Since the demise of Nokia’s smartphone business, not many companies have had the guts to brand their devices as camera phones. There have been a couple of phones that have done that in recent times, the ZTE Nubia Z9 Mini and the Lenovo Vibe Shot. There are a lot of phones that have very good cameras like the new iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and S6 edge+, but they don’t tout their camera as the selling point. These two phones do. We reviewed the Nubia Z9 Mini this summer, and now we look at whether the Vibe Shot can be bought primarily for its camera.
Lenovo Vibe Shot
I first saw this phone at MWC in Barcelona this year when it was launched. It has taken almost half a year to come to India, despite this being a big market for the company. The Vibe Shot looks like a compact camera, maybe a bit too compact. It is a slim phone with two buttons dedicated for the camera function. The Auto to Pro mode toggle and Shutter button leave nothing to doubt about its intentions. This phone wants to be a camera.
Specs: 5-inch (1080x1920p, ~441ppi) display | Qualcomm MSM8939 Snapdragon 615 processor | 3GB RAM | 32GB internal storage expandable to 128GB | 16MP rear camera with triple LED flash + 8MP front camera | 3000 mAh | Android 5.0.2 | Lenovo Vibe Shot full specs
Price: Rs 24,990
Let me walk you through the phone part of this device first, as I want to concentrate on the camera a bit more than usual.
Design: The Vibe Shot has a good design and is very slim and sleek. The brushed metal band on the rear differentiates it from other smartphones and makes it look more like a camera as we mentioned earlier. So does the extra large LED flash. All this, along with the red metallic frame, gives the phone a unique look for those who like that sort of thing.
Performance: The overall performance of the device is decent. Thankfully, the phone does not heat up much with regular stuff and I had no issues with multi-tasking. However, if you are the type that takes benchmarks seriously, the numbers were not that impressive and place the phone around the ranking of a two-year-old flagship. But this does not reflect in the performance of the phone.
Battery & Storage: The battery life is decent and can last 12 hours with active use. The 32GB storage will come in really handy for those who will use the camera a lot.
Camera: This is the best part of the phone, but things are not that simple as you expect.
The camera of the phone has two parts, Auto and Pro. In the latter, you just aim and shoot, at the most switch the Smart mode on and off. The results here are really good, even in low light. The auto-focus is fast and the images are clear and crisp. The photos come out really well when there is a play of light, like when the sun filters in through the trees in the park. The colours are natural and textures render as they should.
There is also the Pro mode, accessed using the toggle button on the side. The Pro mode gives a lot of controls on the settings — everything from focus to exposure and ISO. The controls are easy to manipulate and achieve your desired results.
Then there are the preset modes in the segment which you can use to play around, primarily with light. So you have a bulb mode which you can use to click light paintings, especially when there are fireworks and candles involved. The results are fun, but then having used a DSLR for close to a decade I can tell you, the bulb mode is not something you use every day, or week or month.
The HDR mode is my main issue with the phone’s camera software. This setting has a tendency to hang the camera app, only to be revived with a restart. I would have lived with that if the results were good, but the artistic HDR only throws up really saturated images that don’t justify the trouble you have to go through to get them in the first place. The other issue is with the background blur option, where I struggled to find the perfect distance from the subject.
Also, I have to add that this is the best flash in a mid-range camera. But you have to be careful not to use it too often and only when you can use it well or need to use it.
Verdict: The Lenovo Vibe Shot has among the better cameras in the price bracket, but it is certainly not the best. That will have to go to the OnePlus 2, which also comes with a better processor and 64GB of storage.
Overall, this phone will certainly rank in the top 5 phones in this range, but live with the realisation that there are better offerings out there. Lenovo could have done well to just push the pure camera features of this phone and pushed the presets as add-ons. Some of these apps certainly need more time in the oven. The Lenovo Vibe Shot is for those who love to play with their images and needs tonnes of options before they frame their next click.