ASUS ZenFone 2 camera review: the master of pixels and image-enhancing modes

“The ZenFone 2 is impressive when we talk about its innards. But what about its camera performance?”

Even with an 8-megapixel shooter, the middle member of the first-gen ASUS ZenFone series, the ZenFone 5 (review), offered impressive results, and became a perfect example to highlight the fact that the megapixel count isn’t a true measure of camera quality. The imaging experience was further enhanced with ASUS’ proprietary technology termed as PixelMaster. This tech also helped the device to shoot excellent images even in poorly-lit conditions.

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Now, ASUS is back with the second-gen ZenFone, a 5.5-inch phablet with loaded innards. It has received an upgrade in the camera department as well, with a 13-megapixel sensor at the back, which is supplemented by a dual-tone LED flash. In terms of optics, the rear camera features a Toshiba sensor with f/2.0 aperture and 5P Largan lenses. Not just the hardware, ASUS has also improved its software algorithm with PixelMaster 2.0. The camera app also offers a number of features, including a fully-adjustable manual mode along with numerous shooting modes. We’ll be discussing those in the full review of the phone, but for now, let’s check out how all this tech results in the actual camera performance.

The following shots have been taken from ASUS ZenFone 2’s cameras over a variety of conditions in the auto mode (unless specified otherwise) with aspect ratio of 4:3.

Long shot

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera review - long shot

The 13-megapixel snapper on the ASUS ZenFone 2 does a really good job in capturing the scene above with all its elements. The colours have been reproduced well, and the detailing also seem to be nice as you can differentiate between different trees. Sadly, the image turns pixelated when you see it in its original resolution.

Super resolution

Super resolution vs normal image in the ASUS ZenFone 2

As we have mentioned before, there are a number of modes in the camera app. This mode will take care of your worries about the previous shot, since in accordance with its name, it captures images at whopping 52MP. It does so by superimposing four images together, and as we can see in the comparison image embedded above (normal shot on the left, super resolution image on the right), you can find even minute details when you zoom in. However, in comparison to a normal image, the colours seem dull in this mode.

Close up

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera test - close up shot

The ZenFone 2 delivers brilliant results, both in terms of colour capture as well as details in close-up shots. You can also make out the texture of different subjects in this image, be it the flowers or the wood.

Close up (zoomed in)

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera test - close up shot (zoomed in)

Magnifying on the same image doesn’t change our opinion about the performance of the ASUS ZenFone 2’s snapper. Not only does the image looks nice, the different petals of the flowers are also easily discernible.

HDR off

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera quality - HDR off

This shot is taken to gauge the HDR capabilities of the smartphone. While we don’t find flaws with the normal image, let’s see if HDR makes it any better.

HDR on

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera quality - HDR on

High Dynamic Range, true to its name, makes the image look more pleasing to the eyes. The colours of different subjects in the view are lovely, however the ZenFone 2’s algorithm has also added a halo effect around the iconic monument with this mode, which somehow makes the whole image seem artificial.

Low-light shot

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera samples - low-light shot

Capturing low-light shots is one of the biggest challenges for a smartphone’s camera and that feeling doesn’t change with the shooter on the ASUS ZenFone 2 as well. Taken in dim lighting, we’re only able to see three grainy objects in the view, but not their colours or anything else.

Low-light shot with flash

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera samples - low-light shot with flash

The ZenFone 2 comes with a dual-tone LED flash for providing illumination. The same scene taken with the flash turned on shows that it’s very powerful – maybe too powerful for our liking, since the base of our subjects is flooded with white. Although, the colours do look nice and one can also see the texture of the object easily (glossy in this case).

Night shot

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera performance - night shot

For the earlier shots, we created artificial scarcity of light, but there are instances where we are out and about and the camera gets some light in the form of street light or other sources. In this case, the phablet has done quite well as we can easily make out the different colours of the slide.

Night shot with low-light mode

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera performance - night shot with low-light mode

When we reviewed the camera performance of the ASUS ZenFone 5, we adjudged it as a ‘creature of the night’ for the simple reason that it was able to capture lovely images with its specialised low-light mode. The same mode is also available on its successor and trying it at the same scene as above, we find it to be quite effective. ASUS’ low-light mode works by merging nearby pixels to create one pixel and then applying image-processing algorithms, with which the brand claims that light sensitivity can be increased by up to 400 percent. Sadly, the mode captures images in 3MP resolution and is so strong that it has overexposed some areas.

Front shot

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera review - front shot

Selfie, as a concept, has grown rapidly over the past couple of years and manufacturers are also cashing in on the trend. ASUS has also dipped its toes by equipping the ZenFone 2 with a 5MP shooter. It’s able to capture good details and nice colour fidelity, and further offers features such as beautify mode to enhance one’s photos.

Front shot with low-light mode

ASUS ZenFone 2 camera review - front shot with low-light mode

One of the biggest complaints with front cameras is that they are rendered useless in low-light conditions. In fact, a few smartphone makers have also introduced LEDs at the front to overcome this. ASUS has also thought about this issue and is offering the superb low-light mode for the secondary camera as well. While it’s not the best because of noticeable noise and reduced resolution of 1MP, it does add more lighting to the shot, which in turn helps in capturing better colours.

Scrolling through the images taken with the ASUS’ latest phablet, one thing is clear – the ZenFone 2 sports a capable pair of snappers. Both the rear and front cameras can capture good amount of details and colours, and images are further enhanced with the Taiwanese brand’s PixelMaster effects and modes. Of course, the cameras aren’t perfect… there’s noise when you zoom in to the images and some modes like HDR and low-light mode make the image seem artificial. But the shooters will serve the purpose for capturing life moments. If you’re keen to know how the rest of the aspects of the ASUS ZenFone 2 (unboxing | first impressions) hold up, then just wait a tad more for our review, coming your way soon.

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