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Camera phones face-off: which one is best for you?

One of the reasons you’ll love or hate your phone is going to be the camera

brunch Updated: Oct 15, 2017 19:04 IST
Rajiv Makhni
Rajiv Makhni
Hindustan Times
The Honor 9i (left) may be smaller in size than the Google Pixel 02, but it takes awesome pictures and comes at a great price

It basically translates down to this. Irrespective of what reason, criterion or justification you come up with to buy one phone over another, one of the main reasons for you to either love or hate your phone is going to be the camera eventually. Looks, screen, battery and specs will all pale in comparison if the camera results are horrible. It’s the one tangible that goes out into the world as almost everything else remains within. The pictures are shared, posted, printed and commented upon. Horrendous pictures will be singularly flamed while your phone and your own picture taking abilities will be put to shame. The camera in a phone matters the most! And, two companies made sure that they took optics on a phone to a whole new level.

Honor 9i – 4 cameras in 1 phone

I’m going to start with the more economical option first because the Honor 9i is a major disrupter. Honor has lead the whole dual camera revolution and has been able to bring that technology down to the masses. Thus it was important for them to pull a serious rabbit out of the hat. And the 9i is just that, a super bunny and not just in the camera department.

The metal body and full display makes the Honor 9i a very premium looking phone

An all metal body, borderless edge to edge display, a super sharp 5.9 inch 2096 X 1080 screen, 4GB RAM/64GB storage, microSD slot and some serious battery life to boot. The metal body and full display makes this a very premium looking phone. Then they added four cameras to the phone (more on that in a bit) and went incredibly aggressive and priced it at Rs17,999. I spent a whole week with the phone and took some startling pictures. Both the front and back cameras are dual, thus you shoot some awesome pictures and can also do some very cool tricks. With the front camera also having a dual set, you can now elevate your selfies to a new level too. Portrait selfies with a blurred background or even group selfies with more depth were specially impressive. The Honor 9i is easily the best in its category in multiple ways, but in optics it can take on almost any cameraphone at any price point.

The Honor 9i boasts of four cameras (left); while the camera in Google Pixel 2 sets new standards

Google Pixel 2 – highest scoring cameraphone ever

Let’s put things in perspective before we start here. The original Google Pixel phone was a bit of an oddity. It had all the major chops in hardware, the Google Assistant feature was excellent and the camera on the phone set new standards. But it still wasn’t a phone that set the market on fire. Maybe because it looked drab or didn’t have any whiz bang gimmicks. It did create a name for itself and a niche fan base, so the Pixel 2 had big shoes to fill. Google went with the same strategy here too. It’s a dull-looking phone, has serious hardware chops, some nice new features and once again sets a record in the camera department.

The Pixel 2 shuns the all new standard of an edge-to-edge display, omits the 3.5mm jack and then takes the horrible decision to even omit a microSD card slot

In the DxOMark Mobile Test (a word standard that evaluates over 1500 test images and more than 2 hours of video) it scored an astounding overall score of 98. Picture reproduction in indoor and outdoor as well as in brightly-lit and semi-dark conditions were outstanding. Maybe the only cameraphone that can shoot such perfection in any condition is the Samsung Note 8. But therein lies the problem. The Pixel 2 does have competition already in the Note 8 and the upcoming iPhone X may make it even tougher. On top of it, the Pixel 2 has hardly anything else going for it. It’s mainly a phone made by nerds for nerds. It’s not flashy, it doesn’t have any other killer or wow feature and it strangely shuns the all new standard of an edge-to-edge display, omits the 3.5mm jack and then takes the horrible decision to even omit a microSD card slot. And yet, it’s priced astronomically, almost the same as a Note 8 or an iPhone 8. Somehow the Pixel 2 not only disappoints but does it acutely and achingly. Huge missed opportunity for Google that may well be the start to the end of the Pixel legacy.

It’s obvious that smartphones seem to be reaching a level of parity in terms of hardware and specs. Thus the major differentiator only seems to be the camera for the time being. The Honor kills it while the Google Pixel 2 may have killed itself.

Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

From HT Brunch, October 15, 2017

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First Published: Oct 14, 2017 22:23 IST