The main 50MP camera is the Phantom X's crown jewel. We've reviewed this Samsung S5KGN1 imager before in the much more expensive vivo X60 Pro+. It's one of the biggest sensors on the market, measuring 1/1.31" in size and offering large 1.2µm pixels. These pixels may not sound as big out of context, but this is a quad-Bayer sensor after all, so the effective pixel size shoots up to 2.4µm. Samsung calls the tech behind it Dual Tetrapixel, which means 4-in-1 color filter array with dual pixel autofocus.
There's also a laser focus to aid the camera in poorly lit conditions. The lens offers a reasonably wide f/1.9 aperture.
The main shooter is joined by a 13MP telephoto camera offering a 50mm focal length equivalent, or in other words - 2x optical zoom. The EXIF data reports f/2.46 aperture.
And as for ultrawide, Tecno has settled for the common 8MP 1/4.0", 1.12µm pixels sensor with f/2.25 aperture. The advertised viewing angle is 120-degrees, which is just about average. The nice thing about it is that it has AF, so it takes on the missing macro camera's duty.
On the front, we have another quad-Bayer sensor - 48MP paired with an f/2.2 aperture. The sensor's size is 1/2.0" and offers 0.8µm pixels. The same 8MP sensor is used for the front ultrawide camera, too but opens up the aperture a bit more - f/2.2. Sadly, the viewing angle is just 105-degrees, so we don't expect particularly wide photos.
The camera app is pretty basic, with most of the modes arranged in the carousel formation while the rest are accessed by swiping up from around the shutter button. Don't be surprised when you see the app for the first time as there's no "Photo" mode, it's named "AI CAM" here. It's practically the same, though. In this mode, the AI algorithm is always running, you can't turn it off, and you will get the occasional prompts when the software recognizes a certain type of scene. A manual mode, sadly, isn't available, so you can't adjust any of the settings manually. This could be a potential deal-breaker for some users that like to take control of the camera.
The toggles that are available in the standard AI CAM mode are the ones you'd expect, plus a Macro toggle. This one uses the ultrawide camera since it has autofocus. The UI designers may have gone a bit too far with the toggle bracket because as you flip the device, the toggles follow suit, and they will always appear on the bottom of the viewfinder. We would argue that a static positioning next to the shutter button works better. It's easier to reach with your thumb.
Despite the capable 50MP sensor, the main camera's daylight performance is far from impressive - or dare we say, downright disappointing.
On the positive side, we are happy with the overall sharpness - it's about average for the class. Dynamic range is relatively wide, too, and there is low noise.
However, a number of our photo samples came out overexposed, while others had random smudged and blurry areas here and there for no apparent reason.
And finally, the color rendition is really bad. Colors are muted but not all of them and not every time. It's all a bit random.
Interestingly enough, indoor samples look good with minimal noise and are almost identical to their outdoor counterparts and the colors are (mostly) punchy or at least reasonably vibrant.
Shooting in the full 50MP resolution doesn't add much. You do get a marginal improvement in detail, but this mode doesn't use HDR so you may notice clipped highlights and slightly darker shadows too. Noise is still hard to find, though, which is rare when shooting unbinned photos with sensors that have native pixel binning.
The telephoto samples are quite decent with vibrant colors, satisfactory sharpness and HDR algorithm that should do the trick in most situations. Noise can be observed only from up close and mostly in poorly-lit areas. The telephoto camera definitely seems more consistent with color reproduction and handles indoor scenes just as well.
Given the fact that proper telephoto cameras in this price range are scarce and Tecno opted for a 13MP 2x optical zoom is admirable. This telephoto unit and the performance it offers ties the camera set up together for a complete and versatile experience.
Sadly, the same cannot be said about the ultrawide unit as it falls behind the competition. Of course, the 8MP sensor used here is the same one that many competitors are opting for, but the Phantom X doesn't stand out in a good way. Colors are washed out, dynamic range is narrow, the samples are soft across the board, even those that have subjects from up close.
Moving indoors causes the image quality to deteriorate fast with added noise and softer overall looks. On a more positive note, there's no color fringing, and the lens correction is doing a fine job.
There's no dedicated macro camera, so the ultrawide takes on the responsibility, which is a good thing in the vast majority of cases. Since the ultrawide supports autofocus and offers 8MP resolution, images appear considerably better than the competition employing 2MP cameras or 5MP ones at best. The autofocus makes the shooting experience sensibly better too. You get plenty of fine detail and overall sharp photos but make sure there's enough lighting as the macro mode is quite sensitive in this regard. Unfortunately, the issue we had with the ultrawide camera's bland colors is present here as well.
In an unexpected turn of events, the nighttime photos look impeccable, even when compared to more expensive models. The default mode detects a night scene, prompts you about it and proceeds with some optimization going on in the background. The result is Night mode-Esque quality without having to wait for the long exposure to take place. There's definitely some image stacking going on, though. The images look crisp, clear and have plenty of fine detail in the shadows and highlights, which in turn are balanced almost perfectly. Even the small objects in the shadows are well rendered and look sharp.
