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Blind Test: The Best Sub-$500 Camera Smartphone Award Goes To...

nextpit Camera Blind Test Pixel Galaxy Nothing iPhone Redmi
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At the end of the day, the results were unsurprising. Expected, even. Almost a third of the votes in our camera blind test went to the Google Pixel 7a. Garnering close to 5,000 votes, all of you placed the tiny Google phone in first place when it comes to the selection of sub-$500 camera smartphones. Second place goes to the Samsung Galaxy A54, while the iPhone SE came in third.

First things first: In our camera blind tests, we always photograph the same subject using different smartphones. From there, we let our dear nextpit community vote for the best photo. The main caveat? You don't know which photo was taken by which smartphone, so the results should not be skewed. In this camera blind test for sub-$500 smartphones (basically, the mid-range market), the Google Pixel 7a, iPhone SE 2022, Samsung Galaxy A54, Nothing Phone (1), and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+ faced off against each other.

Traditionally, we always evaluate our camera blind test based on a point system. For each scene, the first place receives five points, the second four points, and so on. At the end of the vote, the Pixel 7a took first place with 42 points, followed by the Samsung Galaxy A54 with 31 and the Apple iPhone SE with 29 points. The last two places went to the Nothing Phone (1) with 26 points and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+ slightly behind at 24 points.

While the result did seem to be spread out relatively evenly, the scenario is very different when we evaluate the total number of votes cast per device. In terms of percentage, the Pixel 7a is far ahead by garnering 29.8 percent of the votes here. Here is the surprise: Samsung, Xiaomi, Apple, and Nothing all garnered 16.8 and 18.9 percent of the votes each between them. There is an obvious winner here, followed by the runner-ups.

Here are the results at a glance:

You can find all the scenes here with the corresponding photos. In the photo galleries, you can also see the voting results.

Scene 1: Daylight

There was a clear winner for the first scene: the iPhone SE (2022) picked up 38% of the total votes cast. The Pixel 7a came in second at 23%, followed by Samsung, Nothing, and Xiaomi sitting last. I really like the balanced exposure of the iPhone SE in this picture.

Scene 2: Portrait

Our readers liked the very natural and balanced portrait from the Google Pixel 7a best as it garnered 37% of the votes. There is a huge gap between the Pixel 7a and Nothing and Samsung, with the latter two sharing second place at 22% of the votes each. The iPhone came in fourth with 15%, and the Xiaomi smartphone occupied the last spot with a mere 5% of the votes.

Scene 3: Selfie camera

When it comes to selfies, the Pixel 7a wins again with an even more commanding lead. Almost every second vote went to the Google (48%) handset, with the iPhone SE being the only competitor that managed a double-digit value at 28%. Do you think the result reflects the difference? I am curious about your comments!

Scene 4: Close-up

Once again, victory goes to Google, the Real Madrid among mid-range smartphones. Once again, the smartphone from Mountain View collected about half of the votes here with 49%. The iPhone SE came in second yet again, closely followed by the Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+ with 21% and 19% of the votes, respectively.

Scene 5: 2x zoom

The Xiaomi Redmi Note 12 Pro+ has a 200-megapixel camera—and should thus have the best specifications to handle digital zoom. Indeed, Xiaomi racked up 60% of all votes cast for this scene. The Nothing Phone (1) lagged far behind in second place with 14% while the Samsung Galaxy A54 picked up 10% of the votes. Was the resolution really the decisive factor here, or is it the rather strong HDR effect?

Scene 6: 5x zoom

Interestingly, things looked quite different with 5x zoom: Here, Xiaomi landed in last place with just 2% of the votes. The Nothing Phone (1) emerged the winner instead with 45%. Google (26%) and Samsung (20%) followed in 2nd and 3rd place, respectively. The iPhone SE was pretty muted here with just 6%. of the votes We really expected more from Xiaomi in particular in view of the enormous pixel count.

Scene 7: Ultra-wide angle

The ultra-wide angle scene delivers a partially predictable result. The iPhone SE managed just 7% without an ultra-wide angle camera and shared last place with the Pixel 7a. First place went to the Samsung Galaxy A54 with 43%, while second place went to the Nothing Phone (1) with 33%.

Scene 8: Mixed light

Unlike any other scene, our dear nextpit community was most indecisive here. All smartphones scored between 10 and 26 percent of the votes. Only two percentage points separated the Pixel 7a, the iPhone SE, and the Galaxy A54 for the top three spots.

Scene 9: Indoor night shot

Google once made smartphone photography into the dark its forte alongside Huawei. Currently, no one is able to beat the Pixel smartphone in the mid-range market. 38% of the votes went to Google, 28% to Samsung, and 24% to Xiaomi. I liked the balance between warm and cold light in the Pixel 7a photo.

Scene 10: Outdoor night shot

And yes, the Google Pixel 7a also shone in the last scene and collected 35% of the votes. The dynamic range is excellent but not exaggerated, while the white balance proved adequate and the image effect was generally natural overall. Behind it, with a range of six percentage points from 20% to 14%, were Xiaomi, Apple, Samsung, and Nothing in last.

Which sub-$500 smartphone is your favorite? Do you think the Google Pixel 7a is deserving of its mantle? I am curious to hear your opinion in the comments!

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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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