205 mWh1654 mWh
40%1528 mWh1119 mWh1656 mWh
60%1195 mWh838 mWh1294 mWh
80%1088 mWh591 mWh894 mWh

Efficiency (89)

Our Efficiency score comprises two sub-scores, Charge up and Discharge. Charge up is the efficiency of a full charge (how much energy is drained from the wall outlet vs the energy capacity of the battery, as well as the efficiency of the charger and its residual consumption). Discharge is how much current the smartphone drains from the battery when in use (the ratio of battery capacity to autonomy). Better autonomy with a smaller battery means better efficiency.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 9

Charge up

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

78

84

OnePlus 9

Best: OnePlus 9 (84)

Compared to its rivals, the S21 5G (Snapdragon) charging system is well designed, providing better charge and adapter efficiency, and better management of residual power drain.

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) Battery review: Good efficiency 10

Discharge

Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon)

90

121

Apple iPhone 13

Best: Apple iPhone 13 (121)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 5G (Snapdragon) had good efficiency in all screen-on tests (gaming, video streaming, video playback), though the iPhone 12 mini is much more efficient, and can last almost as long with a much smaller 2227 mAh battery.

Conclusion

The Samsung S21 5G (Snapdragon) achieves decent autonomy overall, but it would have been nice to pair that with faster charging, which is quite common at this price range.

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Good detail in Photo and Video

Good detail in Photo and Video

The Oppo Reno6 Pro+ is the China-only top-end model in Oppo’s Reno range, featuring a 6.55-inch display with 2400 x 1080 pixels resolution and 90Hz refresh rate. It’s powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 870 chipset and comes with up to 12GB RAM and 256GB of built-in storage.  

The rear camera uses a 50 MP sensor in the primary module, and those users who want to zoom in or out have a 16 MP ultra-wide and 13 MP 2x tele lens at their disposal. There is also a dedicated macro lens, which is not covered by our test protocol. In video mode, the Oppo can record 4K footage at up to 60 frames per second.

Let’s find out how the Oppo Reno6 Pro+ performed in our DXOMARK Camera test.

Key camera specifications:

  • Primary: 50 MP 1/1.56″ Sony IMX766 sensor, 1.0µm pixels, f/1.8-aperture lens, PDAF
  • Ultra-wide: 16 MP 1/3.09″ sensor, 1.0μm pixels, 123° field-of-view, f/2.2-aperture lens
  • Tele: 13 MP 1/3.4″ sensor, 1μm pixels, f/2.4-aperture lens, 2x optical tele, PDAF
  • Macro: 2 MP 1/5.0″ sensor, 1.75μm pixels, f/2.4-aperture lens
  • Video: 4K at 60/30fps, 1080P at 60/30fps

About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 3000 test images and more than 2.5 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary

Good detail in Photo and Video 11
Oppo Reno6 Pro+

Good detail in Photo and Video 12

121

camera

Pros

  • High detail in most conditions for Photo and Video
  • Accurate and repeatable autofocus
  • Good target exposure on the ultra-wide camera, and in outdoor and indoor videos
  • Stable white balance in video
  • Autofocus is fast to react and adjust in video

Cons

  • Exposure variation in outdoor shots
  • Noise in stills and video
  • Frequent color casts in indoor and outdoor shots, often pinkish skies
  • Preview image shows lower dynamic range than capture
  • Loss of detail when using the tele camera
  • Limited dynamic range in video
  • Ineffective video stabilization when walking while recording

With a DXOMARK Camera overall score of 121 the Oppo Reno6 Pro+ makes it into the top ten of the Premium segment ($600-799). The device builds on a Photo performance that is excellent for its class (126) and still images benefit from very good texture across the ultra-wide, primary and tele modules.

Its also achieves a decent Zoom score for its class and the Video score of 108 puts the Oppo Reno6 Pro+ among the top ten for Video in the Premium segment, making it an excellent option for users who are looking for consistently decent image results across all use cases without spending Ultra Premium segment amounts of money.

Photo

Oppo Reno6 Pro+ achieves a Photo score of 126. In this section we take a closer look at each sub-attribute and compare image quality against competitors.

Good detail in Photo and Video 14

Exposure and Contrast

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (111)

In these tests we analyze target exposure, contrast, and dynamic range, along with repeatability across a series of images. Tests are undertaken in a wide range of light conditions, including backlit scenes and low light down to 1 lux. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

In outdoor shots, our testers observed very noticeable exposure variation between consecutive shots, like in these images of a backlit scene.

Good detail in Photo and Video 15

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, decent subject exposure, wide dynamic range

Good detail in Photo and Video 16
Oppo Reno6 Pro+, slightly brighter subject exposure and background
Good detail in Photo and Video 17
Oppo Reno6 Pro+, lack of dynamic range, slightly darker subjects and highlight clipping on the background
Good detail in Photo and Video 18

Color

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (107)

In these tests we analyze color rendering, skin tones, white balance, and color shading, along with repeatability across a series of images. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s color performance in an outdoor scene.

Good detail in Photo and Video 19

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, slight pink cast in outdoor conditions

Good detail in Photo and Video 20

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, slightly undersaturated color

Good detail in Photo and Video 21

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, slightly inaccurate color

Good detail in Photo and Video 22

Autofocus

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (109)

In these tests we analyze autofocus accuracy and shooting time as well as repeatability, in the lab. We test focus failures, depth of field, and tracking of moving subjects using perceptual analysis of real-life images.

This graph shows the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s autofocus performance in our benchmark lab analysis under indoor light (300 lux) handheld.

Good detail in Photo and Video 23

Autofocus comparison: Both Oppo devices are generally slow focusing in all conditions. The Xiaomi is measurably faster and also accurate.

Good detail in Photo and Video 24

Texture

Xiaomi Mi 11

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 (111)

In these tests we analyze texture on faces and objects, including objects in motion, in a range of light conditions, using several lab test setups and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s texture performance in a low light scene.

