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Canon’s Ultra Affordable Wide-Angle Prime: Is the 16mm f/2.8 a Good Lens?

Canon's Ultra Affordable Wide-Angle Prime: Is the 16mm f/2.8 a Good Lens?

Last month, Canon announced a tiny, lightweight ultra-wide angle prime lens for its full frame mirrorless cameras: the RF 16mm f/2.8 STM. Given how affordable it is, can it offer decent performance?

Christopher Frost has put the RF 16mm f/2.8 through its paces and found that, while certainly very easy on the pocket, there are inevitably some compromises that Canon has made along the way. The reduced flange distance achieved by ditching the mirror in the move from DSLRs has offered manufacturers some significant advantages, but these are not enough for Canon to avoid some trade-offs in what is still an excellent lens and a bargain to boot.

Though perfect for holiday landscapes,16mm is a slightly odd choice as Canon’s second budget prime for its RF cameras, and I have speculated as to whether this is another hint that Canon might eventually release an RF-mount camera featuring an APS-C sensor. This lens is so small and lightweight that it would make an ideal 26mm equivalent prime lens on a crop-sensor camera, and Nikon’s success with the Z 50 and the Z fc suggests that an entry-level Canon APS-C body might not be such a bad idea.

Will you be ordering the 16mm f/2.8? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement

The Mi 11 Ultra is Xiaomi’s 2021 flagship packed with an array of high-end hardware. Powered by the top-end Snapdragon 888 chipset, the device comes loaded with 12 GB RAM and 256 GB of storage, as well as a 5000 mAh battery with fast 67W wired and wireless charging. The display is a 6.81-inch WQHD+ AMOLED with a 120 Hz refresh rate, DCI-PS color gamut, and HDR10+.

It’s not lacking in the photography department either, and its triple rear camera has only recently been toppled from the top of the DXOMARK Camera rankings. You can use the rear camera to capture selfie images using a tiny 1.1-inch AMOLED screen (126 x 294) that is installed next to the camera array. It serves as a preview screen for taking selfies with the primary or ultra-wide camera, and doubles as a notification screen or always-on display.

Today we’re interested in its selfie-cam potential, however, and the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s front-facing module offers a 20 MP-resolution sensor coupled to a fixed-focus f/2.3 aperture lens. Front-facing video is captured in full HD 1080p resolution at either 60 or 30 fps, and there’s a slow motion 720p/120 fps mode if you want to get creative.

So will the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s selfie shooter live up to the high standards set by the rear camera? Let’s find out as we unveil the scores and compare some pictures.

Key front camera specifications:

  • 20 MP 1/3.4″ sensor
  • f/2.3 aperture lens
  • Video: 1080p/60&30fps, (1080p/30 fps tested) and 720p mode

About DXOMARK Selfie tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone front camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 1500 test images and more than 2 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 Selfie test protocol, click here. 

Test summary

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 1
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 2

94

selfie

Pros

  • Accurate target exposure and wide dynamic range in most photos
  • Pleasant color and skin tones in most photos
  • Wide depth of field ensures sharp group selfies
  • Well-controlled noise in all videos
  • Video focus is accurate with wide depth of field
  • Video target exposure is mostly accurate
  • Neutral white balance in indoor and outdoor videos

Cons

  • Out-of-focus faces at close range (30 cm)
  • Visible luminance noise in all photos
  • Low contrast on faces in high-contrast photos
  • Low video detail, especially in low light
  • Slight residual motion and differences in video frame sharpness
  • Inaccurate white balance and color shading evident in videos shot under certain light sources

With an overall Selfie score of 94, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra improves on the score of 88 set by its predecessor, the Mi 10 Ultra. That’s primarily due to improved front camera photos, where the latest model puts in a slightly better performance across almost all test categories. There’s less of an improvement for video, however, and with the Mi 11 Ultra at 92 and the Mi 10 Ultra at 91, the two models essentially offer generally comparable front camera video image quality.

With a price tag of around $1200, the Mi 11 Ultra is squarely in our Ultra Premium segment of more expensive devices. Compared to the best-performing Ultra Premium selfie cameras, Xiaomi’s 2021 flagship unfortunately doesn’t fare quite as well, only just squeaking into the top 20 and quite a ways behind the leading Huawei P50 Pro at 106 points.

Its strengths include accurate and stable selfie photo exposure, as well as pleasant skin tone rendering and accurate white balance in most photos. Depth of field is also wide and detail on faces positioned a little distance from the camera is good. The fixed-focus lens missed focus on close-range selfies, however; fine textures are lost and some luminance noise is visible in all photos; and contrast on faces can be disappointing in certain conditions.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 4

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is capable of pleasing selfies with extended dynamic range and pleasant color.

Shooting video, strengths are broadly the same, with generally accurate face exposure, wide depth of field and pleasant color. The devices handles noise a little better in videos, too, with smooth files captured in all but the most challenging conditions. Video dynamic range is limited, so expect some highlight clipping when recording in bright light; and the level of video detail is generally low, especially in low light. Video stabilization is generally effective, but we did notice slight residual motion effects and differences in sharpness between frames in some conditions.

Below you can find a detailed analysis and image samples for all Photo and Video sub-attributes, as well as comparisons with one of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s brand-mates, the standard Mi 11 variant, and with one of the Mi 11 Ultra’s competitors, the Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon).

Photo

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra achieves a Selfie Photo score of 95. In this section, we take a closer look at each sub-attribute and compare image quality against other devices.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 5

Exposure and Contrast

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (90)

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.

This graph shows the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s level of contrast under different lighting conditions in the lab.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 6

Contrast is a little low on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra compared to the two reference devices.

These samples show the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s exposure performance in an outdoor scene. Target exposures are generally accurate with wide dynamic range, but contrast on the face can be a little low, especially in high-contrast conditions.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 7

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, accurate target exposure with good dynamic range but low contrast

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 8

Xiaomi Mi 11, low target exposure with well-exposed skies

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 9

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), excellent exposure, dynamic range, and contrast

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 10

Color

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (99)

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 the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s color performance in daylight. Colors, skin tones, and white balance are generally pleasant on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. Skin tones are occasionally a little dull and a blue color cast is visible, but for the most part white balance is accurate and warm.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 11

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, accurate color with pleasant white balance

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 12

Xiaomi Mi 11, accurate color with pleasant white balance

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 13

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), accurate color with warmer white balance

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 14

Focus

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (97)

In these tests we analyze autofocus accuracy and shooting time, along with 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 Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s autofocus performance in the lab across different light levels.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 15

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra has relatively low sharpness with the subject at 30 cm from the device, but is very good from 50 cm and above.

These samples show the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s focus and depth of field performance in a group selfie. At 30 cm, faces are slightly out of focus, but the focus is accurate at 50 cm; wide depth of field ensures good sharpness on faces towards the back in group selfies.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, depth of field

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 17

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: accurate focus, wide depth of field, good detail in background

Xiaomi Mi 11, depth of field

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 19

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: accurate focus, narrower depth of field, lack of detail in background

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), depth of field

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 21

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), crop: accurate autofocus, narrower depth of field, lack of detail in background

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 22

Texture

Asus ZenFone 7 Pro

Best: Asus ZenFone 7 Pro (79)

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.

