BlackBerry's back: Z10 camera review
Design & Hardware
The Z10's main camera captures 8-megapixel images which was the standard pixel-count in last year's top end devices but looks a little underwhelming next to the 13MP sensors on 2013 flagship phones such as the Sony Xperia Z, Samsung Galaxy S4 or ZTE Grand S. However, considering most smartphone images are shared and/or edited at smaller sizes the Blackberry's 8MP are probably enough for most users and with its F2.2 lens the Canadian manufacturer follows the trend towards faster lenses on high-end handsets. The Blackberry's lens lets in a hair less light than the fastest F2.0 lenses, but the real-world difference is minimal. However, unlike some of the top-end competition, such as the Nokia Lumia 920 or the brand new HTC One, the Z10 does not come with an optical image stabilization system.
BlackBerry doesn’t quote the lens’s focal length equivalent, but in the EXIF data it is reported as 31mm equivalent. We’ve seen a general trend towards wider angle lenses on phones with quite a few 28mm-equivalents on the market. The thinking seems to be that people want to pack more into their shots, but the “best” focal length will vary according to a photographer’s preference. If you take a lot of portraits with your phone, a slightly longer focal length may work better.
The camera is mounted in the top corner, so you need to be a little careful to keep your fingers out of the frame.
The surprising lack of any hardware buttons on the front of the phone (mechanical or capacitive) stems from BB10’s gesture-based interface and means all attention is on the screen. At 4.2 inches, it’s on the smaller side by today’s pocket-IMAX standards, but it’s plenty big. The 1280 x 768 resolution works out to a very fine 356 pixels per inch at this size, a density higher than Apple’s Retina displays. It renders pictures and text tack sharp and remains visible in bright sun.
The Z10’s design is conservative but elegant, especially in the old-guard black option. It’s also available in white, which we suppose is the new black. With its matte rubber back, neither one will look too flashy in your hand when taking a picture.
The Z10’s photographic ergonomics are good (for a phone). The critical contact points where your fingers meet the phone are a sandwich of three materials: a thin bezel around the screen that extends over the front edge of the handset, a plastic-sheathed steel body frame, and a soft, rubbery case backing that rolls around the back edge of the phone. The flat-to-rounded shape and the traction offered by the matte backing material make for a confident grip in shooting position.
Alas, the Z10 doesn’t have a “real” shutter button like the Windows phones we’ve reviewed lately. For people who want to press something mechanical, the camera app treats the volume buttons as shutters. These lie under your left finger and don’t have the advantage of a two-stage press for focusing and recomposing, but they’re better than nothing.
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