Daily Authority: 🤳 Under-display cameras are still bad
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority
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Even mid-range phones beat under-display camera phones
Hadlee Simons / Android Authority
We previously covered our under-display selfie camera shootout in the roundup yesterday, but it definitely warrants a deeper dive. Under-display selfie cameras are one of the more interesting developments in the smartphone space right now (along with foldables), but putting a camera under the screen introduces a host of challenges.
What are the challenges?
- By moving the selfie camera below a phone’s screen, you’re drastically cutting down on the amount of light that will hit the camera sensor.
- This is because the sensor now has to look between the screen’s pixels for light and to take the picture. And we all know that more light is better for cameras.
- Having a display above the selfie camera also means that lens flare, glare, and refraction can be a real problem.
- One way to improve things is to space out the display pixels in the area above the selfie camera. But this can lead to major haziness in this area compared to the rest of the display.
- So it’s a real balancing act between camera quality and display quality. We previously saw the Galaxy Z Fold 3 take the hazy approach instead.
What does ZTE bring to the table?
- ZTE is already on its third generation of the technology with the Axon 40 Ultra that was released earlier this year. You can read our review at the link.
- The company says that the display area above its 16MP under-display selfie camera has a new subpixel arrangement.
- ZTE also says that the area above the screen has 400 pixels per square inch (PPI). That’s a high PPI number and should mean no haziness here.
How does it fare against mid-range phones?
- Well, we tested the new camera against the recently released Poco F4 (~$400) and 2018’s Oppo A3 (~$330 at launch).
- The Poco device has a 20MP selfie shooter, while Oppo’s phone packs an 8MP camera. So far, so pedestrian.
- Our shootout shows that even a mid-ranger from 2018 can deliver better results. Check out the composite image near the top, showing the ZTE camera sample on the left.
- The gap can be quite small in daytime situations, but pixel-peeping still reveals that mid-rangers are ahead. This gap also widens in a big way in low light.
- ZTE’s camera also suffers from particularly noticeable lens flares and artifacts in situations where there is a strong light source in the scene (both during the day and at night).
- Needless to say, under-display cameras still aren’t ready for most people. Well, unless you don’t care about selfie image/video quality at all.
- Fortunately, there’s no shortage of phones with great selfie cameras on the market. And there’s probably no shortage of cheap phones that can beat ZTE’s under-display camera.
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