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, low light texture

Good detail in Photo and Video 26

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, crop: fine detail is well preserved

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, low light texture

Good detail in Photo and Video 28

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, crop: fine detail is well preserved

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, low light texture

Good detail in Photo and Video 30

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, crop: fine detail is well preserved

Good detail in Photo and Video 31

Noise

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (99)

In these tests we analyze noise on faces and objects, including objects in motion, in a range of light conditions, using several lab test setups and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s noise performance in a low-light setting.

Good detail in Photo and Video 32

Noise comparison: The Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s noise levels are fairly high in all conditions

Good detail in Photo and Video 33

Bokeh

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (80)

For these tests we switch to the camera’s bokeh or portrait mode and analyze depth estimation, bokeh shape, blur gradient, and repeatability, as well as all other general image quality attributes mentioned above. The score is derived from perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s bokeh simulation indoors.

Good detail in Photo and Video 34

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, noise more visible in blurred areas

Good detail in Photo and Video 35

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, noise more visible in blurred areas

Good detail in Photo and Video 36

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, similar noise levels on in-focus and blurred areas

Good detail in Photo and Video 37

Night

Huawei Mate 40 Pro+

Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ (82)

In these tests we shoot a selection of images in pitch-black darkness as well as with city lights in the background providing some illumination. We shoot sample images with the camera at default settings in both flash-auto and flash-off modes. We analyze all image quality attributes but we pay particular attention to exposure, autofocus, and color. We do not test night modes that have to be activated manually.

These samples show Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s night performance in flash-auto mode.

Good detail in Photo and Video 38

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, flash-auto: accurate subject exposure, nice skin tones

Good detail in Photo and Video 39

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, flash-auto: slight underexposure on subject

Good detail in Photo and Video 40

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, flash-auto: accurate subject exposure but unnatural skin tones

Good detail in Photo and Video 41

Artifacts

Google Pixel 4

Best: Google Pixel 4 (75)

In these tests we check images for optical artifacts such as vignetting, flare, lens softness in the corners, distortion, and chromatic aberrations, as well as for processing artifacts such as ghosting and fusion errors, hue shift, and ringing.

This sample shows fusion artifacts in a backlit scene.

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, high-contrast scene

Good detail in Photo and Video 43

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, crop: fusion artifacts

Good detail in Photo and Video 44

Preview

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (80)

In these tests we analyze the image quality of the preview image and the differences between preview images and captured images, particularly in terms of exposure, dynamic range, and bokeh effect. We also check the smoothness of the field-of-view changes in the preview image when zooming with both buttons or when using the pinch-zoom gesture.

These samples compare accuracy between the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s preview and final capture in a high contrast indoor scene.

Good detail in Photo and Video 45

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, preview: highlight clipping

Good detail in Photo and Video 46

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, capture: noticeably better than preview image

Zoom

Oppo Reno6 Pro+ achieves a Zoom score of 64. The Zoom score includes the tele and wide sub-scores. In this section, we take a closer look at how these sub-scores were achieved and compare zoom image quality against the competitors.

Good detail in Photo and Video 47

Wide

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (57)

In these tests, we analyze the performance of the ultra-wide camera at several focal lengths from 12 mm to 20 mm. We look at all image quality attributes, but we pay particular attention to such artifacts as chromatic aberrations, lens softness, and distortion.

These samples show the performance of the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s ultra-wide camera in an indoor setting.

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, ultra-wide

Good detail in Photo and Video 49

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, crop: good dynamic range but strong noise

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, ultra-wide

Good detail in Photo and Video 51

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, crop: more limited dynamic range but lower noise

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, ultra-wide

Good detail in Photo and Video 53

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, crop: limited dynamic range and strong noise

Good detail in Photo and Video 54

Tele

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (140)

In these tests we analyze all image quality attributes at focal lengths from approximately 40 to 300 mm, paying particular attention to texture and detail. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

This shows the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s average resolution scores in our benchmark lab analysis using a medium-range zoom setting under different lighting conditions.

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, long range tele

Good detail in Photo and Video 56

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, crop: low level of detail

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, long range tele

Good detail in Photo and Video 58

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, better detail

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, long range tele

Good detail in Photo and Video 60

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, low level of detail

Video

In our Video tests we analyze the same image quality attributes as for still images, such as exposure, color, texture, and noise, but we also include such temporal aspects as speed, smoothness and stability of exposure, white balance, and autofocus transitions.

NOTE: The sample video clips in this section are best viewed at the highest resolution available. 

Oppo Reno6 Pro+ achieves a Video score of 108. A device’s overall Video score is derived from its performance and results across a range of attributes in the same way as the Photo score. In this section, we take a closer look at these sub-scores and compare video image quality against competitors.

Good detail in Photo and Video 14

Exposure and Contrast

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (118)

These video stills show the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s video exposure performance in daylight.

Good detail in Photo and Video 62

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, video still:  limited dynamic range

Good detail in Photo and Video 63

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, video still: limited dynamic range

Good detail in Photo and Video 64

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, video still: slightly limited dynamic range

Good detail in Photo and Video 18

Color

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (105)

These video stills show the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s video color in an outdoor scene.

Good detail in Photo and Video 66

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, video still: accurate skin tones

Good detail in Photo and Video 67

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, video still: slightly unnatural skin tones

Good detail in Photo and Video 68

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, video still: slightly unnatural skin tones

Good detail in Photo and Video 22

Autofocus

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (109)

This sample clip shows the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s video autofocus performance in an indoor scene.

Slight refocuses and focusing errors are visible on the Oppo Reno6 Pro+ in low or challenging lighting conditions.

Good detail in Photo and Video 24

Texture

These video stills show the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s video texture performance under indoor lighting conditions.

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, video still, texture

Good detail in Photo and Video 72

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, crop: good texture

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, video still, texture

Good detail in Photo and Video 74

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, crop: slightly low level of detail

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, video still, texture (1080p)

Good detail in Photo and Video 76

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, low level of detail

Good detail in Photo and Video 31

Noise

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (105)

This graph shows the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s video noise performance in the lab.

