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Under $500 Smartphone Camera Showdown: Who Takes the Best Pictures?

nextpit Camera Blind Test Pixel Galaxy Nothing iPhone Redmi
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Updated on July 12: Voting has now concluded. You can find the results in our article on camera blind test results.

Five smartphones that do not pass the $500 mark and 50 photo samples: In nextpit's camera blind test, you vote for which mid-range smartphone shoots the best photos. The opponents in the mix are the Apple iPhone SE (2022), Google Pixel 7a, Nothing Phone (1), Samsung Galaxy A54, and Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+.

How does nextpit's camera blind test work?

The rules for our camera blind test are simple. We selected a number of subjects and photographed each scene exactly three times with each smartphone. The factory settings are always in play—if not noted in the respective sample, because this is how most users snap photos. We will then select the best photo from the three.

Also do take note that the same letter is not always assigned to the same smartphone. Hence, photo 1A and photo 2A might be from different devices—or maybe not. If you want to know more about the devices that run the gauntlet this time around, you read the individual reviews here:

Here we go: Happy Voting! As always, you will find the results of our camera blind test in exactly one week's time on—and in our newsletter, of course, which we will send out punctually next Wednesday.

Scene 1: Daylight

Let's begin with a simple task: daylight. The color reproduction of the individual smartphones sometimes varies significantly here—as do the contrasts. Which smartphone delivers the best photo here?

Scene 2: Portrait

For the second scene, my colleague Ezequiel photographed me once using all the smartphones, selecting portrait mode in each case. In addition to the varying degrees of bokeh and beauty effects, what's most exciting here is how well the skin tones were reproduced. What do you think? Which phone captured me best?

Scene 3: Selfie camera

The selfie camera in front was called into action for the third scene. The task was made more difficult by a slight backlight, which the smartphones sometimes handled very differently. The contrast also looked very different in certain cases. I am curious to see how you vote!

Scene 4: Close-up

Sure, this is not a real macro shot—yet. However, the sub-$500 smartphones still have to prove whether they can cut a good figure in close-ups shortly after sunset. It is particularly interesting how the red tones of the rose were reproduced. Some smartphones completely missed out on details in the blossom due to oversaturation.

Scene 5: 2x zoom

There is no optical zoom in any of the sub-$500 smartphones in this blind test. At least, these smartphones with their main sensors all have slightly different prerequisites to deliver good results in this department—especially the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+ with its 200-megapixel sensor. In any case, there are clear differences in the photos.

Scene 6: 5x zoom

The next scene cranked up the difficulty level by a notch. Here, the smartphones have to show how they perform with a digital 5x zoom. Does Xiaomi really deliver the best picture here—or can a competitor with fewer megapixels shine?

Scene 7: Ultra-wide angle

In this scene, we did not crop the images afterward to present you with the most consistent results possible. The reason for this is that one smartphone does not have an ultra-wide angle camera at all—and the configuration of the other devices are sometimes very different. Which result do you like best?

Scene 8: Mixed light

While the previous photos featured only one light source that illuminated the subject—namely the sun, mixed light is found in abundance here. This puts the white balance of the smartphones to the sword, because they have to find the right balance for color reproduction. In addition, it wasn't particularly bright in this scene, which is also a challenge.

Scene 9: Indoor night shot

Extreme mixed light conditions are also present in our ninth scene. The lamp inside provides a warm light, while comparatively cold light entered from outside through the windows—and it is generally very dark. Which smartphone delivers the most successful result here?

Scene 10: Outdoor night shot

In our last scene in this comparison, it is dark night and a rather warm lamp illuminating the scene. Which smartphone managed to take the most beautiful photo here and brings out both light and shadow best to the shot?

Which sub-$500 smartphone do you think will pick up the plaudits in this camera blind test? As usual, we look forward to your opinion in the comments!

The best smartphones under $1,000 

  Editor's recommendation The best iPhone The best camera phone Value for money The best foldable The most affordable
  • $799
  • $799
  • $999
  • $599
  • $999
  • $499
Picture Samsung Galaxy S24 Product Image Apple iPhone 15 Product Image Google Pixel 8 Pro Product Image Nothing Phone (2) Product Image Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5 Product Image Google Pixel 7a Product Image
Review: Samsung Galaxy S24
Review: Apple iPhone 15
Review: Google Pixel 8 Pro
Review: Nothing Phone (2)
Review: Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 5
Review: Google Pixel 7a
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Stefan Möllenhoff

Stefan Möllenhoff
Head of Content Production

I have been writing about technology since 2004 with a strong passion for smartphones, photography, and IoT, especially in the world of smart homes and AI ever since they debuted. I'm also an avid cook and bake pizza at least three times a week using my Ooni Koda 16. In order to compensate for all the consumed calories, I indulge in sporting activities on a daily basis while strapping on at least two fitness trackers. I am strongly convinced that you can DIY a lot of things if you put your mind to it - including a photovoltaic system and power station.

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  • 49
    storm Jul 7, 2023 Link to comment

    So it's certainly interesting to see how they perform with their stock camera app, but it would also be interesting to see how they perform with the same app driving them to compare the hardware separate from the software.

    Rubens EishimaRusty H.