Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 Review - Camera Review

Vodafone Smart Ultra 6: Camera

Over the last six months or so

we’ve seen an explosion of 13-megapixel budget phones, and the Vodafone

Smart Ultra 6 sits among them. It’s all because Sony came out with a new

low-cost, high-resolution sensor and just about everyone seems to have

jumped on the thing.

However, the results you can expect depend

an awful lot on processing and how a camera manages its exposure

settings. The latter in particular is crucial in getting a good ‘hit

rate’ from a phone.

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One

of the commonest pitfalls is dealing with how to alter the exposure metering

when you select a particular focus point. Using spot metering, where the

exposure is tailored specifically for the focal point, often results in

an over or under exposed shot. The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 avoids this

by using ‘average’ scene-based metering, not based on the point of

focus. So when you tap-to-focus, how bright or dark the photo is

generally doesn’t radically change.

It works reasonably well at

times, but can often struggle to deal with cloudy skies, shifting quite

abruptly as you let the sky take up a little more, a little less of the

scene. The Ultra 6 also leaves you with quite a lot of low-contrast shots, and while the HDR mode is partially effective in what it does, it can reduce the appearance of contrast even further. The Smart Ultra 6 camera brain needs to be a bit smarter. The hit rate just isn’t that high.

It’s not a fool-proof camera, then,

but thanks to the high-resolution sensor it can capture quite a lot of

detail once you learn how to get the most out of it, and swallow the idea that you’ll just have to discard some duds. Extra availble detail makes the camera more flexible composition-wise than an eight or five megapixel phone, letting you crop into shots or use the zoom a little without everything turning into a congregation of digital splodges.

Here are some photos taken with the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6:

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Here the Ultra 6 gets it just about right. Parts of the sky are overexposed, but only enough to make the foreground nice and bright. Contrast in the trees could be greater, mind.

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A neat demo of the kind of detail you can get from the 13-megapixel sensor. Not bad.

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A prime example of the Ultra 6 camera getting the exposure totally wrong, resulting in this blown-out flower.

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HDR does increase dynamic range, but also tends to sap contrast quite a lot.
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Foreground a little washed-out, sky overexposed. Not a highlight.

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Another example of the sharpness and detail to expect. Not bad for £125.

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Performance is reasonable too. When using the

standard Auto mode there’s just a hint of shutter lag, and just a very

brief pause between shots. As is still the case with most cheaper

phones, things slow down considerably when you use the Vodafone Smart

Ultra 6’s HDR mode. It takes longer to take the photo, and there’s a

delay of a few seconds as the phone processes the thing.

HDRs

don’t have the subtlety to be used all the time. They’re a bit too

severe and processed-looking. But the mode is quite effective.

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The

camera app in general is pretty good, in fact. It’s not the standard

Android camera app, and while it’s not flashy it offers an awful lot,

arranged in a pretty intuitive way. By default the Auto mode is

selected, and you can leave it on that and simply shoot if you like. But

there are plenty of other modes to use, selected with your right thumb.

As well as standards like panorama and HDR, there are arty

filters, a mode that takes photos repeatedly at intervals of 1s-60s and

multi-exposure, letting you merge multiple scenes into one image.

There’s also a manual mode.

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This

lacks manual focusing, but does give you control over white balance,

exposure and ISO, as well as giving you a grid and level guide.

The Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 doesn’t have an amazing camera, but it get things about half right. Low-light abilities are nothing special, though. Rather than using advanced processing to make your shots clearer, the phone will shoot as slow as 1/7 of a second, which is just about impossible to keep sharp while shooting handheld. Basic flashes rarely do photos many favours, but if you’re shooting people it’s best to turn the flash on here.

For selfies, the Vodafone Smart Ultra 6 has a 5-megapixel sensor and offers pretty good images. Indoors it’ll compensate for middling lighting just fine, while holding onto colour saturation. You don’t get many bonus modes for selfies, but there is one that snaps as soon as it spots a smile. A spoonful of creepiness for you, there.