Good detail in Photo and Video 78

Video noise comparison: the Reno6 Pro+ 5G’s noise levels are higher than the comparison devices

Good detail in Photo and Video 41

Artifacts

Oppo Find X2 Pro

Best: Oppo Find X2 Pro (94)

For video artifacts, we check for the same kinds of artifacts mentioned in the Photo section, along with such video-specific artifacts as frame rate variation in different light conditions, judder effect, and moving artifacts (artifacts such as aliasing, color quantization, and flare can often be more intrusive when moving than in a still image).

This video still shows a hue shift around clipped areas.

Good detail in Photo and Video 82

Stabilization

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (102)

In these tests we analyze residual motion when handholding the camera during recording, as well as when walking and running with the camera. We also look for stabilization artifacts such as jello effect, sharpness differences between frames, and frame shift (abrupt changes of framing).

These sample clips show the Oppo Reno6 Pro+’s video stabilization performance in daylight.

Oppo Reno6 Pro+, residual motion

Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro, less residual motion

Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, strong residual motion

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Is This Affordable 35mm Lens a Good Option for Astrophotography?

Is This Affordable 35mm Lens a Good Option for Astrophotography?

Astrophotography has some specific and often more demanding requirements when it comes to lenses, and as such, it takes careful evaluation of potential options to know which is right for your work. For astrophotographers on a budget, there is the Viltrox 35mm f/1.8 AF, and this great video review takes a look at the sort of image quality and performance you can expect from it in practice. 

Coming to you from Milky Way Mike, this great video review takes a look at the Viltrox 35mm f/1.8 AF lens, with a specific eye toward astrophotography. Even though the 35mm f/1.8 AF is quite affordable, it still comes with a range of useful features, including: 

  • 10 elements in eight groups
  • Two extra-low dispersion elements and two high-transparency elements for reduced chromatic aberrations and increased clarity and color accuracy
  • Two aspherical elements for reduced spherical aberrations and distortion and increased sharpness
  • HD nano multi-layer coating for reduced flares and ghosting and increased contrast and color fidelity
  • STM stepping motor for quick and quiet autofocus 
  • Full-time manual focus override
  • Nine-blade diaphragm for smoother bokeh
  • Integrated micro-USB port for firmware updates

Check out the video above for the full rundown on the lens. 

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Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value

Available in March 2021, the Oppo Find X3 Lite is the most economical of the three devices in Oppo’s Find X3 line, but still packs in some attractive features, including a multi-cam setup with a 64 MP main camera. Let’s find out how well its display performed in our protocol tests.

Key display specifications:

  • OLED screen
  • Size: 6. inches
  • Dimensions: 159.1 x 73.4 x 7.9 mm (6.26 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches)
  • Resolution: x pixels
  • Aspect ratio: 20:9, 410 ppi
  • Refresh rate: 90 Hz

About DXOMARK Display tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone and other display reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective and perceptual tests under controlled lab and real-life conditions. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. Note that we evaluate display attributes using only the device’s built-in display hardware and its still image (gallery) and video apps at their default settings. (For in-depth information about how we evaluate smartphone and other displays, check out our articles, “How DXOMARK tests display quality” and “A closer look at DXOMARK Display testing.”)

Test summary

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 83Oppo Find X3 Lite

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 84

79

display

Pros

  • Colors are quite faithful in indoor and low-light conditions.
  • Brightness levels are well adapted to indoor and low-light conditions.
  • Touch is accurate

Cons

  • Video contrast rendering is too high and makes watching HDR10 videos unpleasant.
  • Colors, especially skin tones, are altered in bright outdoor conditions.
  • Very frequent frame drops are visible when watching 60 fps videos.

An overall score of 79 places the Oppo Find X3 Lite in the bottom half of our Display protocol database. Except for color, where the device scored quite well, and video, where the device put in a sub-par performance for all of the category’s sub-attributes (brightness, contrast, color, etc.), the Find X3 Lite’s other scores hovered right around or just below average.

Analyses and comparisons

The DXOMARK Display overall score of 79 for the Oppo Find X3 Lite is derived from its scores across six categories: readability, color, video, motion, touch, and artifacts. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at these display quality sub-scores and explain what they mean for the user, and we will compare the Oppo Find X3 Lite’s performance in several areas against three key competitors, the Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), and the Google Pixel 5.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 86

Readability

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (76)

DXOMARK uses the device’s gallery app to show static (still image) content when measuring the device’s display for brightness, contrast, gamma, and blue light impact, etc.

In daytime in low-light environments, the Oppo Find X3 Lite display is slightly dazzling. During the night, its brightness is appropriate, albeit at the lower limits.

Brightness vs Contrast comparison (0 Lux)

Brightness vs Contrast comparison (30 000 Lux)

Overall readability on the Oppo Find X3 Lite was generally good indoors.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 87

Readability in indoor conditions, from left to right: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

The Find X3 Lite is a bit slow when reacting to falling light, and its outdoor image enhancement is unstable in shady conditions.

The device loses brightness and contrast when viewed on angle, but it is still readable.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 88

Brightness on axis, from left to right: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 89

Brightness on angle, from left to right: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

The Find X3 Lite has good brightness uniformity.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 90

Brightness uniformity, from left to right: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

When the blue light filter (BLF) turns on, the Find X3 Lite’s brightness diminishes a bit too much, degrading the readability.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 91

Color

TCL 20 Pro 5G

Best: TCL 20 Pro 5G (89)

DXOMARK uses the device’s gallery app to show static (still image) content when measuring the device’s display for white point, gamut, uniformity, color fidelity, and blue light filter impact, etc. 

The Oppo Find X3 Lite does not adapt its white point to ambient lighting.

