Shootout: The very best cameras on flagship smartphones today

By Liu Hongzuo - 25 Jul 2021

Macro: up close and personal


Typically, macro shots in phones are handled via a dedicated macro camera or offloaded to the ultra-wide-angle lens with a prefixed degree of magnification. In some phones, the main camera takes on that duty. By the nature of macro photography, the subject will be in focus while the surroundings blur away in a bokeh effect.

Our macro attempt disregards how the phone achieves the shot. Instead, we look at how successfully it delivers macros shots when called upon, so things like focus and clarity, bokeh, accuracy, and detail all come into play.

As with the other shots before this one, we've arranged it based on the phone model. Winner(s) below, as usual.


Full image

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Apple once again checks all the boxes to bring out an acceptable macro shot, despite not having a dedicated macro camera lens. It's bokeh effect doesn't feel too artificial and the focus on the subject is good. The veiny details in the petals, and the stigma and style within the stamen are well-represented. Colours feel quite right as well. How do the others fare and where does Apple stand among them?


Huawei P40 Pro+.

A big 'oof' from the Huawei P40 Pro+ comes. Despite having a penta-rear-camera setup, Huawei lacks a macro camera. But, that wasn't an excuse for the iPhone, either. While the P40 Pro+ provides an artificial-looking bokeh around the subject, there were hardly any details captured. Also, the digital processing for added sharpness is too blatant for a nature-filled photo to look natural. Check out the petal's outlines. Moving on...


Oppo Find X2 Pro.

Oppo's ultra-wide-angle camera doubles up as a macro shooter - the company put in considerable work to give that lens a 3cm Ultra Macro Shooting feature in their lens and it shows. Granted, there's a little bit of digital artefacts along the petals' outlines (jagged edges).  However, we can't deny this is a really good bokeh shot that checks all the boxes. The iPhone comes out ahead with better manipulation of light, though. Without Apple, the Oppo Find X2 Pro would be in the running for this particular challenge.


Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Here's another one that didn't quite meet the mark. Sure, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers a well-lit shot, but very little of this macro attempt is truly macro. There's overly aggressive bokeh and only in the top right corner; elsewhere, the details in the petals are lost. While it's a very high-quality shot that's miles ahead of the P40 Pro+, it's not really a macro shot.


Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro.

We really liked how Xiaomi took on this macro challenge. It has the most natural bokeh of the five, and the detail retention was sufficient enough for us to appreciate the photo. Where it falls behind are its control over light (which was very sufficient already, given how Apple was able to use it well) and its seemingly narrow tolerance for focus.


Macro Maestro

The Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Oppo Find X2 Pro both come out ahead with their superior manipulation of every aspect that makes up a great macro shot. While the iPhone has better control over light, Oppo's attempt is also true to this challenge. Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro was almost there if it wasn't for its tight focus tolerance.

We've covered enough across the different phones through different scenarios in order to get ourselves an overall winner. Drum roll, please...

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