This graph shows the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s texture performance in the lab across different light levels.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 23
Texture comparison: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra recorded lower levels of acutance compared to the reference devices under almost all lighting conditions in the lab.

These samples show the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s texture performance in an indoor scene at a shooting distance of 55 cm. In bright light, when faces are in focus, the level of detail is good, although fine details are lost. Texture is low on all close-up selfies at 30 cm due to inaccurate focus from the fixed-focus lens. Detail is more limited indoors and in low light, especially on backlit scenes.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, texture at 55 cm

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 25

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: acceptable detail overall, but fine details are lost

Xiaomi Mi 11, texture at 55 cm

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 27

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: acceptable detail overall, but fine details are lost

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), texture at 55 cm

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 29

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), crop: good level of detail

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 30

Noise

Huawei P40 Pro

Best: Huawei P40 Pro (90)

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 Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s noise performance in an indoor scene. Luminance noise is visible in all conditions and especially in low light.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, indoor noise

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 32

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: visible luminance noise on the face

Xiaomi Mi 11, indoor noise

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 34

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: visible luminance noise on the face

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, indoor noise

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 36

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), crop: slightly visible luminance noise

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 37

Bokeh

Huawei P40 Pro

Best: Huawei P40 Pro (75)

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 previously. The score is derived from perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s bokeh mode performance in an indoor scene. Similar to the Xiaomi Mi 11, the Ultra model captures bokeh with a pleasant shape, but some depth artifact errors are visible and no blur gradient effect is applied.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 38

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, pleasant bokeh shape, no blur gradient

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 39

Xiaomi Mi 11, pleasant bokeh shape, no blur gradient

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 40

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), pleasant bokeh shape with some blur gradient

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 41

Artifacts

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos)

Best: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) (86)

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 flare artifacts in a backlit image. Other artifacts including color quantization and hue shift effects are also occasionally visible on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, artifacts

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 43

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: visible flare

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.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra achieves a Selfie Video score of 92. 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 other devices.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 5

Exposure and Contrast

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (90)

These video stills show the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s video exposure performance under backlit indoor lighting conditions. Video target exposure on faces is more stable compared to the Xiaomi Mi 11, but dynamic range remains limited, with bright background highlights often clipped.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 45

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, accurate target exposure with visible highlight clipping in the background

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 46

Xiaomi Mi 11, slightly underexposed target with visible highlight clipping in the background

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 47

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), slightly underexposed target with improved highlight detail in the background

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 10

Color

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (99)

These video stills show the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s video color in an outdoor scene. White balance is pleasant, especially in outdoor and indoor videos.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 49

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, neutral white balance

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 50

Xiaomi Mi 11, neutral white balance

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 51

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), warmer white balance

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 14

Focus

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (97)

These video stills show the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s autofocus and depth of field performance in a group video.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, accurate focus

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 54

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: wide depth of field, sharp background faces

Xiaomi Mi 11, accurate focus

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 56

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: narrower depth of field, blurred background faces

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), accurate focus

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 58

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), crop: narrower depth of field, blurred background faces

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 22

Texture

Asus ZenFone 7 Pro

Best: Asus ZenFone 7 Pro (79)

These video stills show the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s video texture performance outdoors. The level of texture on the Mi 11 Ultra is lower than the Samsung in all conditions, and especially at close range (30 cm), where the Xiaomi’s fixed-focus lens renders faces slightly out of focus.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, video texture

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 61

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: acceptable detail but fine details are lost

Xiaomi Mi 11, video texture

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 63

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: acceptable detail but fine details are lost

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), video texture

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 65

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), good detail with more fine detail captured in the foreground

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 30

Noise

Huawei P40 Pro

Best: Huawei P40 Pro (90)

This graph shows the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s video noise performance under different lighting conditions in the lab.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 67

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra recorded low levels of noise in our lab measurements, with results similar to those of the standard Mi 11 in most conditions, and slightly lower levels compared to the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon).

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 41

Artifacts

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).

These video stills show hue shift artifacts that affect the color of the sky in an outdoor image. Color quantization artifacts are also occasionally visible on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 69

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, visible hue shift in the sky

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 70

Xiaomi Mi 11, visible hue shift in the sky

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 71

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), nicer blue sky

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Selfie review: Modest improvement 72

Stabilization

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 Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s video stabilization under indoor lighting conditions.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, effective stabilization with some residual motion and a visible difference in frame sharpness

Xiaomi Mi 11, effective stabilization with some residual motion and a visible difference in frame sharpness

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), effective stabilization with some visible residual motion

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ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom

The Axon 30 Ultra is ZTE’s 2021 flagship device. It boasts a 6.7-inch, FHD+, an AMOLED flexible curved screen display with 144 Hz refresh rate, and a Snapdragon 888 chipset running Android 11. Providing enough juice to power all that, the Axon 30 Ultra is equipped with 4600 mAh battery that offers super-fast 65W charging.

Burnishing its flagship credentials, the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra also comes with a quad camera on the rear that includes main, ultra-wide, portrait, and telephoto modules. The primary and ultra-wide cameras are built around different 64 MP Quad Bayer (16 MP output) sensors. The main camera uses a Sony IMX686 chip linked to a f/1.6-aperture OIS lens, with a Samsung GW3 sensor on the ultra-wide coupled to a 120° field-of-view, ultra-low distortion, f/2.2-aperture lens.

The dedicated portrait camera uses the same 64 MP Samsung sensor as the ultra-wide alongside a f/1.9-aperture lens. Finally the tele shooter features an 8 MP sensor with a periscope telephoto lens for 5x optical and up to 60x hybrid zoom.

That’s a lot of hardware for a device that falls within our Premium ranking segment of smartphones priced between $600 to $799. Let’s see how it gets on in our DXOMARK Camera tests.

Key camera specifications:

  • Primary: 64 MP Sony IMX686 sensor with f/1.6-aperture lens, Laser Focus, OIS
  • Ultra-wide: 64 MP Samsung GW3 sensor, 120° field-of-view, f/2.2-aperture, ultra-low distortion lens
  • Portrait: 64 MP Samsung GW3 sensor, f/1.9-aperture lens
  • Tele: 8 MP sensor, periscope telephoto 5x optical lens, OIS
  • Video: 4320p (8K) at 30 fps, 2160p (4K) at 30fps (tested), HDR10, 10-bit color depth

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

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 73
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 74

107

camera

Pros

  • Good detail in outdoor and indoor photos and videos
  • Pleasant white balance in outdoor and indoor photos
  • Extended depth of field in photos
  • Good detail in long-range zoom photos
  • Effective stabilization in outdoor and indoor videos

With an overall score of 107, the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra offers significant improvement over its predecessor, the Axon 20 5G. This was especially true in our Photo and Zoom categories, where the device’s flagship processor and quad-camera delivered very good performance. The inclusion of OIS on the main and periscope-zoom modules also enables 8K video at 30 fps with 10-bit color, as well as long-range zoom shots with very good detail rendering. Both are impressive for a device in this price segment.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 76
The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra records successful indoor images with accurate target exposure and pleasant color. Focus is also a strength, with good sharpness on both faces in group shots. Although some fine details are lost, noise remains low.

