Smartphone night photography: A flagship comparison

Video Smartphone night photography: A flagship comparison

The DXOMARK Digital camera take a look at protocol covers the commonest smartphone digicam use instances however often maintains a set scope throughout a number of months till it’s up to date to incorporate newly emerged person eventualities. This is the reason we hold a detailed eye on the business and constantly monitor developments in expertise to find out if the protocol must be expanded to incorporate new options or take a look at already included options below further gentle circumstances.

As part of this ongoing monitoring, we conduct out-of-protocol benchmarks to gather extra info on options and taking pictures conditions that aren’t presently coated. On this event, now we have targeted on night time images. Whereas the DXOMARK Digital camera protocol consists of many night time scenes and low gentle lab circumstances, not all digicam options are examined in these circumstances. We additionally don’t presently take a look at devoted night time modes. For the aim of this text, now we have particularly targeted on these options, inspecting picture high quality and efficiency when taking pictures at night time utilizing night time mode, bokeh mode and zoom-in and out. We additionally tried Tremendous Moon modes and had a more in-depth take a look at the cameras’ habits when it comes to picture flare, which could be a downside in night time images.

To do that, we’ve picked a number of present flagship telephones: the model new Vivo X70 Professional+, the Apple iPhone 13 Professional Max, Huawei P50 Professional and Xiaomi M11 Extremely. So let’s dive proper in.

Night time mode on the first digicam

Present night time modes push the boundaries of what’s attainable when it comes to body stacking and publicity on smartphone cameras. Nevertheless, all fashions on this comparability deal effectively with the problem. The Vivo X70 Professional+ does an total glorious job. By way of picture processing, it is just marginally slower than customary photograph mode, so it doesn’t maintain you again except you shoot fast-moving topics, and enhancements when it comes to picture high quality are sometimes important. The identical is true for the opposite two gadgets, however the Xiaomi Mi 11 Extremely is a bit of slower as it can forestall you from taking one other image after seize for marginally longer.

The Vivo gadget produces probably the most saturated blues when in comparison with the Apple iPhone 13 Professional Max and Xiaomi Mi 11 Extremely. All three cameras seize night time mode photographs with a large dynamic vary however solely on the Vivo does the sky retain a few of its deep blue shade, making for a extra vivid picture. By way of texture/noise tradeoff, the Vivo and Xiaomi are a step forward of the Apple.

Let’s additionally take a look on the variations between default photograph mode and night time mode when taking pictures at night time. We picked the Vivo X70 Professional+ for this comparability as a result of its night time mode gives the most important advantages over default mode out of the take a look at gadgets. When seen at small dimension, each night time photographs under look good, however the night time mode picture has a noticeably higher dynamic vary. The shadows have been barely lifted, revealing extra element, whereas the spotlight areas are effectively preserved and protected against clipping.

When zooming additional in it’s additionally apparent that the Vivo’s night time mode captures a lot better element than customary mode. That is very true within the shadow areas of the body.

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On this shot, we are able to see that night time mode additionally has a noticeable influence on shade. Coloration rendering is totally different, with extra saturated blue tones within the sky. Night time mode additionally produces a barely cleaner picture, with decrease ranges of luminance noise.

Night time mode on the ultra-wide digicam

On all three comparability gadgets, night time mode is out there throughout all zoom components. When taking pictures on the ultra-wide digicam, the Vivo X70 Professional+ gives the general finest night time mode outcomes. The publicity is barely brighter, with a wider dynamic vary than on the Apple and Xiaomi. It’s additionally a step forward when it comes to element. The Apple delivers a good publicity however loses loads of element, particularly within the shadows. The Xiaomi beats the Apple when it comes to picture element, however its seize is barely too darkish.

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We now have once more included the comparability to the Vivo’s default mode and on the ultra-wide, the digicam habits is just about an identical to the first cam. Publicity is a bit of brighter than the default mode, with a wider dynamic vary. Element can also be improved whereas picture noise stays on an analogous degree. Coloration rendering is nice, with stronger blue hues than default mode or the competitors, and flare artifacts are effectively below management.

