The nubia Z20 is fully equipped with a triple camera comprising of a normal, ultra-wide, and telephoto snappers. For its main cam, the Z20 uses the popular Sony IMX586 48MP sensor, which relies on pixel-binning technology to produce 12MP photos. The sensor is paired with a lens with f/1.7 aperture and is also optically stabilized.
The telephoto cam is 8MP f/2.4 capable of 3x zoom but no OIS, whereas the ultra-wide adopts a 16MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture and captures 122.2° field of view. That's pretty wide in comparison to what the competition has.
The secondary screen can be used as a viewfinder, so for selfies, you can use all of the aforementioned cameras. Although, you'd need some pretty long arms to make use of the telephoto.
The default camera app isn't anything out of the ordinary - swiping left and right switches between camera menus while in Photo mode, you can switch between all three cameras with a single tap. There are also hybrid 5x and 10x zoom modes, but the native optical zoom is at 3x. There's also a filter preset in the upper right corner - all of the presented filters look nice and are fun to play with. There's also a toggle to turn on the secondary screen and use it as viewfinder.
But to switch to "selfie mode," you have to tap on the camera icon right next to the settings icon. The additional camera settings give you more control over the video recording resolution, photo resolution and aspect ratio, shutter sound, location data, etc.
Back to the shooting modes, there's a dedicated Pro mode that allows you to tinker with focus, white balance, exposure, and shutter speed. There's also an interval that you can set, and the phone will take pictures every 1 to 60 seconds. A cool feature if you set the phone on a tripod, set the timer, and then choose between the best photos. The Pro mode also works with all three cameras.
We liked the daylight samples we took with the nubia Z20's main 48MP camera. The detail is excellent, contrast is nice and makes the colors pop out more while still being natural-looking. The samples we took are close to what the scenes look in person.
We did notice some issues with the highlights, though. They are clipped in most of the photos and the overall dynamic range isn't impressive. It's not bad but it's far from what you'd expect from a flagship device. The generally dark exposure doesn't help either.
In 48MP mode, the rendition is pretty much the same while offering even better detail. Unfortunately, the trade-off here is the increased noise, and sharpening halos can be observed even without trying too hard to look for them. Dynamic range remains uninspiring.
The ultra-wide camera surprised us with nice colors and relatively good detail compared to most midrangers. It's not flagship-worthy, but it produces generally nice photos. The barrel distortion is barely noticeable, with the software correction turned on.
On the downside, the highlight clipping is even more prominent, and sharpening halos can be observed under really close inspection.
The bottom line is that photos are nice and adequate for use on social media.
A big advantage over some of its competitors is that the ultra-wide snapper has autofocus so you can produce nice close-up images with the added dramatic effect of the expanded field of view.
The telephoto, on the other hand, is rather uninspiring. Clipped highlights, narrow dynamic range, the exposure metering is a bit off, colors are dull compared to the main, and the ultra-wide camera and detail could be better. It's not the worst, but we've seen better 3x zoom implementations.
Turning the lights off, the main camera captures nice stills with plenty of detail, juicy colors, high contrast, and preserves neon lights quite well. Our complaints about the highlights still stand although, but dynamic range is good overall.
The Night mode fixes most of the issues by introducing even more detail and sharpness to the photos. Highlights and light sources look a lot better, and we get more information in the shadows. Artifacts from the noise reduction algorithm can be seen in some parts of the image under close inspection.
While everything we said above is true, we found that the Night mode is rather inconsistent when it comes to shadows. Some of our photos have a darker exposure than the ones taken without Night mode resulting in loss of detail in the shadows. Pictures look darker than they should, which is strange behavior for a Night mode. Take a look at the first and the third sample above.
All that being said, we recommend using the Night mode not only for the darkest scenes as it makes low-light photos look more appealing.
The ultra-wide camera struggles to produce good photos with enough detail after dark. They look soft; highlights are still clipped despite the rather satisfactory dynamic range. They are also noisy. The good thing about those photos is that the colors are nice. Our statement about the camera being better than midrangers still stands. If a Night mode is introduced down the road, we can expect some decent low-light shots with this camera.
The telephoto is far from what we can call usable in low light. The photos are soft, colors are flat, and the dark f/2.4 aperture struggles to let enough light come into the sensor. You will also have a hard time producing sharp images due to the lack of OIS. Shaky photos in the dark are a common thing.
The dedicated Macro mode is a growing trend these days, and pretty much everyone is offering a way to shoot macro shots - whether it's a dedicated camera on the back or the ultra wide-angle camera does double duty. For the latter to work, it needs to have autofocus, which this one has.
Unfortunately, when it comes to focusing, we found the ultra wide on the nubia z20 to struggle finding the focus at times, and when going outdoors for some macro shots, even the lightest breeze could ruin your shot as the camera's AF won't be able to catch up with the movement.
But once you get the focus right, the subject comes out with plenty of detail, nice colors and with a natural-looking bokeh. Oh, and we didn't find the Macro mode anywhere in the camera menu, so you have to trigger it by closing in on the subject and tapping on it to focus. The software will then switch to the ultra wide-lens and inform you that you are in macro mode with a prompt. So that you know, you have to get really close to the subject to trigger it.
Once you are done with the real-world samples, it's time for some pixel peeping using our photo compare tool.
Now let's take the time to compare the phone to some of its competitors in a more controlled environment.
And here's how it stacks against other 48MP-capable smartphones.
Portraits came out excellent with plenty of detail, natural-looking skin tone, good dynamic range, and exceptional edge detection. Even with a more complex background, the software did a splendid job separating the subject from the background. Also, there's something to the bokeh effect - it looks natural, but we can't quite put our finger on what's so good about it.
Selfies look pretty good snapped with the main camera but we can't say the same for the ultra-wide selfies. They appear soft and with less-than-stellar dynamic range. We found that the main camera struggles to get good selfies in low-light conditions too. And we only say that because we expect better from the big 48MP sensor compared to the usual front-facing snappers on the market. The edge detection for portrait selfies is once again pretty nice, though.
The nubia Z20 is capable of recording 1080p and 2160p at 30 and 60fps. But it's also capable of shooting 8K footage at 15 frames per second - just like the nubia Red Magic 3 that we've reviewed a while back. But don't get too excited about that because 15fps is not nearly enough for smooth movement - everything looks choppy. There is some extra detail compared to the 4K, though.
Off to the standard 4K@30fps video recording, we are hard-pressed to find anything off. The detail is nice, colors are great, contrast is ideal, and there's no visible noise. The clipped highlights are still an issue, however, and exposure is just ever so slightly darker than we would expect it to be. But besides that, that's some excellent 4K footage if we've ever seen one.
The same applies to the Full HD video. Expectedly, the detail is lower, but the quality is excellent for 1080p video, nonetheless.
As far as EIS goes, we are disappointed to see that the handset doesn't support EIS in 4K as you can see for yourself.
And here's how the phone compares to some of its competitors in 2160p video recording.