Autofocus performance is also a good strength. Unfortunately some major drawbacks in video and photo performance prevented the device from scoring higher. As a result the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra ultimately ranks below many Premium devices we’ve tested.

For photos, a lack of dynamic range in all scenes is disappointing, especially when compared to its main competitors in the Premium segment. For video, the device captures good detail in the 4k/30fps footage we evaluated, but noise is often visible. Video stabilization is also fairly effective, but significant issues with autofocus and ghosting in low light affected its overall ranking.

Below you can find a detailed analysis and image samples for all Photo, Zoom, and Video sub-attributes, as well as comparisons with two of ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s competitors, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos) and the Xiaomi Mi 11.

Photo

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra achieves a Photo score of 108. In this section, we take a closer look at each sub-attribute and compare image quality against competitors.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 77

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.

These samples show ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s exposure performance in a high-contrast scene.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 78
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, limited dynamic range with strong highlight clipping
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 79

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), improved dynamic range with well-exposed sky detail

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 80

Xiaomi Mi 11, improved dynamic range with well-exposed sky detail

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 81

Color

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (106)

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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s color performance in an indoor setting.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 76

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, vivid and pleasant color rendering

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 83

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), vivid and pleasant color rendering

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 84

Xiaomi Mi 11, inaccurate color rendering due to low exposure

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 85

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.

These samples show ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s depth of field in a group portrait.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, depth of field

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 87

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop: good sharpness on second face

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), depth of field

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 89

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), crop: good sharpness on second face

Xiaomi Mi 11, depth of field

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 91

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: second face is out of focus

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 92

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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s texture performance in the lab.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, 100 lux

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 94

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop; good detail rendering

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), 100 lux

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 96

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), crop: good detail rendering

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 98

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: excellent detail rendering

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 99

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.

This graph shows the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s noise performance in the lab.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 100

The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s noise performance is consistent with competitors in most lighting conditions, but more noise is visible in very low light.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 101

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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s bokeh simulation and blur gradient capabilities in an indoor scene.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, bokeh mode

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 103

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop: no foreground blur

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), bokeh mode

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 105

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), crop: nice foreground blur

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 107

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: nice foreground blur

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 108

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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s night performance in auto-flash mode.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 109

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, auto-flash: slightly low target exposure and limited dynamic range

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 110

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), auto-flash: better target exposure and dynamic range

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 111

Xiaomi Mi 11, auto-flash: better target exposure and dynamic range

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 112

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 hue shift and color quantization artifacts in a high-contrast image.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, artifacts

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 114

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop; color quantization, fringing, and unnatural detail rendering

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 115

Preview

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max

Best: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (77)

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 show differences in ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s dynamic range and contrast rendering between the preview and final image.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 116

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, preview: some hue shifts artifacts are visible only in preview

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 117

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, capture: differences in dynamic range and contrast rendering

Zoom

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra 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.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 118

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 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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s ultra-wide camera under indoor conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 119

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, wide dynamic range but low target exposure and visible artifacts

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 120

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), improved target exposure but more limited dynamic range

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 121

Xiaomi Mi 11, improved target exposure but more limited dynamic range

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 122

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.

These samples show ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s tele performance using a long-range zoom setting in an outdoor scene.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, long-range zoom

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 124

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop: good detail

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), long-range zoom

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 126

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), crop: low detail

Xiaomi Mi 11, long-range zoom

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 128

Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: low 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. 

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra achieves a Video score of 98. 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.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 77

Exposure and Contrast

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (103)

These video stills show the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video exposure performance in outdoor lighting conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 130

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, low target exposure with limited dynamic range

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 131

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), good target exposure with slight shadow clipping

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 132

Xiaomi Mi 11, good target exposure with wide dynamic range

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 81

Color

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (105)

These video stills show the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video color under indoor lighting conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 134

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, accurate and vivid color

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 135

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), accurate and vivid color

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 136

Xiaomi Mi 11, accurate color rendering

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 85

Autofocus

Huawei P50 Pro

Best: Huawei P50 Pro (108)

These sample clips show the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video autofocus tracking performance in low light conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, focus is on the background and refocusing occurs

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), accurate and stable autofocus

Xiaomi Mi 11, inaccurate but stable autofocus

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 92

Texture

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (97)

This graph shows the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video texture measurements in the lab.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 139
The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra captures excellent detail in bright light and although it’s on par with the Xiaomi Mi 11 in these conditions, its measured acutance scores drop off in low light.
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 99

Noise

Huawei Mate 40 Pro

Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro (105)

These sample clips show the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video noise performance in a low-light scene.

 

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, visible noise

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), visible noise

Xiaomi Mi 11, very visible noise on moving objects

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 112

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 ghosting artifacts.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, video artifacts

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 143

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop; ghosting artifacts

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom 144

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 shows ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video stabilization performance under indoor lighting conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, effective stabilization in both static and walk situations

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), some residual motion visible

Xiaomi Mi 11, effective stabilization

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An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra

Within Xiaomi’s latest Mi line-up, the 11i is a slightly more affordable version of the Mi 11, featuring identical camera specs (including the large 108 MP sensor in the primary module and the 5G compatibility) but a smaller and lower-res screen, as well as an 8 MP ultra-wide camera instead of the Mi 11’s 13 MP version. Just like the standard Mi 11 and its lavish variant, the Mi 11 Ultra, it is powered by the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset.

In the audio department, the Mi 11i is equipped with two speakers to deliver a Dolby Atmos, Hi-Res Audio certified playback. As a recording device, it is interesting to note that the phone offers Audio Zoom when filming videos. To know more about this technology, feel free check out our article on this subject.

We put the Xiaomi Mi 11i  through our rigorous DXOMARK Audio test suite to measure its performance both at playing audio back through its built-in speakers, and at recording sound using its built-in microphones. In this review, we will break down how it fared in a variety of tests and several common use cases.

Audio specifications include:

  • Two speakers
  • Dolby Atmos
  • Audio Zoom
  • No headphone jack

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

  • Prominence of upper midrange frequencies
  • Low- and high-end extension are both limited

Recording

Pros

  • Great frequency response in most use cases
  • Great spatial attributes in life videos
  • Good volume performance

Cons

  • Dynamics are affected by compression when recording in loud environments.

While the Xiaomi Mi 11i’s global score of 66 makes it an average audio performer considering all the smartphones we’ve tested to date, it ranks considerably higher when taking into account its price range.

Audio played back through the Mi 11i’s built-in speakers offers good maximum volume and intelligible minimum volume, appreciable wideness in landscape mode, correct punch, and decent bass precision despite the lack of low-end. Speaking of shortcomings, high-end extension is also limited, and upper midrange appears too prominent.

Just like its luxurious sibling, our protagonist fares much better as a recording device. Audio recorded with the Xiaomi Mi 11i exhibits excellent volume and timbre characteristics in most use cases, as well as immersive and realistic spatial attributes in life videos (filmed in landscape mode with the rear cameras). That all said, dynamics are hindered by a perceivable compression when recording in loud environments.

Sub-scores explained

The DXOMARK Audio overall score of 66 for the Xiaomi Mi 11i 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

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 145

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.

Overall, the Xiaomi Mi 11i does a decent job of reproducing the frequency spectrum, with a correct presence of treble, and fairly consistent midrange. Its score of 58 puts it in the range of its predecessor, the Xiaomi Mi CC9 Pro Premium Edition, or the Google Pixel 5, which earned a 56.

