BlackBerry's back: Z10 camera review
You can jump straight to the camera from the Z10’s lock screen by pressing and holding the camera icon in the lower corner. When you press the button, a camera icon appears in the middle of the screen with a circular progress bar growing around it. The two seconds you spend waiting for the bar to complete the circle feel like an eternity, a digital version of the proverbial watched kettle. A second after that, the camera app pops up. It’s better than no shortcut at all, but not as quick as a swipe-based implementation.
Alternatively, swiping the screen without pressing the power button bypasses the lock screen entirely and wakes the phone right up, one of the Z10’s neat tricks. As long as you’re not in an app, there’s always a camera shortcut on the bottom of the screen that responds to a normal tap.
Once you’ve got the camera open, tapping anywhere on screen or pressing a volume button takes a picture. Both options work well and which you prefer will be down to personal preference.
By default, exposure and focus are taken from the centered bracket. You can drag this bracket around to specify a different focus and exposure point. We’re pleased to see focus and exposure stay linked, as some camera apps maintain center-weighted exposure no matter where the focus point is set. After taking a picture the bracket snaps back to center, a bit of idiot proofing that’s inconvenient if you want to pop off another frame quickly. On the downside there is no 'traditional' exposure compensation function. So, like on the iPhone, you rely on moving the focus point as the only control over exposure.
Unusually, the Z10 camera app doesn’t wait to acquire focus before taking a picture - it’s up to you to wait for the bracket to turn green before pulling the trigger. This behavior is common in dedicated cameras but not phones. It leads to blurry pictures if you jump the gun, but means you won’t miss a moment even if focus hasn’t quite locked.
People coming from an iPhone may be impressed with the Z10 camera app’s configurability (scene modes!) but it’s a bit restrictive next to the native apps we’ve seen on Android and Windows phones. In the top right corner is a button to switch between still, video and Time Shift modes (more on that in the features section). On the lower right is a triple-dot icon that takes you to a limited set of options. You can switch to the front camera, set the aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9), choose a shooting mode (normal, stabilized, or burst), and select a scene mode (Auto, Action, Whiteboard, Night, or Beach or Snow). You can also set the flash to auto, forced on or off. More technical parameters like manual ISO, white balance, exposure compensation and metering mode are absent.
The Z10’s camera app is thoughtfully laid out and easy to use. There’s no scrolling required, and getting in and out of menus is fast with none of the extraneous steps we’ve seen in some other camera apps. When the shooting mode, flash, or scene mode are set to non-default values, a shortcut appears in the top left of the main screen that jumps back to the default: it’s little touches like this that make big differences in usability.
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