LET’S TALK CAMERA
The Realme 2 Pro features dual camera module – the primary 16MP camera having 1/2.8 inch image sensor, equipped with F1.7 lens, focal length unknown (about 27 or 28mm, based on my educated guess), and another 2MP camera having F2.4 lens, with little known info, supplied solely for depth sensing purpose only. The setup is quite a basic one for a late 2018 smartphone model, when everyone else at higher end of the spectrum today were experimenting with ginormous megapixel counts (48MP!!!), 5 camera modules and even included AI aided operations. The specifications of the Realme 2 Pro’s camera may sound lack-luster, but without all the bells and whistles, is the camera sufficient for even the most demanding photographer like myself?
AUTO MODE ONLY
Instead of going all out, I have decided to use the smartphone like everyone else, relying on Automatic mode. Yes, there is an Expert mode built in allowing full manual controls of shutter speed (16 second to 1/8000sec), ISO (22 to 3200), white balance, manual focus, etc, but I shall explore these settings separately in another article. I acknowledge that a majority of the population won’t even touch these advanced settings, and also they are not needed for 90% of the shooting scenarios. To make this quick review of the Realme 2 Pro’s camera more relevant, let’s just stick to basics, and go full Auto mode! The evidence can be found in the video – I am showing you how each and every shot were taken.
All images shown in this blog entry were shot with Realme 2 Pro’s camera, on full automatic mode, hand-held (no tripod or other support/aids used). Images were almost straight out of the camera with only minor tweaks for better consistency for presentation purposes.
JPEG – IMAGE QUALITY GOOD?
Under favorable lighting condition, image quality from the Realme 2 Pro exceeded my expectations. The JPEG engine did a splendid job in optimizing fine detail output and rendering realistic and pleasing colors. Skin tones came out life-like and natural, without being over-saturated. I did no adjustments to the colors of the images shown here, they were as they were coming out from the smartphone’s camera. I like how the colors are very punchy (typical consumer-friendly look) but not being over-bearing at the same time.
Even under harsh conditions, I find the dynamic range to be well handled, without the use of HDR mode. I have tried the HDR mode, and honestly the HDR made things worse by oversharpening the edges and introducing ugly artifacts all over the shadowy areas. The default mode without HDR works very well, and I was very pleased with the image output.
AUTOFOCUS AND SHUTTER LAG?
Autofocus performance was another surprise to me. I understand that fastAF speed, reliability as well as minimal shutter lag can only be found in high-end flagship phones with the most powerful processor built in. I did not anticipate the mid-tier, budget priced Realme 2 Pro to be able to aquire focus that quickly (refer to the video), and at the touch of the shutter button the phone responded near instantaneously. This was something that I seriously needed for street photography – crucial timing for my shots to successfully capture decisive moments. I have always been let down by many smartphones (some even the top of the line models) having noticeable shutter lag (delay between the press of shutter and capture of image), which caused many missed shots and opportunities. I am very glad to report that Realme 2 Pro has one of the snappiest performing camera I have tested so far.
The camera does have a tendency to over-expose the images, as seen in the video, in many scenarios, I was using the exposure compensation to bring the exposure down a little for a more balanced look. Overexposure can lead to blown highlights (whiteouts in bright regions of the frame), which can look unappealing in a photograph. To protect the highlights I suggest dialing down the exposure compensation to achieve that natural looking output.
I also wish the camera has RAW capture, so that I can further enhance the images with more flexibility during post-processing. More highlight and shadow details can be recovered. Nonetheless, it is a budget smartphone, and having good JPEG engine is the next best compromise.
LOW LIGHT SHOOTING
Low light shooting was always the challenge for smartphones. Managing my expectations, I did find the low light shooting of Realme 2 Pro acceptable. There is nothing to write home about, as the images look clean and serviceable without pixel peeping. Zooming in to scrutinize the images at higher ISO settings (ISO 400 and above) the noise reduction kicked in hard in supressing the noise but at the same time washed away useful fine details as well as reducing contrast. Nonetheless, this is a similar issue for most cameras with small sized image sensors. This is when the manual mode of the camera comes in handy, and I shall be exploring the Expert mode in my coming articles.
All other technical flaws were well controlled, most likely by software correction. Minimal chromatic aberration was seen, and no wide angle distortion even at the edges.
The close up shooting is very good, just as expected from any other small-sized image sensor. The sharpness of the image is well maintained, even at macro-range shooting.
ABOUT THE SMARTPHONE – GENERAL USE
I have only been using the Realme 2 Pro for less than a week, so far I have not encountered any issues. Thanks to the abundance of 8GB RAM (not sure if I need that much) the experience has been buttery smooth, with zero lag when multitasking or switching between apps. Using the camera was also an enjoyable experience, being super responsive. Battery life was average, I could get by a whole day in a single charge, and that itself is nothing to shout about. I do however love the screen, I have tweaked the color temperature of the display to be slightly warmer, which seems closer to the color balance I am seeing from my laptop and desktop LCD screens. I guess quirks and issues will arise with more time using the smartphone, and if there are any major issues, I shall be reporting them on this blog.
FIRST IMPRESSION SUMMARY
Having used the Realme 2 Pro in full automatic shooting mode, I dare say I have been impressed. The Auto mode works most of the time, having blazing fast and accurate AF and efficient camera response time. I like what the JPEG in the camera is doing, the color rendition is beautiful and for good lighting conditions, images come out clean, life-like and natural looking. The same cannot be said for low light shooting, but honestly, I do not think anyone else at this price point can do any better.
MISSING OUT ON FEATURES, SELFIE CAM AND VIDEO?
I purposely did not test out the “portrait” mode, which renders fake background blur or “bokeh” effect. I shall test this in another article soon. I don’t take selfies, so please don’t ask me how capable the phone is in shooting selfies. Please, don’t. I beg you. How about video shooting? Maybe, maybe I will do something with the video capture of the camera. Since I have the smartphone with me at all times, I should do more photography and video related shoots.
Smartphone photography has come a long way, and there is no excuse for bad photographs. I am sure everyone can benefit from some photography fundamentals, learn the basics and never skip them. Sometimes, bad photography is easily blamed on the camera itself, but a little know how can go a long way in turning a failed photograph into a usable and maybe a decent shot.