Playback could benefit from more high- and low-end extension, and less upper midrange. When listening at soft volumes, a considerable lack of upper frequencies makes the tonal balance sound muffled, whereas at maximum volume, the major lack of low mids and bass makes it sound particularly midrange-oriented. In terms of use cases, the spectrum is most faithfully reproduced when watching movies, or listening to classical music.

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 146

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.

The Mi 11i’s built-in speakers deliver fairly impactful dynamics, with accurate bass precision despite the limited low-end extension, and correct punch, except at maximum volume. Attack is decent, but could do with a little more sharpness to ensure a better restitution of transients. In general, audio sounds most dynamic at nominal volume, when playing games, watching movies… and listening to hip hop!

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 147

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 Xiaomi Mi 11i turns in an average spatial showing in playback. While the sound field wideness is appreciable, localizability and distance, although above-average, are both impaired by the lack of upper spectrum information: sources are indeed harder to localize precisely, and sound somewhat farther than they should.

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 148
An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 149

On another note, balance between the left and right channels is shifted towards the left speaker in landscape mode, that is, towards the upper speaker in portrait mode. Once again, the built-in speakers give their best when playing games or hip hop music, and when the phone’s held in landscape mode.

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 150

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.

Volume steps are evenly distributed across the volume scale, except for the three loudest ones, which are essentially the same level. Maximum volume is good, and minimum volume is well optimized in order to allow highly dynamic content, such as classical music or movies, to remain intelligible.

Hip-HopClassical
Xiaomi Mi 11i73.4 dBA71.6 dBA
Xiaomi Mi 1174.7 dBA71.3 dBA
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos)73.2 dBA71 dBA
An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 151

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.

At nominal volume, no noise or spectral artifacts (distortion) are perceivable. Temporal artifacts on the other hand, such as compression, can even be heard at that listening level. By contrast, at maximum volume, compression remains fairly discreet, whereas noise and bass distortion become particularly noticeable.

Recording

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 145

Timbre

Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders

Best: Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders (88)

As a recording device, the Xiaomi Mi 11i excels at capturing timbre, earning a sub-score of 81. The tonal balance is excellent, with particularly consistent midrange allowing voices to sound pleasingly realistic.

Treble presence is very correct, but could benefit from a little more brightness. Recordings made in loud environments could also use more high- and low-end extension. Finally, memos sound slightly darker, but are still pleasant. Speaking of use cases, recordings fare best in videos, both life and selfie.

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 146

Dynamics

OnePlus 8

Best: OnePlus 8 (78)

The Xiaomi Mi 11i turns in a fairly good performance in recording dynamics. The envelope is above average, with particularly good marks in both selfie and life videos. In loud environments, however, transients are affected by a noticeable compression.

As for the signal-to-noise ratio, it fares best in quiet surroundings, such as a meeting room or a domestic scenario. In urban surroundings, the background noise isn’t sufficiently attenuated, which impairs voice intelligibility.

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 147

Spatial

Black Shark 4 Pro

Best: Black Shark 4 Pro (78)

The Xiaomi Mi 11i’s microphones turn in an excellent performance in the recording spatial sub-category — who knows, maybe that Dolby collaboration has something to do with that. Life videos exhibit impressive wideness, precise localizability, and realistic distance capture, the latter faring even better in meeting recordings.

Similarly to the Mi 11 Ultra, selfie videos are less well-endowed due to a very narrow sound field, although distance and localizability remain correct.

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 150

Volume

Xiaomi Mi 10S

Best: Xiaomi Mi 10S (89)

The Mi 11i offers decent nominal loudness, and reaches a very good maximum level without noticeable artifacts. In other words, surroundings can get pretty loud before the audio recording starts showing signs of weakness, such as distortion or dynamic compression. Unlike in spatial, the Mi 11i’s volume attributes fare best in selfie videos. 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
Xiaomi Mi 11i-28 LUFS-20.4 LUFS-18.6 LUFS-21.1 LUFS
Xiaomi Mi 11-29.2 LUFS-21.5 LUFS-19.6 LUFS-20.4 LUFS
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos)-26.8 LUFS-20.1 LUFS-22.5 LUFS-22.3 LUFS
An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 151

Artifacts

Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders

Best: Asus Smartphone for Snapdragon Insiders (90)

Very few sonic artifacts are noticeable, regardless of the use case. The two minor flaws are a slight clipping generated by shouting voices, and the previously-mentioned compression when recording in loud environments. It is also important to note that the built-in microphones can get occluded by the user’s hands.

Here’s a sample recording, illustrating the phone’s ability to keep sonic artifacts to a minimum:

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 157

Background

Apple iPhone XS Max

Best: Apple iPhone XS Max (58)

Background recordings are very satisfactory: frequency ranges are harmoniously balanced, and no sonic artifacts are noticeable. The Mi 11i’s sub-score of 49 is well above average for this attribute, placing it 8 points away from the top-scoring phone in this category, the Apple iPhone XS Max.

An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 158
An affordable and worthy version of the 11 Ultra 159

Conclusion

The Xiaomi Mi 11i follows in the 11 Ultra’s audio footsteps: While its playback showing is decent, its recording performance is quite noteworthy — especially considering the phone’s price range. As a recording device, thanks to excellent volume and timbre aspects as well as both immersive and realistic spatial attributes, the Mi 11i ensures a very good sound quality across nearly every situation, from meeting room configurations to big, loud concert scenarios. And just like its luxurious elder brother, the only use case truly out of its comfort zone is filming selfie videos!

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Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is the brand’s biggest flagship, and by big, we mean a 6.81 inch AMOLED quad-curved display, as well as a camera bump on the rear housing three full-sized cameras and a small screen. Powered by the top-of-the-line Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, the Mi 11 Ultra is a luxury smartphone that is in DXOMARK’s ultra-premium category.  Let’s see how it fared in our rigorous Display testing protocol.

Key display specifications:

  • AMOLED display
  • Size: 6.81 inches. Dimensions: 164.3 x 74.6 x 8.38 mm (6.47 x 2.94 x 0.33 in)
  • Resolution: 3200 x1440 pixels
  • Aspect ratio: 20:9 ratio, ~515 ppi density
  • Refresh rate: 120 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

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 160Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 161

87

display

Pros

  • Video brightness is well suited, especially for HDR10 content.
  • Colors are fairly accurate overall.
  • The device offers an acceptable readability in most tested conditions.
  • Aliasing in video games is well managed.

Cons

  • The image adaptation performed under very bright light may alter the picture rendering fidelity.
  • Dark details are difficult to perceive when watching HDR10 content.
  • A lack of smoothness is noticeable when browsing a web page and in the gallery.
  • Zooming in the gallery app is not accurate.

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra’s overall score of 87 puts it at the lower end of our top 10 devices in our database rankings in this price range, tied with the Apple iPhone 12 Pro. Like its brand sibling, the Xiaomi Mi 11, it shows marked improvement over the predecessor in this line, the Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra. In this review, we compare the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra with the Mi 11,  the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) and the OnePlus 9 Pro.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 163

Readability

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos)

Best: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) (74)

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.