A slight greenish cast is noticeable on most content, and colors can be slightly undersaturated.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 92

Color rendering indoors, from left to right: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

In outdoor conditions, a greenish cast is visible.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 93

Color rendering under sunlight, from left to right: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Of greater consequence to viewing quality is that the Find X3 Lite’s image enhancement algorithm can alter skin tones under bright sunlight, as shown below:

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 94

Skin tone rendering under sunlight, from left to right: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

The charts below show the Oppo Find X3 Lite’s color reproduction fidelity in pitch darkness (0 lux) and under 1000 lux lighting in the standard sRGB color space. The center of each circle is the target color; anything outside the circle represents a noticeable color difference. The further the tip of the arrow is outside of the circle, the more a user will notice the difference between the color on the display and the original color of the source material.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 95

Oppo Find X3 Lite, color fidelity in the sRGB color space at 0 lux

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 96

Oppo Find X3 Lite, color fidelity in the sRGB color space at 1000 lux

Some orange and blue color stripes are visible when viewing the device in angle.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 97

Oppo Find X3 Lite, white point on angle

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 98

Oppo Find X3 Lite, scatter, white point on angle

The Find X3 Lite is uniform in color. When BLF turns on, the device shifts to a noticeable orange cast.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 99

Video

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos)

Best: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) (90)

DXOMARK uses the device’s video (or browser) app to show dynamic content when measuring the device’s display for brightness, contrast, gamma, and color. 

The Oppo Find X3 Lite’s brightness is somewhat low when watching HDR10 content. More significantly, its contrast is too high and leads to unnatural rendering of some contents. Further, dark details are missing when watching HDR10 content.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 100

Video contrast, clockwise from top left: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Some colors in HDR10 video content look unnatural on the Find X3 Lite. Colors are a bit oversaturated generally and a slight orange cast is noticeable, particularly on skin tones.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 101

Video color, skin tones, clockwise from top left: Oppo Find X3 Lite, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra (Exynos), Google Pixel 5, Oppo Reno5 Pro+ 5G

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 102

Motion

Huawei P40 Pro

Best: Huawei P40 Pro (87)

The Oppo Find X3 Lite shows frequent frame drops at 30 fps, and very frequent frame drops at 60 fps in lab tests, but our engineers observed no frame drops while playing video games.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 103

Oppo Find X3 Lite, frame drops at 30 fps

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 104

Oppo Find X3 Lite, frame drops at 60 fps

The device appears sharp. When played back, the device pauses before resuming the video, and some jerkiness occurs when playing back content at 60 fps.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 105

Touch

OnePlus 9 Pro

Best: OnePlus 9 Pro (83)

Despite a capped zoom, the Oppo device has decent accuracy in the gallery app, and touch accuracy provides a satisfying experience.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 106

Oppo Find X3 Lite, touch accuracy

The device is quite smooth when browsing and in the gallery app; however, the Find X3 Lite strongly lacks smoothness when gaming.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 107

Artifacts

Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max (86)

The Oppo Find X3 Lite did not fare very well in its control of artifacts. While it only rarely responds to ghost touches, judder is an issue. At 24 and 30 fps, it is noticeable but not intrusive, but at 60 fps, it is visible.

Aliasing is also noticeable when gaming, as illustrated below.

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 108

Oppo Find X3 Lite, aliasing

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 109

Oppo Find X3 Lite, aliasing

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Oppo Find X3 Lite Display review: Good value 110

Oppo Find X3 Lite, aliasing

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Conclusion

The Oppo Find X3 Lite put in a somewhat underwhelming showing in our Display protocol tests. However, its still image (gallery app) color rendering is a plus, as is its good overall touch accuracy and its smoothness when browsing and scrolling.

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What Makes a Good Bird Photo?

What Makes a Good Bird Photo?

Bird photography is a popular genre that can be undertaken in a variety of different ways, with each style presenting its own challenges. Nonetheless, there are common elements in what makes a successful bird photo, and this excellent video features two seasoned pros discussing seven important aspects of every compelling image. 

Coming to you from Jan Wegener and Glenn Bartley, this awesome video discusses seven elements of a successful bird image. Of them, I think one of the most fundamental is simply getting the bird sharp. Because of the environments and settings involved, you will often have to bump up the ISO a bit, and this often leads to the temptation to push the shutter speed lower to avoid introducing noise from those higher ISOs. While using the lowest ISO possible is certainly desirable, if you push the shutter speed too low, you risk blurring either from the subject moving or from your hands shaking (especially with longer focal lengths). You can always do things in post to reduce noise, but once a photo is blurry due to camera shake or subject blur, there is not much you can do to save it. Check out the video above for the full rundown. 

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Nice skin tones, good exposure

Nice skin tones, good exposure

The iPhone 13 shares most specs, including front and rear camera setups, with the slightly smaller iPhone 13 mini. Images can be viewed on a 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR display and Apple’s mobile OS is powered by its in-house A15 chipset. Images and video can be saved to up to 512GB of built-in storage.

The front camera hardware for selfie capture is the same across all iPhone 13 models, featuring a 12 MP sensor coupled to a f/2.2-aperture lens with a 23mm equivalent focal length. Let’s see how the iPhone 13 does in our DXOMARK Selfie test.

Key front camera specifications:

  • 12 MP 1/3.6″ sensor, 23 mm equivalent f/2.2-aperture lens
  • 3D sensor
  • Cinematic mode for recording videos with shallow depth of field (1080p at 30 fps)
  • HDR video recording with Dolby Vision up to 4K at 60 fps; 4K video recording at 24/ 25/ 30/ 60 fps; 1080p HD video recording at 25 fps, 30 fps, or 60 fps

About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 3000 test images and more than 2.5 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary

Nice skin tones, good exposure 111
Apple iPhone 13

Nice skin tones, good exposure 112

99

selfie

Pros

  • Accurate target exposure on face
  • Wide depth of field
  • High level of detail in indoor and outdoor conditions
  • Quite accurate depth estimation
  • Wide dynamic range and accurate target exposure in video
  • Accurate video white balance
  • Wide focus range means all subjects are in focus in group  video selfies.

