The Vivo X80 Pro is our camera phone of the year
We review a bunch of smartphones at Tech Advisor. In recent years, it has become difficult to decide which ones are the best because they are all so good.
Until recently, most smartphones usually had major flaws. Terrible battery life, device terminating boot loop. Overheating, maybe. Maybe a bad display.
But over the past couple of years, the playing field has leveled off, and most high-end phones are great. Buy one of the best smartphones and you will be happy.
That means cameras are one of the last real differentiators when it comes to phones. This is one of the hardest things to do right.
Which phone has the best camera? It’s a subjective question, but each of us here at Tech Advisor Towers has an opinion.
I had the chance to review or use phones in 2022 such as iPhone 14 Pro, Google Pixel 7 Pro, Huawei Mate 50 Pro and Sony Xperia 1 IV. They’ve all had great cameras with high-end hardware and polished software experiences.
But for all their prowess – and brand recognition – none of them have my favorite mobile camera of the year.
This year, my colleague Dom Preston and I agree: our favorite phone camera of 2022 is the Vivo X80 Pro.
That’s right, not the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra or the iPhone 14 Pro. Not even the Pixel 7 Pro. Vivo beat them all for pure photographic performance, in a device that’s great to use as a mobile camera.
It’s up to the main camera, a 50Mp f/1.6 sensor that’s 1/1.3in. That’s big for a mobile camera, letting in more light and giving the X80 Pro phenomenal low-light performance.
Vivo’s V1+ image processing chip combines with this excellent sensor to achieve daytime shots with stunning, accurate colors and superb detail that doesn’t accentuate scenes where other phone brands tend to to do it.
You can tap or scroll through the photo galleries:
But it’s in low light that the X80 Pro really excels. It delivers stunning high dynamic range (HDR) and can confidently balance the mix of light sources without glaring them too much.
Where other phones will make a night shot much brighter than it actually was with its night mode, the X80 Pro instead gives a sharp shot that reflects the mood of the scene.
Below, I compared the X80 Pro’s camera to the popular iPhone 13 on a dark street. You can use the slider to see the difference between the images.
The iPhone (left) does a solid job, but note how much better the Vivo one (right) is. The Vivo captures a lot more detail in leaves on the right and cars and houses on the left. The sidewalk color is also larger than life where the iPhone makes it more yellow.
This is mainly because the sensor can absorb more light and Vivo’s software is able to process the data well. The iPhone’s picture isn’t bad, but the Vivo’s is ahead with sharper details, and often in these situations it doesn’t even go into night mode because the auto setting is already so good.
I thought about writing a detailed comparison article like this with pixel ogling to in-depth compare the Vivo to other phones, but that would have taken the joy out of it. I just enjoyed the X80 Pro safe in the knowledge that it’s so good.
The best phone cameras make me want to use them more. Although I’ve worn several iPhones this year, from the 12 Pro Max to the 14 Plus to the 14 Pro, I still don’t find myself using them as cameras as much as I did with the Vivo. The phone forces me to be more creative and observant.
The X80 Pro is able to handle bright neon lights without them blurring or overwhelming the scene, and nighttime shots have a pleasant atmosphere.
But it can also handle multiple light levels during the day. Take a look at the photo below. This is a very difficult thing to achieve, with darkness inside and out, but abundant light sources outside. It’s child’s play for the X80 Pro, which can capture the full depth of the scene.
Henry Burrell / Foundry
With the X80 Pro on hand, I crack up because I’m more often than not blown away by the results. It makes me a better photographer, and more specifically, makes my average photography much better thanks to its prodigious abilities.
As well as the main sensor, there are three other versatile lenses – a 48Mp f/2.2 ultra-wide lens, a 12Mp f/1.6 2x zoom telephoto lens with gimbal stabilization and a latest 8Mp, f/3.4, 5x zoom periscope lens with OIS.
The gimbal stabilization on one of the telephoto lenses gives excellent clarity and bokeh to portraits that might otherwise suffer from my shaky hands.
I don’t normally zoom to 5x, but it’s good to know that the option exists with a 5x optical sensor, although at 8Mp the quality drops off somewhat. I prefer the ultra-wide camera, which can handle HDR very well:
Henry Burrell / Foundry
By the way, I also really like the design of the camera bump on the wall on the back of the X80 Pro, which I know a lot of people don’t. At least Vivo is trying something unique in a world of glass-panel phones.
I’m less enamored with Vivo’s Android Funtouch OS skin, which is a little more palatable after an update to Android 13 but is much less polished than Google’s Android 13, Samsung’s latest One UI or even Oxygen OS from OnePlus.
But I don’t care when the X80 Pro’s cameras are this good. At the end of the year, it’s still the phone’s camera that I use when I want to take a picture or take pictures on an important day.
It’s a big deal that Vivo officially sells the X80 Pro in Europe and the UK. Importation can be a huge barrier to purchase, and if Vivo really wants to sell its excellent phones in the West, it needs to improve the availability of all of its phones.
But with the new X90 Pro+ announced and already promising to be an even better photography experience with its 1-inch main sensor, the future looks bright for Vivo. If mobile photography is important to you, look beyond Apple, Samsung and Google. You might be surprised at what’s on offer.
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