Night time mode on the tele digicam(s)

On earlier smartphone generations, night time mode was typically solely accessible on the first digicam module. Nevertheless, on many present flagship telephones, night time mode will also be enabled when tele zooming. Which cellphone is finest for tele-zooming at night time relies upon rather a lot on the precise zoom issue we’re taking a look at. It’s because in low gentle circumstances, gentle assortment capabilities (largely decided by sensor dimension and aperture) of tele digicam setups are totally different on every cellphone and may range rather a lot with the zoom issue. Apple’s gadget makes use of an f/2.8 3x telephoto module. The Xiaomi has a slower f/4.1 lens on its 5x tele however gives a pretty big 1/2″ sensor. The Vivo options two devoted digicam modules to zoom-in: an f/1.6 2x for shut vary and an f/3.4 5x for longer vary photos. We’ll take a look on the habits at totally different zoom components on this part.

When in comparison with the iPhone 13 Professional Max and Xiaomi Mi 11 Extremely at a 3x tele zoom issue, the Apple iPhone 13 Professional Max produces the most effective element. The Vivo and Xiaomi are on an analogous degree however noticeably decrease than the Apple.

The scenario barely differs at an extended tele issue of 5x. The X70 Professional+ produces decrease ranges of element than the 2 rivals. It’s because in low gentle the Vivo just isn’t all the time utilizing its 5x telephoto digicam, however digitally zooms in from one of many wider digicam modules, regardless of the low efficient decision. It’s because the sensor of the longer periscope tele digicam may not collect sufficient gentle in these circumstances in comparison with the brighter f/1.6 2x module. On this taking pictures state of affairs, the Xiaomi is taking the lead, taking advantage of the comparatively massive sensor in its 120mm f/4.1 tele digicam and beating the iPhone.

At 2x, the Vivo typically has a really slight edge over the 2 different gadgets, particularly when utilizing night time mode, so let’s once more verify how night time mode compares to default mode when used on the tele digicam. Like on the ultra-wide and first cameras, the X70 Professional+ night time mode delivers photos which are improved over default photograph mode. Publicity and shade rendering are good and virtually an identical to default mode, however night time mode delivers higher element with out rising noise degree.

Nevertheless, that is very true at a 2x zoom issue: for longer focal lengths, picture high quality just isn’t enhancing as a lot as at 2x when activating night time mode, and is barely behind the iPhone at 3x and the Xiaomi at 5x as now we have seen in earlier illustrations.

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There’s one factor to remember when utilizing zoom at night time: Even when smartphone cameras are utilizing higher picture fusion and stacking algorithms to enhance outcomes on intermediate focal lengths (between the native optical focal lengths of the totally different digicam modules), advantages are usually not as important at night time as they’re in brilliant gentle circumstances. For finest picture high quality, it’s due to this fact recommendable to stay to the ultra-wide, main and tele cameras’ native decision and keep away from digital zooming at night time, whereas ready for picture high quality to progress on intermediate focal lengths.

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Tremendous Moon mode

Taking frame-filling footage of the moon was the area of huge sensor DSLRs or mirrorless cameras with lengthy and quick (and due to this fact very costly) lenses till not very way back. Now, this may be executed with a smartphone, so long as you utilize one of many present top-end gadgets. Each the Vivo X70 Professional+ and Xiaomi Mi 11 Extremely provide a devoted Tremendous Moon mode that makes use of a 60x tele zoom issue and exposes for the moon to disclose as a lot element as attainable on the floor.

Within the samples under, you may see that the outcomes are fairly spectacular contemplating we’re taking pictures with smartphones. The Xiaomi captures higher element, however world distinction is a bit of nicer on the Vivo. The Huawei P50 Professional doesn’t include a Tremendous Moon mode, however we replicated it manually by zooming in to the identical issue and touch-focusing on the moon. As you may see, the digicam doesn’t decrease publicity sufficient and just about all element on the floor on the moon is clipped.

We additionally discovered that these particular Moon modes are fairly “clever” and never fooled by any round gentle sources or different objects corresponding to an illuminated hot-air balloon within the night time sky: the Tremendous Moon algorithms might have been tricked into mistaking such objects for the moon however this was not the case in our take a look at.

Night time bokeh simulation

Bokeh simulation modes try and simulate the look of a DSLR with a quick lens by isolating the topic from the background and blurring the latter to various levels. Most smartphone cameras have been providing this sort of function for a number of years now and with each new gadget technology, now we have seen enhancements when it comes to topic isolation and blur rendering. As a reference on this comparability, now we have additionally included a picture captured with the “actual factor” — a Sony A7R IV with Loxia 50mm f/2 lens.

As you may see within the 100% crops, all three smartphone photos lack element in comparison with the Sony. By way of blur and rendering of spotlights within the background, the Vivo comes closest to the digicam. Then again, pores and skin tones and saturation are nicer on the Huawei P50 Professional. The Xiaomi doesn’t do too effectively on this comparability, capturing an underexposed picture with little or no element. We additionally discovered its autofocus to battle in these tough circumstances.