Cons

  • Luminance noise
  • Occasionally inaccurate skin tones, especially in backlit indoor scenes
  • Slight anamorphosis artifacts (perspective distortion on faces)
  • Low subject exposure when using the flash
  • High noise levels in video, especially in low light
  • Residual motion in walking videos
  • Loss of detail in low light videos

With all iPhone 13 series devices sharing the same front camera specs and processor, it would be fair to assume the Apple iPhone 13 Selfie results are very close to those of the iPhone 13 Pro. We have confirmed this by putting the Apple iPhone 13 through the complete DXOMARK Selfie test protocol.

In this outdoor comparison, you can see that the two cameras produce virtually identical image results.

Apple iPhone 13, outdoor selfie

Nice skin tones, good exposure 115

Apple iPhone 13, crop: accurate color rendering and face exposure, good detail

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, outdoor selfie

Nice skin tones, good exposure 117

Apple iPhone 13 Pro, very similar result to the iPhone 13

Like the iPhone 13 Pro, the iPhone 13 achieves an overall Selfie score of 99, a Photo score of 102 and a Video score of 95. Given the identical scores and very similar image results, we are posting only this short article for the Apple iPhone 13. For the full set of sample images and measurements, as well as a complete analysis, please click on the link below and read the full Selfie review of the Apple iPhone 13 Pro.

Go to the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Selfie review

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Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards

Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards

October 8, 2021

Where is the best place to buy a camera, lens or accessory? Who can provide you with the right information, the right products and at a good price?


AP’s Good Service Awards aim to answer these questions by presenting photography retailers who go the extra mile with a well-deserved and highly coveted accolade. From this you can work out where to shop for your equipment and be confident that you will be treated as a valued customer.

Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards 118

Whether it’s informative buying advice or, in the case of online retailers, swift delivery and equally swift action if things go wrong, good service is a precious commodity that should be shouted from the rooftops.

After all, when you’re spending good money on a camera or any item of photographic equipment, the service you receive is as important as the price you pay.

A more human approach
One of the best things about buying from a specialist retailer, rather than a massive, anonymous online shopping site, is that you can also get expert advice. With so many cameras and lenses to choose from, they are able to point you in the right direction, potentially saving you a lot of money and time.

Many retailers offer a repair service, or sell a wide range of carefully checked second-hand gear, too.

So if you have been particularly impressed by the service you have received from a retailer, now is the time to tell us about it. As well as rewarding retailers for their excellent service, you will also be helping other AP readers looking to buy a new camera, lens or accessory, or needing specialist advice.

Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards 119

Using the link below, tell us about your nomination – the process is secure, and it won’t take more than a couple of minutes. The closing date is 17/01/22 and we look forward to getting your nominations. The retailer who gets the most votes will be presented with the awards at our wider annual awards ceremony (details to be confirmed).


Vote for your favourite retailer in our Good Service Awards 120

Terms and Conditions
Only one entry per person. Valid to UK retailers only

Retailers must receive a minimum of 50 entries to receive a Good Service Award.

The retailer with the most votes will receive our Platinum Award.

Nominations close at 5pm, 17th January 2022


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Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes

Launched in May 2021, the Asus Zenfone 8 is one of the currently most compact flagship-level smartphones. But don’t let the small package fool you: the Asus comes with top-end hardware, including a 5.9-inch Super AMOLED display with 1080 x 2400-pixel resolution and 120 Hz refresh rate, as well as Qualcomm’s top-of-the-line 888 chipset.

In the audio department, Asus claims its Zenfone 8 is nothing short of a “treat for your ears” with higher volume, wider dynamic range, deeper bass and super tonal balance (but we won’t know higher, wider and deeper than what). On the recording side of things, videos benefit from a wind filter and an audio zoom algorithm (called Acoustic Focus Mode by Asus). And last but not least, despite its compact design, the latest Zenfone brings the 3.5 mm audio jack back from the dead!

Key audio specifications include:

  • Two speakers (bottom right and top center)
  • Audio zoom
  • Wind filter
  • Hi-Res Audio

About DXOMARK Audio tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone audio reviews, DXOMARK engineers perform a variety of objective tests and undertake more than 20 hours of perceptual evaluation under controlled lab conditions. This article highlights the most important results of our testing. Note that we evaluate both Playback and Recording using only the device’s built-in hardware and default apps.
(For more details about our Playback protocol,

click here; for more details about our Recording protocol, click here.)

Test summary

Playback

Cons

  • Loss of control in bass distortion as content reaches too low
  • Impaired bass precision
  • Lack of clarity and brightness.
  • Compression at high volume.

Recording

Pros

  • Good tonal balance overall in life videos
  • Good spatial performance in life videos

Cons

  • Muffled Tonal Balance is Selfie Video and and in Meeting use case
  • Strong compression that affects intelligibility of voices in In/Out scenario
  • Volume changes not so subtly in reaction to loud noises. For a constant loud noise in the background, loudness decreases progressively

With a global Audio score of 66, the Zenfone 8 secures a midpack position among all the phones we’ve tested to date. Playback is characterized by a warm and colorful timbre, a wide stereo scene rendition, and punchy dynamics which makes it suitable for playing games. The speakers are particularly skilled at softer volumes, which allow dynamic contents to remain perfectly intelligible. However, uncontrolled bass, a lack of brightness and too many artifacts take the phone out of the running if what you’re looking for is a device to listen to music with or watch movies on.

As a recording device, while the Zenfone 8 doesn’t excel in any use case, it nonetheless manages to keep its head — and its microphones — above the water in every use case. Its strengths are a balanced frequency response and good spatial attributes in life videos, along with appreciable loudness and dynamics across every use case. That all said, tonal balance is muffled in selfie videos and meeting recordings, spatial results are middling, and artifacts — both spectral and temporal — are poorly managed.

