DxOMark tests the iPhone X camera subsystem

The French verdict is in from DxOMark: iPhone X scores 97.

Compared to the Huawei Mate 10, which scored the same overall, the iPhone X has much better “zoom” (switching from the wide to the normal perspective camera?) and much worse autofocus (not great for parents of the young and restless).

The Google Pixel 2 scores only slightly higher overall, mostly because the iPhone X’s second camera/lens does way better in the “zoom” department than cropping from a single (wide) camera/lens as would be required for the Pixel 2. I wonder if this is true in low light. Certainly on the 7 Plus when capturing indoor scenes, cropping from the wide camera usually results in better image quality than switching to “2x”. It looks like the main camera on the Pixel 2 is much better for autofocus (98 versus 78). The Pixel 2 scores significantly better for video, but it simply won’t do 60 frames-per-second at 4K resolution so if the goal is capturing motion it is unclear that the two phones are truly comparable.

My take-away is surprise that the competition is so close. Apple has a vast advantage in money and engineering resources, yet they cannot beat Huawei or HTC and LG (the builders of the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, respectively). There is no getting around the physics when the case is that slim and therefore it is impossible to use a real sensor and real lens? Stuffing four more cameras in there and using them in parallel (see the Light L16) won’t help?

[I’m still sad that I can’t buy a phone that is 2-3X thicker than what is on the market today. It would still be thinner than an iPhone in a case and yet have room for a much better camera and days of battery life. Why wouldn’t Huawei do this in order to crush Apple, Samsung, Google, et al., in the photo quality department? They shouldn’t need new software. Just put in a larger sensor and corresponding lens and then feed the pixels to the same software as in a current Android device. Even if the “photo/battery nerd” phone gathered only 1 percent market share, that’s still more than 10 million devices (1.5 billion smartphones were sold in 2016). That’s roughly comparable to the entire market for DSLRs and mirrorless (source). Canon, Nikon, and Sony invest engineering and marketing resources to bring out $800 DSLRs. Why wouldn’t it be worth Huawei’s engineering and marketing resources to bring out a $1,200 “killer cameraphone”? It is so profitable to make regular phones that there is no reason to bother? (but Sony makes smartphones and they think it is also worth investing in the camera market)]


7 thoughts on “DxOMark tests the iPhone X camera subsystem

  1. The problem with iPhones is that they sell too many.

    Apple guy shows up at camera subsystem manufacturer:
    “what’s your latest and greatest?”
    Camera Guy “oh you want the XYZ-3000. Phenomenal camera”
    Apple Guy “Great, we need 60 million by next quarter”
    Camera guy “uh… as i said it’s our latest and greatest. we can only manufacture 5 million per quarter, and add 5 million in capacity every month”
    Apple guy: “aw shucks… well then I’ll but 2x of your next latest gen camera, but put a longer lens on half of them”

  2. Apple’s financial advantage is irrelevant since Apple did not develop the lens or the sensor. In any case, the iPhoneX is retarded — full of useless novelties that is technically challenging but which does not improve the functionality or user experience.

    Take the stupid notched LCD for example. How does that make the phone more useful or enjoyable for me? Answer, it doesn’t. If the purpose is to make additional room available for lenses and other apertures on the front face of the phone, a better and technically less problematic solution will be to have the lenses see “through” the LCD. Simply make a few holes in the backlight diffuser and have the lenses peek through it. The LCD is translucent anyway and any “pixel shadows” can easily be compensated for via post processing. Better yet, use small apertures of electrochromic privacy glass to cover the lens apertures allowing them to function as a backlight diffuser or a lens aperture on command.

    Another retardation is the face recognition unlocking. How looking into your phone and swiping more convenient or more enjoyable than pressing the home button with any of your fingers? In fact, I often unlock an iPhone without looking at it and you can’t do that with face recognition.

    The phone is something I use everyday and price is not much of an object as far as I am concerned since I’ll use a device for 2~4 years. I’ll pay $1000 for a phone, that is not the problem. The problem is I DO NOT WANT a BIG PHONE with a HUGE SCREEN. I want a compact phone I can slip into my back pocket, which doesn’t have rounded corners to promote dropping and has enough battery reserves to be on standby for 3~5 days. That is why I am still using the iPhone SE. Even that is on the large side; I miss the credit card sized Sony Xperia Mini. The fact that people are OK with putting fat borders and thick cases on their phone shows that that last 1~2mm doesn’t really matter. This is especially true if that last 1~2mm gets you a battery that is 3x the capacity.

  3. Remember that DXOMark isn’t a proper quantitative metric, in the way they try to position themselves as. Especially in mobile. It’s just one subjective weighting of a bunch of tests, some subjective and some sort-of-quantitative.

  4. I’m still sad that I can’t buy a phone that is 2-3X thicker … in order to crush Apple, Samsung, Google, et al., in the photo quality department?

    The solution is for the Light people (or Canon or Sony) to just add a few chips to their product and turn it into a Phone. These “cameras” already have 80% of the same parts phones do.

    Samsung makes a thick phone with a large zoom lens, but my understanding is the product bombed in the US market.

  5. J: Thanks for that link. I don’t think a motorized zoom that extends from the phone body could ever work (how can it survive the abuse to which a phone is typically subjected?). But maybe inevitable market failure for a “real camera/phone” has become received wisdom within the industry now.

  6. Batteries are really dense. Increasing battery thickness would significantly increase the weight of the phone.

  7. I agree that it is surprising they haven’t yet produced a specialty “killer smartphone” at either two or three times the price or size of a standard phone. When you consider that there are already featureless credit card sized phones that appeal to the opposite niche, it seems natural that there would be a market on the other side of the bell curve.

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