General it’s honest to say that even present flagship telephones nonetheless have to enhance rather a lot to supply one thing that’s near a picture captured on a full-frame digicam with a wide-aperture lens. The latter doesn’t fairly match the Vivo’s distinction however produces higher saturation and element. On the Vivo smartphone, all spotlights within the background are white or some shade of yellow. On the Sony digicam picture, we are able to see orange, yellow and blue spotlights that are nearer to the unique colours of the scene. As well as, not one of the smartphones seize good element in bokeh mode at night time. The Sony digicam is a good distance forward on this respect as effectively.

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When utilizing bokeh simulation mode at night time, particular consideration needs to be given to the rendering of spotlights within the background and a few telephones allow you to select from a spread of lens simulation modes — and due to this fact totally different highlight rendering choices — when taking pictures in bokeh mode. The Vivo X70 Professional+, for instance, makes use of Zeiss-branded lenses, and when utilizing its bokeh mode, you may choose simulations of a number of well-known Zeiss digicam lenses, together with the Distagon, Planar and Sonnar. All these modes render spotlights in another way. Related results can be found on different smartphones, for instance, the Huawei P50 Professional.


Night time scenes corresponding to those now we have captured for the aim of manufacturing this text typically embody very brilliant gentle sources in entrance of darkish backgrounds. In these circumstances, many cameras and lenses are liable to flare artifacts which happen when gentle is scattered or mirrored inside a lens.

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To check digicam habits when it comes to flare, we checked out a spread of city nightscape photos that have been captured in default mode. On this take a look at, the Vivo X70 Professional+ does total the most effective job. Some flare is seen in its night time shot, however the cellphone’s Zeiss-branded lenses deal higher with the phenomenon than the rivals. You possibly can see that flare is total fairly effectively managed, with a smaller clipped halo across the gentle supply than on the iPhone 13 Professional Max and fewer intrusive reflections within the high left nook than the Xiaomi Mi 11 Extremely. On the flip facet, the world of low distinction round this halo can generally be a bit of bigger on the Vivo than on the 2 rivals, so total there may be nonetheless a small room for enchancment.

General the iPhone is most liable to flare on this comparability and infrequently exhibits flare not solely round brilliant gentle sources but additionally in different areas of the body. Trying on the backside proper portion of the identical picture when opened full dimension, we are able to see fairly intrusive flare artifacts on the iPhone, which are most probably reflections of the spotlights on the other facet of the picture. Related however a lot weaker and fewer noticeable results are seen on the opposite telephones below nearer inspection as effectively.

What we see within the real-life night time photographs above is confirmed by our flare measurements within the lab. The Vivo produces a smaller space of intense flare (purple space within the graph under) across the brilliant gentle supply however has a bigger space of much less intense flare (inexperienced). The arrow form on the appropriate can also be much less noticeable on the Vivo than on the Xiaomi, as we observed within the cityscape scene above. These measurements have been taken on the first digicam for a one-spot gentle supply.

To search out out extra about how DXOMARK measures flare take a look at this video.


It’s honest to say that fashionable flagship smartphones have come a good distance when it comes to night time images. Whereas full-frame cameras with quick lenses are nonetheless the best way to go for individuals who require the very best picture high quality, smartphone cameras are in everybody’s pockets and simpler to make use of. They’re additionally able to doing a reasonably good job, even in very low gentle. That is because of improved {hardware} that helps collect extra gentle and cut back artifacts corresponding to flare, but additionally revolutionary software program options that use body stacking and picture fusion (over consecutive captures or between totally different digicam modules) as a way to maximize the quantity of sunshine to work with.

These software program algorithms also can trigger picture artifacts and present limitations in texture/noise when digitally zooming in, which is why with the present technology of smartphones it’s nonetheless finest to stay to the native focal size of the built-in cameras. We’re trying ahead to producers enhancing low gentle picture high quality at intermediate zoom ranges on future fashions. One other problem for smartphone makers is the optimization of night time mode processing speeds. This might enable for the combination of those modes into default photograph modes, with out the necessity for guide choice, so customers can profit from the improved picture high quality always. Apple has taken step one right here with its auto night time mode on the iPhone, however it isn’t but on the identical degree because the Vivo’s night time mode when it comes to texture and noise. Combining Vivo-like night time mode picture high quality with Apple-like integration could possibly be the essential subsequent step within the quest for higher night time images on smartphone cameras.

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