Sub-scores explained

The DXOMARK Audio overall score of 66 for the Asus Zenfone 8 is derived from its Playback and Recording scores and their respective sub-scores. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at these audio quality sub-scores and explain what they mean for the user.

Playback

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 121

Timbre

Black Shark 4 Pro

Best: Black Shark 4 Pro (82)

Timbre tests measure how well a phone reproduces sound across the audible tonal range and takes into account bass, midrange, treble, tonal balance, and volume dependency.

The Zenfone 8 delivers a pleasant timbre, warm, colorful, with very good midrange and satisfying bass restitution at nominal level.

The timbre’s main limitations are at both ends of the spectrum. While a deeper extension and a more discreet distortion would have done low-end much good, treble is somewhat dull, and lacks brightness. This darker tonal balance is not too problematic at nominal level, however, it intensifies as volume increases. Upper midrange is also slightly lacking, which can occasionally make for a muddy or blurry rendering.

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 122

Dynamics

Black Shark 4 Pro

Best: Black Shark 4 Pro (81)

DXOMARK’s dynamics tests measure how well a device reproduces the energy level of a sound source, and how precisely it reproduces bass frequencies.

Dynamic attributes are particularly heterogeneous. Attack is mostly sharp, securing well-defined transients, but can in some cases be somewhat hindered by muddiness in the timbre, or compression at high volume. Punch is very good most of the time, substantiated by well-established power in the low-midrange register. Relatively unmoved by the dynamic compression, it remains strong regardless of the speakers’ volume.

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 123
Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 124

Bass precision, on the other hand, is quite inconsistent. Internal audio processing renders the bass envelope inaccurate most of the time, with either a sustain that sounds unusually exaggerated by distortion, or predominant attack.

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 125

Spatial

Black Shark 4 Pro

Best: Black Shark 4 Pro (82)

The sub-attributes for perceptual spatial tests include localizability, balance, distance, and wideness.

The Zenfone 8’s speakers turn in an honorable performance overall in terms of spatial reproduction: the stereo field is fairly wide, localizability of the sources within the field is above average, and distance perception, albeit slightly impaired by the lack of upper midrange, is still decent.

Note that, as in many other devices, the stereo field doesn’t follow the device’s orientation in inverted landscape when using the music app. Finally, balance is marginally skewed to the right, but nothing too problematic.

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 126

Volume

Black Shark 4 Pro

Best: Black Shark 4 Pro (79)

Volume tests measure both the overall loudness a device is able to reproduce and how smoothly volume increases and decreases based on user input.

Minimum volume is very well tuned, allowing dynamic content (such as movies or classical music) to remain fully intelligible, and the distribution of volume steps from softest to loudest level is rather consistent. That said, the speakers’ maximum volume if a bit below average, besides being affected by compression.

Here are a few sound pressure levels (SPL) measured when playing our sample recordings of hip-hop and classical music at maximum volume:

Hip-HopClassical
Asus Zenfone 868.1 dBA66.7 dBA
OnePlus 975.9 dBA72.4 dBA
Google Pixel 575.2 dBA72.4 dBA

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 127

Artifacts

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G

Best: Samsung Galaxy A52 5G (96)

Artifacts tests measure how much source audio is distorted when played back through a device’s speakers.

Distortion can occur both because of sound processing in the device and because of the quality of the speakers.

With an artifacts sub-score of 80 in playback, the Zenfone 8 is one of the least skilled devices we’ve tested to date when it comes to keeping undesirable sounds to a minimum.

While playback is mostly clean at nominal level, higher volumes trigger not only distortion, but also compression, and even pumping. Bass distortion remain fairly discreet on average but get significantly stronger when low-end content is prominent, resulting in severe resonance-like artifacts in the lower register.

Recording

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 121

Timbre

Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders

Best: Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders (88)

Life videos benefit from a fairly balanced frequency response with sufficient treble strength and clean midrange. Bass can be a bit too prominent though, which can make the overall result sound slightly boomy.

In selfie videos, memos and meeting configurations, in addition to the prominent bass, a lack of high-end extension generates a fairly muffled sound, whereas when recording in loud environments, both high- and low-end are recessed.

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 122

Dynamics

OnePlus 8

Best: OnePlus 8 (78)

In terms of dynamics preservation in recorded audio, meeting recordings fare best, closely followed by selfie, then life videos.

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 130
Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 131

While the signal-to-noise ratio is on target in life and selfie videos, it is at its best in memos. As for the sound envelope, it is particularly precise in videos, and in meetings. 

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 125

Spatial

Black Shark 4 Pro

Best: Black Shark 4 Pro (78)

The Zenfone 8 turns in an average performance in this category. The phone’s timbre performance in recording is mirrored in the spatial domain: while localizability is precise in life videos, it is rendered blurry in selfie videos by the lack of brilliance. Wideness, which is good in the former use case, is also limited in the latter. Since the human ear uses higher frequencies to track movements and assess a space, it is only logical that these two attributes would be impacted by a lack of treble. Further, in meetings, voices seem distant.

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 126

Volume

Xiaomi Mi 10S

Best: Xiaomi Mi 10S (89)

The phone’s volume performance is fairly good, with an average maximum level reachable without perceivable distortion, but good loudness across all use cases. Here are our test results, measured in LUFS (Loudness Unit Full Scale); as a reference, we expect loudness levels to be above -24 LUFS for recorded content:

MeetingLife VideoSelfie VideoMemo
Asus Zenfone 8-20.4 LUFS-20.1 LUFS-18.1 LUFS-18.5 LUFS
OnePlus 9-29.5 LUFS-20.6 LUFS-19.4 LUFS-19.4 LUFS
Google Pixel 5-28.8 LUFS-20 LUFS-19 LUFS-22.8 LUFS

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 127

Artifacts

Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders

Best: Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders (90)

Asus’s latest compact phone does a below-average job of controlling sonic artifacts in recorded audio. In urban and home scenarios, shouting voices can trigger slight clipping. In selfie videos, unintended changes in volume occur. In loud environments, such as concerts, harsh clipping is noticeable on sibilants. In both indoor and outdoor real-life scenarios, our engineers observed a gradual volume decrease, which makes voices become less intelligible and more distorted. Finally, the noise-canceling algorithm can induce severe alterations in timbre. You can check for artifacts yourself in the following sample recording, made in a controlled environment:

Asus Zenfone 8 Audio review: Good at softer volumes 135

Background

Apple iPhone XS Max

Best: Apple iPhone XS Max (58)

Considering the microphones’ timbre, spatial and artifacts results, background recordings are not of the highest quality. In life and selfie videos, the excess of bass makes the background sound boomy, and unnatural. In real-life scenarios, heavy compression springs into action.