Readability is the most important measure of a smartphone display’s basic functionality, and here the Xiaomi Mi11 Ultra lands outside the top 10 among ultra-premium devices in our database rankings.

Its peak luminance nearly matches that of its brand sibling, the Xiaomi Mi 11, and it easily bests the OnePlus 9 Pro, but it doesn’t reach the heights of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G Exynos, as you can see in the graph below:

Brightness vs Contrast comparison (30 000 Lux)

When reading text on the Web in a low-light environment, the brightness is slightly low, but readability remains acceptable. In indoor conditions, as in the photo illustration below, darker shades can be difficult to distinguish.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 164

Readability indoors, from left to right: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G  (Exynos), OnePlus 9 Pro.

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

In outdoors, an image adaptation improves the readability, especially under sunlight, as you can see in the photo illustration below. But again details in darker areas are lost. Direct sunlight is difficult to manage for all smartphone displays. In terms of transitions between types of lighting, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra performs smoothly, but it’s slow to react and to adapt.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 165

Readability in direct sunlight, from left to right: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G  (Exynos), OnePlus 9 Pro.

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

A loss of brightness is visible when the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra is viewed at an angle, decreasing the readability of photos, especially darker ones.

Brightness vs Angle comparison

With the blue light filter on, a slight loss of brightness is noticeable, but the overall readability remains close to the readability without the BLF.

As for brightness uniformity, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra shows a slight gradient, going from brighter at the bottom to darker at the top.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 166

Brightness uniformity, from left to right: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G  (Exynos), OnePlus 9 Pro.

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 167

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 Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra performed quite well in the color attribute, with an 87 putting it in second place in our database rankings in the ultra-premium category, one point better than the Mi 11, which also performed ably in this attribute.  Like many smartphones, the device does not adapt its color when the ambient illuminant changes.

Colors are sometimes oversaturated, and a yellowish to greenish cast is observable in indoor lighting conditions, as in the photo illustration below.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 168

Color rendering indoors, from left to right: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G  (Exynos), OnePlus 9 Pro

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Slight orange to reddish casts are noticeable in outdoor shade and sunlight. Colors can be sometimes oversaturated. The photo illustration below shows the devices in use in outdoor shade.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 169

Color rendering in outdoor shade, from left to right: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G  (Exynos), OnePlus 9 Pro.

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

As is typical of smartphone displays generally, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra shifts color when viewed at an angle, as the scattering of dots below in the right-hand chart illustrates. The color shifts to bluish or greenish depending on the angle of the device, and colors appear less saturated.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 170

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra color at angle

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 171

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra color at angle, zoomed in.

As for color uniformity of the display, our engineers observed slightly reddish areas at the top of the device.

With the blue light filter activated, there is a slight yellow cast visible, but it remains acceptable.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 172

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 Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra scored well in the video attribute; its 78 puts it among the top 10 ultra-premium devices. When watching HDR10 content, the brightness is well-suited to pleasurable viewing. In regards to contrast, mid tones are well rendered. In some scenes, dark details can be difficult to distinguish on HDR10 content. In terms of color rendering, a slight yellow green cast is observable. When it comes to skin tones, the color cast is slightly perceivable, but the rendering is acceptable.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 173

Displaying HDR10 content, from left to right: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, Xiaomi Mi 11, Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G  (Exynos), OnePlus 9 Pro.
                                                                                                                                                                                                Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 174

Motion

Huawei P40 Pro

Best: Huawei P40 Pro (87)

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 175

Touch

OnePlus 9 Pro

Best: OnePlus 9 Pro (83)

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra had a decent showing in the motion attribute. It displayed quite a few frame drops at 30 fps, although it did not show much stutter at 60 fps in the UHD format, and no frame drops were visible when playing games. Our engineers noticed some slight motion blur, with a slight frame duplication. When using the slider while watching videos, there is a slight visible delay before resumption of the video, and video playback can be slowed down sometimes.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 176

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, frame drops at 30 fps

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 177

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, touch accuracy

As you can see in the photo illustration above right, the Mi 11 Ultra was not very accurate when zooming in the gallery app. Nor is it smooth when browsing the web or scrolling in the gallery. On the other hand, the Xiaomi device feels fairly smooth when playing video games.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 178

Artifacts

LG Wing

Best: LG Wing (84)

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra had an excellent score in the artifacts attribute, just one point down from the top score of 84. There is a small notch at the upper left corner of the screen for the selfie camera. Judder is visible at 24 fps; there is no judder visible at 30 fps, but there are frequent frame drops. There is no judder visible at 60 fps. Flicker is well managed:

There is some noticeable ghost touch from time to time, especially on the bottom corners. The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra was particularly adept at managing aliasing; almost none was visible when gaming, as you can see in the image and zoomed crop below:

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, aliasing illustration.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra Display review: A positive evolution 180

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, crop: almost no aliasing is visible.

Conclusion

The Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, like the Xiaomi Mi 11, made some significant performance advances in Display over its brand predecessors, and overall, it turned in a strong showing that is reflected in its scores. Areas for improvement include accuracy and smoothness in the touch attribute and better management of dark details when viewing HDR10 content. Its strengths included accurate color rendering, good video brightness, and decent readability in most tested conditions.

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Man Builds Huge ‘Ultra Large Format’ Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 181

In an effort to take advantage of an old Rodenstock newspaper enlargement lens that was only being used as a paperweight, photographer Tim Hamilton has constructed an enormous “ultra-large-format” projection camera that he has used to capture unique photos and videos.

Hamilton says that the reason he built the device was to make use of the old enlargement lens that he had in his possession.

“Before I got the lens, it was being used as a paperweight, and the old photojournalists who worked at the newspaper before the digital transition were saddened by that. So someone handed it to me,” he says. “They are fairly rare and expensive lenses and it’s been begging to be made into a camera.”

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 182

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 183

Hamilton says that the lens he has is a Rodenstock 600mm f/9 APO-Ronar, which in good condition can fetch north of $900. He also says that, if he chooses, he can stop the lens down to f/255.

He got the idea to turn it into a giant camera from a story he read on PetaPixel.

“I’ll admit it’s not my idea and I saw somebody else do this on Petapixel with an 8×10,” he says.

Hamilton references the work of Ukranian photographer Olexiy Shportun, who created a digital camera system that makes photos that resemble large format film but uses a modern mirrorless camera. Inspired, Hamilton decided to use apply his Rodenstock to the same concept.

Only his camera box would have to be much, much larger.

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 184

“Because the projection distance was so small, the focal plane from the digital camera was always on tilt and we had the opportunity to reduce that tilt due to the obesity of our camera,” Hamilton says.

From photos, it’s clear that Hamilton’s device is far larger and more robust than the one that inspired it.

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 185

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 186

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 187

“Earlier in the year, some friends and I built a film set submarine and bomber plane, so we had plenty of scrap,” Hamilton says. “We learned the physics of the lens and drew them out and designed a box and bellows large and strong enough to contain such large images.”

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 188

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 189

How it works is relatively straightforward and mirrors Shportun’s design.

“Similar to any large format camera, it projects the world into a dark box but rather than use photo chemicals there is a camera mounted just below the lens filming the back ‘film plane.’ Think of it as taking a photo inside of a theatre,” he explains.