On the contrary to their daylight counterparts, the nighttime shots have good contrast, fairly accurate colors. Noise is also hard to spot.
The so-called Super Night mode offers even better image quality over the standard shooting mode. It takes care of the clipped highlights around bright light sources, brightens up the shadows, adds a little bit more detail and clears up the remaining noise, which isn't a lot, to begin with. The dedicated Night mode boosts color saturation by a little and adds a bit more artificial sharpness to the buildings with fine detail.
However, we can't shake off the feeling of that artificial look the Super Night mode samples have. It's more of a subjective opinion, but they do look unnatural. Perhaps the overly bright shadows are the culprit, but we can't quite put our finger on it.
In any case, both modes seem to offer excellent picture quality, so it's up to you which one you'd use the most. Sadly, the night mode doesn't support the telephoto and ultra-wide cameras.
When you select the 2x zoom toggle, the software uses the actual telephoto camera instead of cropping out from the main sensor. Still, the results are far from ideal, and one would argue that cropping from the main sensor would yield better results. The photos are muddy, noisy and lack detail. Dynamic range is narrow as in all samples the highlights are blown out.
Since the ultrawide daylight photos are unsatisfactory, we can't expect good results after dusk as well. Nighttime photography with the ultrawide lens isn't recommended because photos come out extremely soft-looking like they are out of focus, with narrow dynamic range and plenty of noise. Colors are dull and lack contrast.
Time for some more pixel-peeping with our photo compare tool where you can see how the Tecno Phantom X compares to its rivals in capturing our test posters.
Shooting portraits can be done using either the main or the telephoto camera. Interestingly, portraits taken with the main 50MP sensor return sub-12MP photos while the native binned resolution is 12.5MP. Tecno says they are doing some image processing in the background so that the subject's face doesn't look distorted and mimics the 50mm focal length. So cropping is most definitely one of the things the special Portrait AI mode does.
Either way, the results aren't impressive, to say the least. The subject's skin is oftentimes pale, the photos lack fine detail and can be even soft at times if the lighting isn't ideal. Most of the competitors do a better job in those challenging conditions. Not to mention the edge detection is a bit rough around the edges and struggles to keep the background separated from the subject.
To our surprise, the telephoto camera does a better job at capturing the correct skin tone, but photos are often noisier and are just as soft. Still, if the right conditions are at hand, the 2x zoom portraits are the ones to opt for.
The main 48MP camera doesn't produce the most vibrant selfies either, and the subject's skin tends to look pale but manages to capture that typical reddish hue. Sharpness and detail are expectedly excellent, the main selfie cam uses a 48MP sensor, after all. The HDR algorithm does an excellent job of balancing out the whole scene even in more challenging conditions as the subject's face remains well-exposed in all situations. In suboptimal lighting conditions, the selfies tend to get a little softer, but the fine detail is preserved, while noise remains non-existent. Great selfies, nonetheless.
Switching on the portrait mode turns off the HDR as you can see from the first two photos where the background is clipped. But once again, edge detection isn't stellar and makes the bokeh effect look unconvincing.
The same 8MP ultrawide snapper has been used on the front, so as expected, selfies appear soft, lack detail, and colors are anemic-looking under the bright sun. Otherwise, they are okay, so we blame the exposure metering on this one. Notice how the subject's skin is pale while the background lacks contrast and vividness in the first photo. The same can't be said about the indoor shots, though. On the other hand, the dynamic range is good, and the subject remains well-exposed at all times.
Another thing we've noticed is that the ultrawide camera's field of view isn't very wide, so we wonder if the quality trade-off is worth it.
The chipset allows for up to 4K@30fps video recording as well as slow-motion up to 720p@960fps. Video recording using the ultrawide and the telephoto cameras is also an option, but the resolution is limited to 1080p@fps.
Let's start with the standard 2160p@30fps video. The first thing we've noticed are the punchy colors, wide dynamic range, and edge softness. To be fair, sharpness isn't ideal for 4K footage. Contrast and noise management, on the other hand, are excellent.
The ultrawide video offers completely different processing. It's not just the softness but also the lack of contrast, the narrow dynamic range and the lack of fine detail. Colors are unsurprisingly dull, too.
The 2x zoom video looks like it's been cropped from the center of the main camera. But we checked, and it's indeed the telephoto camera that was shootig. The footage itself isn't as sharp as we expected, even for a 1080p resolution. On the other hand, we are happy with the colors, contrast, and noise suppression.
EIS isn't available in 4K@30fps mode, so videos appear quite shaky.
The Ultra Steady mode is capped at 1080p, but the good news is that it works great. You can even use it with the ultrawide and telephoto cameras. It's particularly useful with the latter or when shooting macro videos. Yes, that's a thing too.
Once you are done with the real-world examples, take a closer look at our video compare tool to see how the Tecno Phantom X stacks against the competition.