“The hero feature of the new Honor 6 Plus is its dual-camera setup, and as we found out, it’s more than just hype”
The best camera is the one in your pocket. We can’t help but think of this profound statement as we play around with the new Honor 6 Plus (first impressions) and ponder over how true this is. Camera capabilities have been a differentiating factor for phones since ages, but the focus has shifted from megapixel wars of yore to other features and capabilities that take smartphone photography to a whole new level. Despite that however, true innovation in this arena has been hard to come by. A fresh new wave of smartphones will attempt to change that, and the likes of the ASUS ZenFone Zoom (quick look) and the Lenovo Vibe Shot (first impressions) hold a lot of promise. The recently-launched vivo Xshot (first impressions | camera review) is also a very compelling shooter.
The latest to harp about innovation in the photography domain however, is the Honor 6 Plus, a smartphone that’s the world’s first to come with parallel dual cameras – so you get not one, but two lenses at the rear. Both of them use 8-megapixel sensors, and counting the 8MP shooter at the front, the Honor 6 Plus offers three cameras with the same resolution. The two 8MP snappers at the rear shoot simultaneously, and combine the results to generate a single 13-megapixel image. This uses a special 3IE algorithm that promises significantly better image quality and focussing speeds, with or without ample light. The HDR prowess of the camera also gets a boost, since unlike most other phones that shoot multiple images (usually three) to generate a single HDR image, the Honor 6 Plus can do it directly using shots from its two rear cameras that shoot together. Also on offer are some very neat tricks, including adjustable aperture that can vary between f/16 and f/0.95, enabling very cool wide aperture effects and bokeh. Notably, this can be used both while shooting as well as later, and the results can be astonishing.
Intrigued? So were we… and piggybacking on another saying – the proof of the pudding is in the eating – we took it for a spin to check out what exactly it can do.
The camera app sports a minimalistic interface, but looks can be deceptive, as it hides powerful features. Up front, you’ll see three shooting options – photo, video and Wide Aperture, along with access to colour filters and the gallery. The various shooting modes, accessible by hitting the options button on top right, include the likes of beauty, panorama, HDR, watermark, best photo, audio note, and a Super night mode. The camera settings offer options like audio control, a smile shutter, object tracking, and control over parameters like ISO, white balance, saturation, contrast and brightness. Exposure can be controlled via a ring that pops up when you tap on the main viewfinder screen.
Moving to the Wide Aperture mode, it lets you adjust aperture by dragging on a slider that appears on screen. You can use this while shooting, and also later from an already captured image in the gallery. Since the two different camera sensors can perceive depth, you can choose to keep a specific part of the image in focus, and blur out the rest. The blur intensity can be adjusted too.
Let’s get right to the image results now. Do note that unless otherwise specified, all these shots are captured in the default auto mode, and at the highest possible resolution, i.e., 13-megapixels.
A quick look at this image sample from the Honor 6 Plus’ main shooter is enough to prove how capable it is, especially in daylight. The colours pop out, and the image is evenly focussed, without any signs of pixelation even when zoomed in.
This close up, captures using the Honor 6 Plus, is yet another fine example of its shooting prowess. Bordering on oversaturation, it makes the image look very vibrant… and again, there’s lots of detail and sharpness.
Close up (zoomed)
Zooming in on the same image makes the details even clearer, with hardly any blurring. Even the tiny fibres on the leaves are clearly visible now, and there’s a nice depth-of-field effect too.
Even without HDR, this is a perfectly fine shot, with nice colour details and even focus. Now let’s see what switching on the HDR mode does to the same scene.
First up, we can say that the HDR mode on the Honor 6 Plus is superfast… and it shoots in a jiffy without the risk of blur, thanks to the dual cameras shooting simultaneously. And as far as we can make out, the results are superb too. Notice how detailed the image now looks, with the foliage easily discernible and more depth visible. The colours also look better, while the areas in shadows are much better defined.
The front camera shoots on a three-second timer, and also offers a separate, configurable beauty mode. This image has been shot in auto though, and we can say that the Honor 6 Plus should be able to churn out reasonably good selfies as long as there’s enough ambient light.
Night shots are the real test of any camera, and the Honor 6 Plus doesn’t disappoint. It keeps noise to a minimum, and while the image is a tad softer compared to the daylight shots, it looks quite usable.
Moving the test indoors, this particular image has been shot in very low light, and now we can see more noise and softness in details. The smartphone detects that the lighting is low, and alerts you to hold the device steady. The colours look fine, but we won’t say this image blows our socks off with its quality. That said, it’s still better than most others smartphones can offer in similar lighting conditions.
Low light (with flash)
Turning on the dual-LED flash offers significantly better results… with an evenly lit subject that doesn’t look burnt out or unnatural in any way.
Super night mode
Since the Honor 6 Plus has a special mode called ‘Super night’, we decided to give it a try. Turns out, it shoots the scene for 15 seconds, and combines the results into a single image. Needless to say, it would result into blurry shots if the phone isn’t held steady. But no matter how hard we tried, we still ended up with blur. Then we threw a tripod into the equation, and the result is displayed above. Note that this is the same subject as our low light shot above, shot without flash and in very dim lighting. And the Super Night mode combined with a tripod has managed to throw up very impressive results. It’s not as if you’re going to have a tripod handy each time you want to shoot in low light, but this is a good showcase of its capabilities.
Wide aperture mode
Above are two results from the Honor 6 Plus’ Wide Aperture mode, the first with the background in focus, and the second with the background blurred. The two images have been generated from the same image shot in Wide Aperture mode, and then adjusted post shooting. As you can see, this mode offers amazing results, and holds the potential to take creativity to the next level.
Overall, we’re quite impressed with the shooters on the Honor 6 Plus and what they can do. The Wide Aperture mode is really the highlight, but even otherwise, the cameras are extremely capable, especially in good light. Our full review, coming up shortly, will have more on whether the Honor 6 Plus works well as a daily driver or not. And as a teaser, we can tell you that the wait should be worth it.