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Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 191

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 192

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 193

The result is an enormous camera with really only one positive and a whole host of drawbacks.

“If you are to write a list of pros and cons.. you only have one pro: The image is gorgeous,” Hamilton says. “Dark and grainy, but at 600mm the format is so large it’s like shooting with a 20mm with all the compression benefits of a zoom. The image feels like a [theatre] play. Rather than looking out at the world, it looks down on it.”

Hamilton says that the camera boasts a sensor plane that is 890 times larger than the one in a typical 35mm camera. But that comes at a cost.

“The cons are the camera is heavy,” he says. “It has broken several tripods and requires a custom tripod to hold her. Screws and staples stick out of it in every direction and threaten the user. The camera doesn’t fit through doors and refuses to get in cars.

“But it’s beautiful.”

The photos and videos that he has produced with the giant rig make it all worth it to Hamilton.

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 194

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 195

“The image feels heavy and silky,” he says. “You can see, especially with movement, that the world feels far more like a stage. Imagine if instead of three inches apart, your eyes are three feet apart. The lens is really like the eye of god.”

Below is a video clip Hamilton sent that illustrates how it renders video.

“Cinema has become ‘cookie cut.’ What we see on-screen looks almost identical these days. I think I’d love to shoot a short film on this. I work at a real niche post-production facility in Wellington — Pow Studios — so I’m in a position where every day I am encouraged to push the boundaries of imagery and storytelling, and I can see that with a good post team we could make a film that feels far more like you can touch it,” he says.

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 196

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 197

“I’m excited to keep pushing the bounds of imagery. This isn’t the last build of the camera, it will change again.”

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 198

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 199

Man Builds Huge 'Ultra Large Format' Camera With a 600mm f/9 Lens 200

For more from Tim Hamilton, you can follow him on Instagram.


Image credits: All photos and videos by Tim Hamilton and used with permission.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) has been selling in the U.S. and China (and a few other places) since January 2021 and is the near-identical twin of the S21 Ultra (Exynos) version sold in other parts of the world. Both share the same high-end specs, including the same quad-camera setup and stylus support; the only difference in hardware between the two versions is in the processors they use: the U.S./China-oriented model relies on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset, while Samsung uses its own Exynos 2100 in the model sold elsewhere. Because of their close similarities in performance, this review will mostly focus on the very few differences between the two versions in our comprehensive Display protocol testing. (For more complete performance results, please refer to our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) review.)

Key display specifications:

  • AMOLED 2x screen with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus
  • Size: 6.8 inches (89.8% screen-to-body ratio)
  • Dimensions: 165.1 x 75.6 x 8.9 mm (6.5 x 2.98 x 0.35 inches)
  • Resolution: 1440 x 3200 pixels
  • Aspect ratio: 20:9, ~515 ppi
  • Refresh rate: 120 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

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 201Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 202

91

display

Pros

  • Well-balanced brightness and accurate colors lead to a satisfying experience when watching HD10 videos.
  • Well-adapted luminance levels and high maximum brightness mean very good readability in most conditions.
  • The device has great smoothness when web browsing and in the gallery app.
  • The device manages frame drops well when watching videos.

Cons

  • Color faithfulness deteriorates under very bright outdoor conditions, particularly under sunlight.
  • The device is inaccurate when zooming in the gallery app and does not correctly detect touches along its edges when playing video games.
  • Still image colors are generally too saturated.
  • Slightly dazzling in dark ambient conditions, and the BLF does not filter out enough blue light under any lighting condition.

With almost entirely identical scores across all attributes, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) joins its Exynos twin in joint first place (as of this writing) in our DXOMARK Display rankings.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 204

Readability

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

74

Highest Score

Achieving an excellent score of 74, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) is currently in a three-way tie for first with Exynos version and the TCL 10 Pro. It has good readability at its default settings; however, the both S21 Ultra devices are somewhat dazzling in low-light conditions, which may make viewing a bit uncomfortable for some users.

Indoors, the device’s brightness ensures that most content is easily readable, but darker tones lack detail. Despite its high luminance outdoors, the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) lacks readability, especially for darker content. The Snapdragon-powered smartphone adapts smoothly to light transitions but the rendering changes abruptly when moving from sunlight to shade. The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) loses brightness when viewed in angle. As you can see in the array below, the Exynos version (second from left) is noticeably brighter:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 205

Brightness at a 45° angle, from left to right: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), Apple iPhone 12 Pro, Vivo X51 5G

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Brightness vs Angle comparison

The objective measurements in the graph above confirm the perceptual results between the two Samsung devices.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 206

Color

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

82

89

TCL 20 Pro 5G

Best: TCL 20 Pro 5G (89)

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) shows oversaturated colors along with some slight pink casts on most contents. In bright sunlight, colors are strongly oversaturated and color nuances disappear, leading to inaccurate rendering:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 207

Color rendering in direct sunlight, from left to right: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), Apple iPhone 12 Pro, Vivo X51 5G

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 208

Video

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

90

Highest Score

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) has the same score as the Exynos version. Both devices offer excellent levels of brightness and color fidelity when watching HDR10 content. As for differences between the two models, as shown in the illustrative photo array below, the Exynos version’s rendering is just slightly more vivid and closer to the reference image rendering than the Snapdragon’s.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 209

Video color, from left to right: Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), Apple iPhone 12 Pro, Vivo X51 5G

Photo credit: DXOMARK; for illustration only

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 210

Motion

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

77

87

Huawei P40 Pro

Best: Huawei P40 Pro (87)

At 77 points apiece, both versions of the S21 Ultra 5G trail behind the class-leading Huawei P40 Pro at 87, with both showing some frame duplications and regular stuttering while playing video games, along with some hesitation in playback reactivity when rewinding or fast-forwarding videos.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 211

Touch

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

55

83

OnePlus 9 Pro

Best: OnePlus 9 Pro (83)

The Samsung devices’ lackluster results for motion are far overshadowed by their disappointing performance for touch, as both showed inaccuracies when using with fingers (though good with the S Pen stylus). Further, although they were very smooth in the gallery app and when web browsing, there was a perceptible lack of fluidity when gaming.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 212

Artifacts

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

79

84

LG Wing

Best: LG Wing (84)

Artifacts is the only category in which the two S21 Ultra 5G models earned different scores, with the Snapdragon version bettering the Exynos by one point.

Both devices have problems with ghost touches in landscape mode, and noticeable flicker in dark ambient viewing conditions.

That all said, the Snapdragon version of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G handles aliasing somewhat better than its Exynos twin, although neither device’s rendering would win it any plaudits from the gaming community:

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 213

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), aliasing closeup

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Display review: Near-twin of Exynos version 214

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), aliasing closeup

Conclusion

The Snapdragon and Exynos versions of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G are very similar, though the Snapdragon shows slightly better performance in handling artifacts. Overall, both show the same strengths and weaknesses: because of touch performance and aliasing, for example, neither model would be the first choice for serious gamers, but otherwise these latest Samsung twins come with a great display, especially for watching videos. (For more complete performance results, see our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) review.)