Conclusion

Asus’s “big on performance, compact in size” phone isn’t that big on audio performance: If you’re looking for a masterful audio phone in the same price range, other models, such as the Black Shark 4 Pro, would make a far better choice.  If its non-audio features are your priority, know that the Zenfone 8’s speakers deliver decent in-game audio and good playback at softer volumes, along with fairly good sound attributes in videos filmed with the rear cameras.

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Are Good Photos by Horrible People Worthy of Your Attention?

Are Good Photos by Horrible People Worthy of Your Attention?

Perhaps one of the biggest moral debates I have with myself is when I look at the good work of “bad” photographers — work that has a life of its own and work that has become culturally significant. Yet, that work has a dark side to it: the creator. Is it possible to look at photographs without ever thinking about the photographer behind them? 

It all starts with my industry: fashion. The fashion industry is notorious for various scandals surrounding sexism and exploitation. Many major fashion photographers have played central roles in such scandals. That led some to lose jobs, burning bridges with big clients, and losing all credibility. I will refrain from mentioning any 21st-century cases in this original, as I believe they are too recent to be considered when answering a question like this. If you are interested in learning more, feel free to look up the cases yourself and offer your point of view in the comments. 

Are Good Photos by Horrible People Worthy of Your Attention? 136

There are two main camps when it comes to how art and artist are related. Some believe that art and artist are inseparable while others agree that art has a life of its own and in a way, it doesn’t matter who made it. There are valid arguments on both sides, so let’s dive in. 

Art Is a Personal Adventure for the Artist

In simplest terms, art is an expression of a point of view. It expresses the point of view of the artist. A lot of art is personal, and that naturally has deep connections that go right back to the person who created it: the artists. Each artist, photographer, painter is unique in their being, and that is seen through their art. An artist’s unique perspective of the world can be communicated through their art. For example, as a fashion photographer, I choose to photograph a specific style of clothes. While I don’t exclusively photograph it, a lot of my work is indeed centered around what I personally like. Another aspect of this is a drama that is ever so prevalent in my images. It may be expressed through color, posing, or something else. One of my favorite pieces of music: Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto is also dramatic, one of my favorite artists: Hopper is also dramatic. Therefore, my work is a portrayal of who I am. I won’t go further into analyzing my work, as I find it incredibly pretentious. Feel free to check out my website and make sense of it yourself. 

Are Good Photos by Horrible People Worthy of Your Attention? 137

In general, as photographers, the style we work in should ideally be what we love. If we love the subject matter, the images will look great. For example, because I love bikes, I can take a nice bike image. Further, I spend all day looking at fashion, and I photograph fashion because I am madly in love with the genre. 

The intention is important too. The personal part about photography and art, in general, can also be healing to the artist. Very few artists create art for others; most create it for themselves. This may lead to art becoming the artist’s baby, and some of the art can’t be understood without reading into the artist’s life. However, is that great art? 

Suppose Art Can Be Separated, but Should It?

According to Rankin, great photographs make you think and feel something. Therefore, art should stand on its own merits if it is ever to inspire thinking. The audience should not spend time being a biographer or research the artist’s life to death in order to benefit from the work. Don’t get me wrong, the artist’s background can be fascinating and enhance the viewer’s experience. The key is to enhance. 

Are Good Photos by Horrible People Worthy of Your Attention? 138

As much as art is a personal experience for the artist, it is also a personal experience for the audience. Individual interpretation comes from thinking and feeling. It is up to the audience to think and feel with the art. In this regard, art is separable from the artist. It is actually a great exercise trying to perceive art without any other context. The interpretation you come up with will be unique and won’t be influenced by previous opinions and points of view. 

However, still, I believe that art and artist are inseparable. What would Mozart’s Requiem be without the context of his death shortly after completion? What would Platon’s photography be without the context of him being fascinated by people, yet dyslexic? Platon’s personal life influenced his work. His portraits are stripped of everything that is unimportant; they put the subject in the center. That subject is the heart, soul, and body of the image.  

Are Good Photos by Horrible People Worthy of Your Attention? 139

Having established that art can’t be separated from the artist and that knowing about the artist enhances the experience of the art, let’s consider the following case. While admiring the art, you despise the artist’s actions. Should you, in this case, separate the art from the artist in order to perceive the work on its own merits? 

I don’t think so. 

As humans, we are all flawed, and understanding each other’s flaws is key to being able to objectively evaluate the actions of that person. Flawed artists can still produce great work; the background of the artist doesn’t make their work bad. The background of the artist just adds a new layer of meaning to what they created. Being a strong believer in no judgment, I try to simply be grateful for the awareness that is created by art, as well as the artist. When perceiving art, try to seek the awareness it creates about your own reality, not the judgment you put on art and the artist. By looking for awareness you utilize the energy in the art, yet by judging art on any merit, you destroy whatever meaning there is. 

