Vivo X50 Pro Camera Review: The Gimbal doesn’t make up for the processing

Vivo X50 Pro Camera Review: The Gimbal doesn’t make up for the processing

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The X-series of smartphones has generally been Vivo’s camera-focused lineup. While still photography has generally been the primary focus for the X-series, Vivo has decided this time to focus on video stabilization as the key selling point of the X50 Pro. Not only that, but the Vivo X50 series represents the first time that Vivo is launching X-series devices outside of China. We’re excited to finally get a chance to try out a Vivo X-series device ahead of its global release, especially considering the fierce competition from brands like Samsung, Xiaomi, and fellow BBK Electronics subbrands OPPO, Realme, and OnePlus. I’ve had the Vivo X50 Pro for about a week now, so I’m ready to share my review of its camera quality.

Vivo X50 Pro Specifications

SpecificationsVivo X50 Pro
Dimensions and Weight158.46mm x 72.8mm x 8.04mm
181.5g
Display6.56″ FHD+ AMOLED
90Hz refresh rate
Curved display
Single-hole punch
HDR 10+
SoCQualcomm Snapdragon 765G
RAM and Storage8GB LPDDR4X + 128GB UFS 2.1
8GB + 256GB
Battery and Charging4315 mAh battery
33W fast charging
Rear CameraPrimary: 48MP Sony IMX598 custom sensor, f/1.6, gimbal OIS
Secondary: 13MP portrait, f/2.46
Tertiary: 8MP periscope, f/3.4
Quarternary: 8MP ultra-wide-angle, 120° FoV, f/2.2, 2.5cm macro
Front Camera32MP, f/2.45
Other FeaturesNFC
WiFi 6
Bluetooth 5.1
SA & NSA Dual-mode 5G
In-Display Fingerprint Scanner
AK4377A Hi-Fi Sound chip
Android VersionFuntouch OS 10.5 on top of Android 10

Disclaimer: Vivo loaned me the X50 Pro for review purposes. I have been using this phone for about a week.

To quickly go over the camera specifications, the primary camera is a 48MP Sony IMX598 custom sensor with an aperture of f/1.6. This camera is stabilized by a “gimbal” OIS setup. Vivo says this setup is 3 times better at removing hand shakes compared to a conventional OIS setup. The secondary sensor is a 13MP portrait lens with 2x optical zoom and an aperture of f/2.46. The third senor is an 8MP 5X periscope zoom lens with an aperture of f/3.4. This zoom lens provides for 5x optical, 10x hybrid, and 60x digital zoom. The fourth and final sensor is the 8MP ultrawide angle sensor with an aperture of f/2.2. It has a field-of-view of 120 degrees and supports macro photography with a plane of focus of up to 2.5cm to the lens. All around, the camera hardware Vivo is using in the Vivo X50 Pro is top-notch and on par with other flagship smartphones in 2020.

Vivo X50 Pro High-Resolution Sample Photos

Main Camera

The main camera is where all the fun begins for the Vivo X50 Pro’s camera setup. The main camera sensor is the Sony IMX 598. Housing the sensor is a huge gimbal camera, which is supposed to mean much, much better stabilization. What should this mean in practice? Well, image quality should benefit because the camera’s HDR algorithm has more data and needs to do less composition of different pixels. It also means videos should be more stable during movement and better nightime photos because of less camera shake.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro versus Vivo X50 Pro, No super stabilization


Samsung S20 Ultra versus Vivo X50 Pro, super stabilization

In reality, images are pretty good in detail but the HDR algorithm is lacking. In most images, we lose detail in the shadows while brightly lit objects turn out decently. In sunlight, detail is preserved well. At night, we see a lot of detail preserved and very little blurriness from hand shakes thanks to the gimbal setup.

Vivo also has a Starry sky mode. Think of this as something like Google’s Astrophotography mode in Night Sight in the Google Camera app. Vivo claims this algorithm can remove star trails from the movement of the earth and segments the photos for better night photography. All around, I found that it works as expected but noticeably underperforms Google’s Astrophotography mode on the Pixel 4. This, once again, has to do with the color science behind Vivo’s camera.

Telephoto

The Vivo X50 Pro has two telephoto lenses: a 2X portrait lens and a 5X periscope zoom lens. The 2X telephoto takes excellent photos; I’d say it actually performs better than the main camera. The color science is much better with outstanding HDR. For the 5x optical camera, it’s also quite capable of producing great photos. In fact, I’d put it on par with the Galaxy S20 Ultra. However, I don’t think it’s quite as good as the OPPO Find X2 Pro or Huawei P40 Pro+. The zoom maxes out at 60x digital, though its utility is debatable.

Overall, I find the two telephoto cameras on the Vivo X50 Pro to be the most impressive of the 5 total cameras on the phone. The 2x optical and 5x optical cameras were a nice contrast in quality considering how below par the other 3 cameras are.

Ultra Wide

The ultrawide camera on the Vivo X50 Pro failed to impress. In most pictures I took, there’s little detail preservation. In some pictures, there’s extreme distortion, making images very unappealing. In some, albeit very few, images, the photos came out beautifully with vivid colors and great detail. I wouldn’t consider this a very reliable or consistent ultrawide camera since it’s sometimes capable of capturing great photos. Unfortunately, “sometimes” is not good enough when there are many competitors that do it much better.

Selfie

Selfie photos from the Vivo X50 Pro can be described with one word: overblown. My other big issue is with the camera’s beauty mode. In the selfies above, I disabled it with each option set to 0. But as is very obvious, there is some skin smoothing in the images nonetheless. To some extent, I can fix the photos in post, but I shouldn’t have to edit selfies to make them look realistic on a phone marketed for its camera quality, even if Vivo’s emphasis is on the main rear camera.

Final Thoughts on the Vivo X50 Pro’s Camera

Vivo has a device with fantastic hardware on their hands. The Sony IMX 598 sensor with a gimbal should make for a stellar combination. The issue isn’t with the hardware, though. The Vivo X50 Pro’s camera processing just isn’t competitive with other camera phones I’ve used in 2020. The HDR is lacking, the camera smoothens skin too much, the depth estimation on portrait shots is subpar, and the colors are hit and miss.

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At the time of writing this review, Vivo hasn’t announced the European pricing on the Vivo X50 Pro, though they did announce the Indian pricing. The Vivo X50 Pro costs 49,900 Indian Rupees, which is approximately equivalent to $664. The price in Europe will likely be a tad bit higher than that given multiple external factors, though. Unfortunately, I can’t recommend this phone for its camera at the current price. Should Vivo issue a major software update that improves the camera quality, I might change my mind. The rest of the phone’s hardware may otherwise feel solid (though I’m not a fan of FunTouch OS), but the Vivo X50 Pro’s main selling point—its Gimbal camera—can’t stabilize the poor camera processing.

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