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Mighty Fine Macro: Fstoppers Reviews the Venus Optics Laowa 50mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro APO Lens

Mighty Fine Macro: Fstoppers Reviews the Venus Optics Laowa 50mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro APO Lens

There’s no shortage of lenses to choose from when it comes to the Micro Four Thirds mount, and so, for one to stand out, it’s got to offer something special. The Venus Optics Laowa 50mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro APO is a lens that just happens to have a few tricks up its sleeve to make a case for itself, namely 2:1 magnification for macro photography and the computer chips to make it play nice with Micro Four Thirds cameras.

Build Quality

Let’s start with the basics. The Laowa’s build quality is excellent. It’s a premium-feeling metal all around with a well-dampened focusing ring and markings for distance scale and magnification. I was surprised; build quality is right up there with high-end Olympus lenses and better than most of the Panasonic lenses I’ve owned or tried. It feels much better than its $399 price would suggest.

The smooth action of the focus ring is important, as while the CPU incorporated into the lens enables it to communicate EXIF data and enables auto-aperture, there is no autofocus here. That’s not a huge issue for a macro lens, though. I can only count a handful of times I’ve relied on autofocus for macro photography.

As a bonus, whatever magic Laowa did enables the lens to take advantage of all the focusing aids on both my Olympus OM-D E-M10 II and Panasonic Lumix G85. The screen magnifies as soon as I turned the focus ring, and if I wanted it, peaking was available. On many lenses without the requisite hardware, it’s not always a given that things will work this seamlessly with a camera’s built-in features.

Another plus that’s common to many Micro Four Thirds lenses is size. This 100mm equivalent lens comes in significantly smaller than a comparable setup on a full frame or APS-C camera. This lets you boom the camera in odd positions that you can’t do with a larger, heavier setup.

2:1 Magnification

I’ve used Nikon and Canon’s 105mm and 100mm micro/macro lenses for more than a decade, so I’m quite familiar with what 1:1 magnification looks like and what the general minimum focus distance on these lenses is. If that’s you as well, prepare to rethink that for this lens. At 2:1 magnification and a 5.3” minimum focusing distance, that’s half the working distance and double the magnification. It was like I had to relearn macro photography all over again.

Without realizing it, I’ve been pretty lazy in my macro photography. With a 1:1 magnification, I’m usually able to hand-hold and shoot on the move easily. That’s largely possible at 1:1 with this lens as well. Where things get tricky is when you move beyond that.

At 2:1 magnification, your technique has to be perfect. At first, I thought Laowa sent me a bunk copy of the lens to test, but then I realized the softness in the images was pilot error. If your tripod isn’t on solid ground (hard floors, not carpet), if you’re not using a long self-timer (10 seconds, not two, or just use a remote), or if you aren’t adequately lighting your subject, you will get blurry photos. Even the slightest of camera shakes is magnified by a lot with this lens at maximum magnification. This is not a fault of the lens, but it certainly means you have to be extra careful to take advantage of what the lens has to offer. It also means that moving subjects will be incredibly difficult to get in focus, so don’t plan on it. I can usually get an insect to be still enough for a 1:1 photo, but certainly not a 2:1. I tried.

I found that the lens really hit a sweet spot for sharpness at about f/4.5-5.6. At maximum magnification, this doesn’t allow for a lot of depth of field, so prepare to do a fair bit of focus stacking if you want that. Beyond f/5.6, there’s a slight trade-off in sharpness for depth of field, and so, stacking seems to be the way to go for this lens.

There are other lenses out there for Micro Four Thirds that claim even more magnification than this; however, if 2:1 magnification is this difficult to use even with the plug-and-play features of this lens, don’t expect much more than that to be all that useful.

That said, when you nail your technique, the results are impressive. Here’s an unscientific example of how close I could get to a concoction of food coloring and table salt with the 2:1 magnification of the Laowa versus the 1:1 of the Canon 100mm:

Mighty Fine Macro: Fstoppers Reviews the Venus Optics Laowa 50mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro APO Lens 215

Mighty Fine Macro: Fstoppers Reviews the Venus Optics Laowa 50mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro APO Lens 216

As you can see, 2:1 makes a decent amount of difference, though the depth of field is also greatly affected by the extra reach.

Image Quality

Laowa says the lens uses three extra-low dispersion elements to minimize aberrations. I’d say that it largely works, as I didn’t see any fringing or other issues to speak of. Image quality is on par with any of the higher-end lenses from Canon or Nikon. If you’re in need of a macro lens for Micro Four Thirds, you could do far worse.

It’s sharp, just like you’d expect from a macro lens.

Conclusion

Every system needs a good macro lens, and if you’re a Micro Four Thirds shooter, the extra parlor trick of 2:1 magnification gives this lens an edge over a standard macro lens. It’s very much a specialist’s tool, and it’s not a feature that you might end up using often, but it’s nice to know that the headroom for extra magnification is possible if you need it. Just be sure to really shore up your technique before taking the plunge into this type of specialized macro photography.

What I Liked

  • Excellent build quality — feels like a premium lens without the premium price tag
  • CPU works well with both Panasonic and Olympus bodies
  • Smooth manual focus
  • Small footprint

What I Didn’t Like

  • Technique must be perfect to bring the best quality out of the lens at 2:1 magnification

Purchase

Click the following link to purchase the Venus Optics Laowa 50mm f/2.8 Ultra Macro APO Lens for Micro Four Thirds.

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Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus

Featuring the latest high-end Snapdragon 888 chipset, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) is the variant of Samsung’s 2021 flagship available in the US and China. Processor aside, other hardware specs are identical with the Exynos version that’s on sale in the rest of the world, including a 6.8-inch Dynamic AMOLED display with 3200 x 1440 resolution and flexible frame rates up to 120 Hz. Both versions offer S-Pen stylus support and a rear camera with wide, ultra-wide and two tele-lens modules.

The front-facing selfie camera isn’t quite as sophisticated, but it still has a few neat tricks up its sleeve. The single 40 MP Quad Bayer sensor pixel bins down to a 10 MP output when multiple faces are detected, but the device will automatically zoom in on single-person selfies to ensure they fill the frame. This digital zoom solution results in a lower resolution 6.5 MP final output. The f/2.2-aperture 80˚ field of view lens offers Phase Detection Autofocus (PDAF), which still isn’t very common on selfie cameras, and can help ensure faces at different distances retain good detail.

In video mode the front camera offers high resolution 4K capture at either 30 fps or 60 fps. Read on to see how the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) performs under the DXOMARK Selfie test protocol.

Key front camera specifications:

  • 40 MP sensor with 0.7µm pixel size (10MP 1.4µm)
  • 80˚ field of view lens with f/2.2-aperture
  • PDAF autofocus
  • Fixed focus
  • 4K video at 30/60fps (30fps tested)

About DXOMARK Selfie tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone front camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 1500 test images and more than 2 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 Selfie test protocol, click here. 

Test summary

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 217
Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 218

99

selfie

Pros

  • Accurate and stable white balance in most photos and videos
  • Wide dynamic range in HDR photos and videos
  • Pleasant skin tone rendering in most photos and videos
  • Well-preserved detail in indoor and outdoor photos and videos
  • Generally accurate autofocus in videos with wide depth of field in photos

Cons

  • Visible noise in all photos
  • Face exposure occasionally low in some photos and videos
  • Abrupt blur gradient in bokeh photos
  • Low detail in low light videos
  • Visible lens shading in flash photos
  • Jello and residual motion visible in walking videos

With a DXOMARK Selfie overall score of 99, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) just makes the top ten in our selfie camera rankings, a point behind last year’s Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G (Exynos) on 100.