Are Good Photos by Horrible People Worthy of Your Attention? 140

Closing Thoughts

Can we separate art from the artist? The question does not have a definitive answer. Separating art from the artist is only a small fraction of how we perceive it. In my opinion, perceiving art is most creative for your life when you seek the awareness that artwork created for you. This awareness may be about a humanitarian crisis, or it may be about oppression of women, it may also be about pollution. The topic is up to you to choose. The artist is an integral part of the artwork, and they put their own energy into what they create; the presence of that energy can’t be ignored. Instead, it needs to be acknowledged for the awareness it creates around understanding the ultimate message behind the artwork, a message each one of us sees differently and applies differently to our existence.  

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Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest

I recently brought the new iPhone 13 Pro to historic Savannah, Georgia, to shoot an entire new episode of my YouTube Photowalks travel photography series.

I left the drone in the bag, didn’t mount the GoPro to the car as I always do for driving and wide-angle shots, ditched my Sony mirrorless Alpha 7 III and beautiful 24-70mm 2.8 glass for interviews, and instead shot every frame of the 25-minute episode on a cellphone.

Why? Because I wanted to see if the 13 Pro was everything Apple it cracked up to be.

How did it go? Well, I’m very impressed — in love actually — with one key feature, and that one is all about video.

Impressions of the Main New Features

Cinematic Mode, which blurs the background of vidoes like Portrait Mode does for stills, is the star attraction of the four iPhone 13 models from the Mini to the Pro Max and it’s arguably even more impressive in action than in Apple’s hype-filled demos. But there are some drawbacks. More on that in a bit.

Macro photography makes an appearance on the new iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, and this is another welcome addition. I don’t have a lot of use for macro, but there are many photographers who do — including eye doctors. Still, it’s fun to get in real tight to a subject and watch the macro kick in. Plus, even if you don’t shoot bugs and the like, you can get some crazy shots of your cat this way.

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 141

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 142

The new telephoto lens on the Pro models expands to 77mm from the previous 65mm, but the extra throw in practice feels pretty minor. It’s hard to see a massive difference here, even though I did welcome some close-ups of buildings from down on the ground that were tighter than I got on the 12 Pro.

Apple promises super-improved low light performance, especially for the ultra-wide angle lens (“92% more light,” claims Apple.) But I didn’t see it. Some situations still looked very grainy and unusable to me.

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 143

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 144

Below are a few other photo examples:

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 145

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 146

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 147

Rack focus for video is another feature highly touted by Apple for the new phone, and it’s pretty incredible. You focus on one subject, move the camera and it quickly refocused on the new subject. When it works, it’s terrific. I had several instances where it didn’t, however, as the camera hunted for focus, but that’s okay. I was making a movie on a cellphone, for crying out loud. Who expected anything to look this awesome?

Limitations of the iPhone 13 Cinematic Mode

This brings me back to Cinematic Mode. It’s very similar to Portrait Mode in that when it’s good, it’s amazing, and that was about 99% of the time.

That said, I don’t think many people realize that you can’t shoot in 4K in Cinematic Mode. It’s 1080p only, at least for now. Regular video is still available in 4K, in a variety of frame rates, though.

Another thing most might not know is that of the heavily hyped three lenses of the iPhone 13, –ultra-wide 13mm, wide 26mm, and 77mm telephoto — only the wide is available for Cinematic Mode.

How to Import and Edit iPhone 13 Cinematic Mode Video

Let me save you from several unwelcome Apple heartaches when it comes to editing. Let’s say you shoot the nice blurry background, you look at it on the iPhone, and are so happy with yourself for shooting this way because it looks incredible.

Then you import the footage to your computer and… huh? What happened to the blur? It’s gone. Instead, it looks like you shot the scene at f/16: as flat as a pancake.

If this is you, I have two immediate fixes for you.

Apple doesn’t tell you that you need to click on a special transfer setting to alleviate this problem, so allow me.

I use AirDrop to send all my files from the phone to the Mac. When transferring this way, click “Options” at the top of the screen. Then make sure that “All Photos Data” is clicked. This ensures that your clips will be sent in “original quality.”

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 148

If you forgot to do this, there’s another workaround. Select the clip in the Photos app, and click “edit.” Here is where you get to adjust the amount of blur the artificial intelligence add to your video. By default, it’s listed as a computerized f/2.8. Change it to f/2.0, save the file, AirDrop it, and see in full background blur on your Mac.

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 149

Shot on iPhone 13 Pro: Enjoying the Good, Navigating the Rest 150

Another issue to look out for, and while it’s not exactly new, could stop you in your tracks. Since the iPhone 12 Pro models, Apple has offered the ability to shoot video in HDR Dolby Vision, which is touted as “10-bit high dynamic range” with richer colors. If you select this feature, your Cinematic Mode can go full HDR for you, even if shot at 1080p.

But when you import the footage into Final Cut, it looks massively over-exposed and in a word, awful. And this could have been just me, but I couldn’t even import the Dolby Vision footage into an alternative editor, Adobe Premiere Pro.

So back to Final Cut, and your saves:

In your Effects Browser, search for the HDR Tools filter, and apply it to your clip. Then in the Inspector, you’ll see an HDR drop-down at the top of the screen. Switch to HLG 709 SDR from HDR 709 and your clip will look normal again.

You can save yourself a lot of hassle by just turning off Dolby Vision in the “Record Video,” formats section in your iPhone Settings. I personally don’t think it’s worth it to shoot this way yet.

Do I Really Need to Upgrade?

Those headaches out of the way, back to the main question so many photographers have been asking: I just bought an iPhone 12 last year, or my iPhone 11 is fine, do I really need to upgrade?

If you shoot video, whether professionally, or just to strut your wares on social media, it’s a no-brainer. The Cinematic Mode looks that great and I’d upgrade to the 13 Pro in a second for this.

The other features… not so much. If you want a better zoom than the iPhone 11 or 12, I don’t think you’ll see that much of a difference, but there’s still no question you will get a way better, more powerful, and zippier phone with much better battery life than what was produced two years ago, or even a year ago.

So what’s another $1,000 or so, when you’re having fun?


About the author: Jefferson Graham is a Los Angeles area writer/photographer and the host of the travel photography streaming TV series Photowalks. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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