Friday, July 05, 2019

A Low End Camera Shootout

We've got some travel with our nieces and nephew coming up, so it was time to dust off my collection of makePads and insure everything was ready for the kids to start creating.

The BLU Advance 4.0 has been working well as the makePad's hardware platform. The device is compact, cheap and functional. At $40 each, I can comfortably hand the phone to a kid and not worry how rough they'll play with it. One nagging limitation, however, is the quality of the camera. At 5 megapixels, the photos are fine at small sizes, but any degree of enlargement reveals how sub-par the pics are. I've wrestled with this pretty extensively: do the photos really need to be high quality? Could the lower quality be considered a creative constraint? How big a jump in megapixels would I need before I saw a notable difference?

Thankfully, Shira stepped in with a suggestion: swap the thought experiment with actual tests. That is, buy a bunch of BLU phones and do a photo shootout. And that's what I did.

The photos below are from a BLU Advance 4.0, BLU Advance 5.2 and a BLU R2 Plus. These have 5, 8 and 13 megapixel cameras respectively:

I found the results of this test to be insightful. At low resolutions, for example the thumbnails above, all the cameras look about the same. When enlarged, it's obvious at the A5 is better quality than the A4 and the R2 is leaps ahead of the A5. However, the jump from the 5 megapixel A4 to 8 megapixel A5 isn't as dramatic as I'd hoped. It's only when you hit 13 megapixels that you start to see some real improvement. So trading up to A5 from the A4 to gain 3 megapixels isn't worth it.

This is perhaps the best advertisement I've ever seen for a point and shoot digital camera. I'm tempted to try out this $40, 20 megapixel camera to see if it can deliver high quality pictures at a budget price tag. Though, a stand alone camera loses out to even the A4 in terms of versatility, so I'm not sure what that test would ultimately teach me.

Bottom line: unless I want to splurge on the $100/device, I'm just going to have to accept the cruddy image quality of the BLU A4.

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