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Shootouts

Shootout: The very best cameras on flagship smartphones today

By Liu Hongzuo - 25 Jul 2021

Ultra-wide-angle: where more is more

Ultra-wide-angle

In most high-end phones, a common point of view at our disposable these days is an ultra-wide-angle shot. This is usually denoted by a 0.5x - 0.6x zoom option in the camera's app interface, and the task is usually handed off to the ultra-wide secondary lens. A key aspect in ultra-wide shooting is the phone's ability to correct for fish-eye distortion, among other generic imaging requirements like noise, colour, and detail handling.

Example of our ultra-wide-angle challenge to the five contenders.

We chose a venue that has clear straight lines to challenge the phones distortion correction on hand. Furthermore, it had plenty of detail for us to narrow down any discrepancies. 

 

Full image

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max.

Fish-eye distortion was kept to a minimum, and just about everything except the overly-aggressive contrast handling is great from the iPhone 12 Pro Max's ultra-wide-angle shot.  We'll need some close-up cropping later to look for flaws.

 

Huawei P40 Pro+.

Huawei P40 Pro+ has better control over contrast and it brought out the coffeeshop's patrons dining indoors. Conversely, colours are not as rich as the iPhone's interpretation. If you follow the lines of tiles and the two blue-white buildings that frame this shot, you can also see that Huawei's fish-eye correction isn't as complete as Apple's.

 

Oppo Find X2 Pro.

Honestly, the colourisation in the Oppo Find X2 Pro maybe appear muted, or even washed out at first glance, but the Oppo is the strongest contender at this point because details aren't compromised and its combined detail and contrast handling brought out the reflections in the windows above. Colours are rich even with a brighter shot than the iPhone's. Fish-eye correction is also superb, moreso than Huawei.

 

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Not surprisingly, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra's interpretation of this ultra-wide-angle scene closely resembles the end-result generated by Apple's iPhone 12 Pro Max. Even the coffeeshop patrons under shelter have disappeared into the darkness. It's a great shot by Samsung, but Oppo still has the upper hand so far.

 

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro.

By itself, Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro delivers a nice shot, if a little on the darker side of contrast. Depending on where you look, it's at times similar to what the Apple phone delivered (orange roof), with details still intact.

Oppo has a clear lead when we take a naked look at the ultra-wide-angle shots presented, but does it also hold up at actual pixel size?

 

Crops at actual pixel size

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max.

iPhone's detail retention is pretty good, but the graininess and extreme darks left a little to be desired.

Huawei P40 Pro+.

Oppo Find X2 Pro.

Between Huawei and Oppo, Huawei has better detail and stabilisation, but we still lean towards Oppo for the better overall quality, along with Oppo's decent treatment to contrast and keeping noise very well under control.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.

Oddly enough, the Samsung phone also has an imaging quality closer to the Apple phone than the other two.

Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro.

Xiaomi is almost there but not quite because it sacrifices some detail, like the orange rooftop tiles and the definition of the leaves in the tree.

 

Ultra-wide-angle winner

While the Huawei P40 Pro+ was impressive, Oppo Find X2 Pro gets to take the lead in this aspect. It wasn't an easy win, to be fair. But it did everything sufficiently to bring about the best overall shot for this challenge. It offered better fish-eye correction than Huawei, while coming out ahead of others in contrast handling. Oppo also did all this without losing too much detail even under challenging conditions, something which the Huawei P40 Pro+ was also able to achieve.

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