A Photo sub score of 104 for the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) also matches the result achieved by all variants of the S20 and Note20 Ultra, and is only a few points behind our current top device for selfies – the Huawei Mate 40 Pro on 110.

The S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) drops down the rankings a little for front camera video however. Its Video score of 91 is 4 points behind the S20 and Note20 Ultra’s on 95 and a couple of points away from key competitors such as the iPhone 12 Pro and Google Pixel 5.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 220

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) selfie images capture accurate white balance with pleasant skin tone rendering, fairly extended dynamic range on HDR scenes, and wide depth of field ensures faces at different distances from the camera retain good detail.

In our analysis, photos from the front camera produce accurate white balance with natural-looking skin tones in most cases, and dynamic range is fairly wide in high contrast scenes. Texture rendering is also excellent, with fine facial details very well preserved, although at the expense of some luminance noise, which is visible in all images.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), outdoor scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 222

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), crop; excellent detail with some noise

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), outdoor scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 224

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), crop; good detail with some noise

Apple iPhone 12 Pro, outdoor scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 226

Apple iPhone 12 Pro, crop; slightly lower detail with some noise

There are some other minor drawbacks with perhaps the most obvious being the slightly low target exposures in some conditions. You can see in the example below, that while the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) retains good highlight detail in the clouds and sky on this backlit selfie, the subject’s face is exposed better on the Apple iPhone 12 Pro and S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos) examples. Micro contrast is often better on the Snapdragon version, however, which renders slightly more natural-looking results in HDR scenes compared to the Exynos equivalent.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 227

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon), backlit HDR scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 228

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Exynos), backlit HDR scene

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 229

Apple iPhone 12 Pro, backlit HDR scene

Accurate and reliable autofocus ensures the target face is always in sharp focus, and we observed no serious failures during our analysis. Texture rendering is generally very good too. Particularly in outdoor and indoor selfies, the level of fine detail in faces is high and similar to results from the Exynos version. As mentioned, depth of field is also fairly extended generally, but when single faces are very close to the camera at around 30cm, the level of background detail isn’t quite as good as devices like the iPhone 12 Pro.

Other areas for improvement include luminance noise, which is visible in all S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) selfies, and more ringing artifacts are noticeable on the Snapdragon version compared with the Exynos. When using the device’s screen flash in very dark conditions, strong lens shading produces dark corners. Flash results are comparable to the Exynos version, however, and both devices provide accurate exposure on faces towards the center of the frame, with nice skin tone rendering, to ensure the subject is well represented.

In portrait mode, bokeh shots from the front camera are very comparable between the Snapdragon and Exynos versions. Very slight improvements to depth estimation were noted by our testers, but the same abrupt changes in the gradient between the sharp and blurred areas remain evident.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) Selfie review: Excellent texture and autofocus 230

The simulated bokeh effect in portrait mode is effective, with the Snapdragon version producing similar results to the Exynos. Slight depth estimation artifacts are visible, however, and the blur gradient transition is a little more abrupt than we see on the best front cameras for bokeh.

Tested at 4K/30 frames per second, front camera video on the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) displays similar strengths and weaknesses to its stills performance. Video exposure is good, with generally wide dynamic range doing a good job of preserving highlight detail, although low target exposures on faces in bright conditions remain evident and slight exposure instabilities do occur.

Details are well preserved in most videos too, and although things get a little softer in low light conditions you won’t have too many complaints. Noise is also managed a little better is videos compared to stills. Under indoor and low light conditions a little temporal noise is evident, but its fine grain structure ensures is far from offensive and outdoor videos are rendered fairly clean.

The accurate white balance and pleasant skin tones we noted with stills continues, with particularly good color rendering on outdoor and indoor videos from the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon). Autofocus performance is accurate and stable in outdoor videos too. It’s not quite as good in indoor or low light conditions; where occasional instabilities and out-of-focus movies were observed, and depth of field in videos isn’t quite as extended as we saw in the S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon)’s stills. Artifacts such as color quantization, flare and anamorphosis are sometimes visible too, and some jello and residual motion effects persist in video captured while walking.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) outdoor video

Conclusion

Boasting an automatic digital zoom for single-person selfies with a wider field of view for group shots, as well as an autofocus lens, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon) offers the kind of well spec’d front camera you would expect from a top-end flagship.

Results for both photos and video are good, and for the most part the device delivers wide dynamic range, nice color, high detail and accurate autofocus across front camera stills and videos. There’s no noticeable improvement over the S20 models, while the results between the Exynos version, as well as key competitors including Apple and Google flagships, are comparable. Despite some minor drawbacks, including low-face exposures in bright backlit conditions, visible noise, and abrupt blur transitions in bokeh shots, most users will be content with selfies from the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G (Snapdragon).

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Let’s Talk About these 200 MP Galaxy S22 Ultra and Olympus Rumors

Let’s Talk About these 200 MP Galaxy S22 Ultra and Olympus Rumors

It seems like the mirrorless/DSLR realm operates in a different dimension to phone cameras. Sony’s new a1 body boasts a 50-megapixel full-frame sensor and is cutting edge, yet Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra claims to have a 108 MP sensor — and now there are some wild rumors about upcoming 200 MP phone sensors.

This morning I looked at my phone, which is currently a measly Samsung Galaxy S9, and saw some pretty jaw-dropping “news” (re: a somewhat reliable rumor) — the rumored partnership between Samsung and Olympus for future camera technology on their flagship phones. In recent years, many phone brands have begun partnering with well-known camera brands, like Huawei and Leica, Vivo and Zeiss, OnePlus and Hasselblad, or Sony and …Sony. Now, there is no denying that the quality of smartphone camera technology and the photos they produce has been growing steadily to the point of mobile categories in photo contests becoming commonplace, but how far can it go before it’s just a misleading chest-puff claim, or are we already there? Well, with the rumor of a 200 MP camera being developed and included in the upcoming Galaxy S22 Ultra, my guess is as good as yours. Technizo Concept even did up a few mockups to help visualize what this could look like on the flagship Samsung phones.

Currently, the highest megapixel count from any phone is Samsung’s 108MP* camera featured in their Galaxy S20 Ultra. Anyone familiar with the technology used to achieve this understands the * here. For those unfamiliar, a quick breakdown: 108 MP on a 1/1.33” sensor is, well, pretty dense. You can theoretically achieve the max-res in optimal conditions, but image quality falls off a cliff in low light or sometimes when capturing quickly moving subjects. In order to address this, the sensor implements its pixel-binning technology to essentially merge nine super tiny pixels into one normal-sized pixel. This results in a more reasonably expected 12 MP image. Albeit a very nice looking 12 MP image. So how would a 200 MP camera operate under similar constraints? Should we even care, or will this be more about “look what we did” rather than boasting true utility that sets it apart from the pack?  

For now, in the early stages of this apparent arms race of phone developers partnering with very well-known, professional-quality camera and lens companies, I’m inclined to say that we’re going to see a lot of shiny objects to grab our attention — and they already have! That said, as these partnerships develop and mature, I think there could be some pretty fascinating breakthroughs that could result. Only time will tell.

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