Realme 2 Pro Camera Quick Review

I have recently purchased a new budget smartphone the Realme 2 Pro to replace my daily driver, the Motorola G5S Plus. As a practicing photographer I was both extremely excited and curious at the same time about how well the camera in the Realme 2 Pro performs. Becoming a ritual now, every time I got myself a new smartphone, I shall bring it out for shutter therapy sessions and do a camera review from a photographer's perspective. After all, a smartphone is the world's most popularly used imaging device today, and almost everyone owns and uses a smartphone camera daily! However, for this particular article on the Realme 2 Pro, we are going to do things a little differently this time!

Robin Lockscreen with Robin Lego Brickheadz and a smartwatch with clock-face having Robin themed colors, geddit? Geddit??

For those of you who prefer to watch a video review instead of reading a lengthily written article, here you go! I made a video, with video screenshots of all the images I have taken, so you can see me shooting in action and how I managed to get my shots in the field. 

REALME 2 PRO CAMERA QUICK REVIEW


Before we jump in too far, let's have some disclaimers first. This is an independently written article. I am not affiliated or associated with Oppo and Realme in any way. I purchased the Realme 2 Pro with my own money and this shall be my main phone. I am not reviewing the Realme 2 Pro from a gadget or tech site's perspective, as there are many smartphone reviews done on this product already, everywhere! Therefore, I am focusing merely on a singular aspect in my review - the camera, which is often glanced over and quite frankly, poorly done by a majority of tech reviews. I am after all a photographer, so I am sure some will be interested to find out how the Realme 2 Pro handles in a photographer's hands. 

The reason why I gave up on the Motorola G5S Plus was quite a silly one. The phone performed admirably with smooth and lag-free experience for a whole year of me using it. Everything worked fine, and I did like the camera on the Moto (with Google Camera ported over). However, I have overlooked an extremely important feature which was not included in the Moto G5S Plus, or at least the variant that was sold locally here in Malaysia - an electronic compass. Without a compass, the Google Maps navigation was very problematic for pedestrians like me. Without the auto-orientation, I have been misled and made many wrong turns in my reliance of the Google Maps directions in the past one year. The breaking point was during my travel to Bangkok last month, where I almost got lost without a working compass inside the phone. 

Then why Realme 2 Pro? Well, honestly, it was due to the massive price slash during a recent sales on Lazada. It was offered at a price I could not refuse. Currently (at the time of writing) there were no other smartphones that offer 128GB UFS 2.1 high speed storage and a massive 8GB of RAM under the RM1000 price tag. Also, in comparison to the aging Moto, the Realme 2 Pro has bigger, better and more color accurate screen, 2018's best Snapdragon mid-range performing processor, larger battery capacity as well as Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD support, something very important for an Audiophile (wannabe) like myself. All in all, for a very affordable price point, 



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.


Crop from previous image



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.






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2 comments:

  1. When you get around to evaluating the video shooting performance, I'd be interested to know if there is decent realtime- or even post-stabilization available. I'm always envious of the smooth, gliding imagery posted by my friends shooting videos on their late-model iPhones.

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    Replies
    1. I don't think there is any way to match the smooth non-shaky movement. This is after all just a budget phone!

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