First spotted at MWC earlier this year, Lenovo's Vibe Shot smartphone is now coming to Singapore. Designed as a half phone, half point-and-shoot compact camera hybrid, the S$479 Vibe Shot boasts a 5-inch Full HD display, full aluminum frame, and a 16-megapixel rear camera with OIS and a unique tricolor LED flash. Is this the phone photography enthusiasts have been waiting for? We find out.
|Lenovo Vibe Shot|
The Vibe Shot looks like any other 5-inch Android smartphone from the front. It's got a reasonably thin 7.6mm aluminum frame that looks pretty iPhone 5-ish, complete with chamfered bezels and a row of holes on the bottom for the speaker grille. It's not the lightest phone at 145g, but it's not a brick either.
Flip the phone over and it looks more like a point-and-shoot digital camera than an iPhone - in fact, the entire rear is arranged in landscape orientation, just like a camera. On the left edge (or top edge when you're holding the phone like a camera) there's a dedicated shutter button, which also acts as a quick-launch button for the camera app, as well as the power and volume buttons. There's also a switch here that lets you toggle between 'Auto' and 'Pro' modes.
Let's talk about the camera module. For a phone aimed at photography, you might be expecting something a bit better than the average smartphone camera. Well, that's only sort of true here. With the Vibe Shot, you get a 16:9 BSI sensor, and a 16-megapixel, f/2.2 lens, which actually isn't very impressive. But you also get optical image stabilization, which is pretty much unheard of at this price level, and a unique tri-color triple LED flash, which Lenovo claims is able to achieve an 85 on the CRI (Color Rendering Index).
Lenovo has also beefed up the phone's camera capabilities with on-board software. As mentioned, there are two main camera modes: Auto and Pro. Auto mode does what you would expect and automatically selects the best settings for you. There's also a Smart scene detection here for portraits, landscapes and food photography (or as Lenovo calls it, Gourmet Photography).
Lenovo's Smart Scene software doesn't just adjust the settings for you, it tries to help you to take a better picture too. For example, when taking a portrait, it will detect your subject's face, then suggest how you should frame your shot with a little circle. It will even tell you to move closer or back up so you can achieve the perfect head-and-shoulders framing. When you've got everything just right, it will show "Perfect", prompting you to take the shot.
Generally speaking, Auto mode was quite good. The camera focuses quickly and sharply, and scene detection worked for the most part.
Pro mode gives you more manual control thanks to a ring of options that is pretty much identical to Microsoft's Lumia Pro camera app. Just like the Lumia Pro camera app, swipe left from the on-screen shutter button and a bunch of options will pop out. There's exposure compensation, ISO, shutter speed, focus, and white balance here. Unfortunately, while it looks good on the surface, some of the options here aren't that useful and you can't customize any of the settings either.
For example, manual shutter speed selection is limited to 1/15, 1/5, 1/2, and 1 second, all of which are pretty much unusable and will result in blurry photos. Just for comparison, Microsoft's Lumia Pro camera app also has four options for manual shutter speed, but here you get 1/800, 1/40, 1/4 and 4 seconds, a much better spread of options.
There also doesn't appear to be an option for long exposure photography on the Vibe Shot at the moment, although we're told that an updated version of the software that is currently only available in China includes an update for this - no word on when it will come to Singapore though.
Honestly, I wasn't all that impressed by 'Pro' mode. There aren't many options here that would result in a better photo and, like most point-and-shoot cameras, you're much better off leaving the Vibe Shot on 'Auto' mode.
On the phone side of things, the Vibe Shot is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 octa-core processor, which appears to be the second-generation 1.7GHz/1.0GHz variant, although we're waiting for confirmation on this. You also get 3GB RAM and 32GB internal storage, expandable via MicroSD card up to 128GB. Battery-wise, there's a 3000mAh non-removable battery inside the Vibe Shot.
All things considered, the Vibe Shot is not a phone like the Nokia Lumia 1020 that can replace your mirrorless or even DSLR camera. Specs-wise, its camera module isn't as good as the ones found in high-end flagships like the LG G4, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, or iPhone 6.
Having said that, at S$479, it also costs about half the price of any of those phones. At this price point, it delivers a pretty good point-and-shoot experience, with some nice photography features, like OIS and triple LED flash, I just wish the actual camera module was a bit better. It's fine for daily snaps and all your Instagram food photos, but the f/2.2 aperture limits the kind of shots you take. You won't find much bokeh here, and while OIS helps somewhat, it does nothing if your subject is moving around.
As for the phone itself, the Vibe Shot is actually a fairly decent mid-range phone, with a premium-feeling aluminum build, an attractive 5-inch Full HD display, and dual-SIM connectivity.
The big question is, can the Vibe Shot compete in the ultra competitive mid-range smartphone market, and how much extra are you willing to pay for its camera features and premium build? Xiaomi's Mi 4i has a plastic build and only 2GB RAM, but costs $200 less and uses the same processor and Full HD display and its own camera is pretty decent too. In fact, the Mi 4i even has a wider f/2.0 aperture lens.
There's definitely a market for camera-centric 'hybrid' smartphones, and the Vibe Shot is a decent effort from Lenovo, but we wish its camera hardware was a little better. This isn't the phone photography enthusiasts have been waiting for, but casual shutterbugs that aren't willing to pay $1000 for a high-end flagship might enjoy the Vibe Shot.
The Lenovo Vibe Shot is available exclusively through Lazada Singapore in Carmine Red for S$479. Lenovo also makes Grey and White models, however they will not be available in Singapore.