IFA 2014: The mobile imaging highlights
1 Part 1
Despite encompassing all areas of consumer electronics, the more specialist Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and IFA in Berlin are arguably the most important trade shows for the makers of smartphones and other mobile devices. We spent the last week attending press conferences and roaming the show floor in the German capital and saw an abundance of new devices being launched and on display. With the show about to finish let's have a look at the mobile imaging highlights at IFA 2014. Follow the links for more detail about the new models.
Like its predecessor the Galaxy Note 3 in 2013, this year Samsung's latest phablet model, the Note 4, was the smartphone star of the show. Overall the new device comes with the expected upgrades including a 5.7-inch 2560×1440 pixel QHD Super AMOLED display and faster processor but the Note 4 is also the first Samsung smartphone to offer an optical image stabilization system in its 16MP camera module, making it an interesting option for mobile photographers who like editing and composing images on a large screen. Of course the Note also offers 4K-video capture and there is a 3.7MP front camera with a fast F1.9 aperture for better selfie-shooting and video-chatting in low light.
Along with the Note 4, Samsung showed the Galaxy Note Edge which will be launched later this year. The Edge's specifications are very similar to the Note 4 but its screen comes with an additional 160 pixels wide curved edge which provides quick access to frequently used apps, alerts and other functions.
Along with the new QX smart lens models which we have covered comprehensively on dpreview.com, Sony launched the Z3 and Z3 Compact flagship smartphones at IFA 2014 and remains the only major manufacturer to offer a true high-end Android smartphone in a compact form factor as the Z3 Compact's specifications are very close to the larger model's.
In terms of both design and specification the new models are only a relatively marginal update to their respective predecessors. The Z3 does not follow the trend toward QHD displays and sticks with a 1080p resolution in a 5.2-inch monitor while Compact users can view their photos on a 4.6-inch 720p screen. Like in the Xperia Z1 and Z2 the camera module comes with a 1/2.3-inch 20.7MP sensor but there are a couple of interesting changes: at 25mm, the new G-lens offers a wider field of view than before and the sensitivity range of the sensor has been expanded to ISO 12800. However, the latter is only available in High ISO scene modes which sets ISO automatically. In manual mode you are still limited to ISO 3200.
Motorola did not have a presence at IFA but still used the week's general buzz around consumer electronics to launch new smartphone models at its home base in Chicago. Its latest top model is simply called the new Moto X and follows on, you guessed it, the original Moto X from last year. The 2014 version is a solid upgrade in every aspect. It comes with a larger 5.2-inch 1080p OLED screen, elegantly thin bezels and an aluminium body.
The original Moto X was positively received by many reviewers but its camera was a major point of criticism and our own review was no exception. Luckily, Motorola decided to move from the rather unusual 10 megapixel RGBC 1/2.6-inch sensor in the original Moto X to a tried and tested 13MP Sony CMOS sensor that is also used in the Samsung Galaxy S4 and a few other devices. The lens comes with a fast F2.25 aperture and the device also offers 4K-video recording and dual-LED ring flash.
The Chinese technology company Huawei held one of the largest press conferences at IFA 2014 where it announced its latest flagship phone, the 6-inch Ascend Mate 7. We had some extended playing time with the new device and with its thin bezels, metal body and solid build quality the Huawei feels like a real premium smartphone. The interior components are mostly top-notch as well. A Kirin 925 octa-core chipset makes sure things are running smoothly and a 4100 mAh battery provides more than enough juice to get even power users through a very long day.
The Ascend Mate 7's camera module comes with solid specs but does not look particularly innovative. Images are captured on a 13MP Sony sensor and through an F2 maximum aperture. The equivalent focal length is pretty wide at 28mm. The fingerprint sensor at the back works very well for unlocking the device but can also be used to trigger the shutter of the camera.
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