Camera - First Impressions

The camera of the Zenfone 8 isn’t something that I had particularly large hopes for, given the fact that it seems to have the same hardware setup as on the Zenfone 7, which showcased quite disappointing results in our dedicated review of that device. Bar any surprises by ASUS in terms of improved software image processing, we should see rather similar results.

For this piece, I’m keeping things simple and just showcasing sample images from the ZF8 – I’ll be following up with a larger camera centric article across all recent flagship phones in the market in a few weeks' time.

 

In this first scene, we see rather familiar results reminding us very much of the images produced by the Zenfone 7 last year. The shots are characterised by a tendence to flatten out textures a whole lot, some kind of side-effect of ASUS’ HDR algorithm, I think. The scene ended up quite a lot darker than it actually was and there’s just a general lack of any small detail highlights throughout the scene.

While the phone lacks a telephoto module, it’s possible to get to reasonable quality 2x shots via the use of the native 64MP shooting mode of the camera – ASUS here actually uses this by default when going from 1x to 2x zoom mode, something a lot of vendors with similar high-res camera hardware seem to not always get right. The result isn’t great given the 0.8µm pixel size, with very little dynamic range and a lot of fuzziness, but it’s still higher quality than a digital magnification.

 

In this scene I’m again reminded of ASUS’s issue with dynamic range and the tendency to just flatten out luminosity across the scene, giving it a 2D look rather than preserving depth of objects.


 

Looking at the ultra-wide angle shot, the phone does alright with the colours but completely loses out texture preservation compared to the main camera, with a large amount of blurring of details.

Dynamic range continues to be an issue in most scenes with the camera just not being able to preserve depth of objects unless in the most forgiving lighting conditions.

Generally, we also see that the optics of the module doesn’t keep up with the 16MP auto mode results of the sensor, as we’re seeing hazing and ghosting around highly contrasting edges.

Colourful subjects have again the issue that there’s lot of gradations and details that are seemingly lost due to the processing.

ASUS has added auto-focus to the ultra-wide angle this year, meaning this module is now able to focus extremely close to subjects down to 4cm, which can actually give quite good results and is a flexible way to enable macro photography.

Functional, not competitive

Overall, the results of the Zenfone 8 camera are disappointing, but not surprising. ASUS’s phones in general have historically had lacking cameras and image processing that was not up to par with other flagship devices. The Zenfone 8 positions itself as a 2021 flagship phone, but its camera system is far from that. It’s functional for the occasional shot, but it’s pretty much outshone by essentially any other camera solution in the market, with very little silver linings in favour of the device.

If you’re looking for competitive cameras in a phone, the Zenfone 8 is not the device for you.

Battery Life Conclusion & First Impressions
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  • MrGutts - Thursday, May 13, 2021 - link

    So let me get this right, the smaller version has a headphone jack but not the much larger unit? Reply
  • arashi - Sunday, May 16, 2021 - link

    The larger unit is literally the old version with updated SoC. Laziest upgrade. Reply
  • Kangal - Tuesday, May 18, 2021 - link

    The new QSD 888 isn't that much faster than the QSD 865, due to throttling. And the QSD 865 itself isn't that much faster than the QSD 855. Basically having QSD 855 in 2022 is still considered luxury/"flagship" level, unless you're in the iOS Market. With that said, the new "high-end" level chipset, QSD 780, is around the QSD 860 level. So that's a bargain. Maybe that's what ASUS should've gone for instead.

    After a year (or two), we should see a better, newer and optimised AndroidOS version, that is running on the next platform ARMv9. So I expect a good performance leap up from the QSD 888+, similar (probably better) to the performance leap from the Early QSD 845 to the Later QSD 855+.
    Reply
  • XMight - Thursday, May 13, 2021 - link

    Looks cool phone, the kind I would use, but, has 2 drawbacks:
    1. no sd card slot. Its not the problem that 128 GB is not enough for me, its just having the possibility to store data outside internal memory and access it fast without plugging the phone in a PC.
    2. No FM radio in Europe. I'm tired of this, honestly. I look forward when Europe will force by law, like US, phone manufacturers to include FM radio. I really enjoy FM radio and even if I have unlimited plan, FM radio sounds way cooler and it feels more real-time than internet radio with apps with lots of ads and bloatware. Radio on Nokia 5 sounds really cool. I waited for Sony 5 III, which could have been my next phone, but no radio. Sony 10 III has no gyro, and I look at the stars with the phone through stellarium.

    And the whole issue is that there isn't a single phone on the market that has: SDCARD, FM RADIO, dualsim, GYRO, Snapdragon CPU, IP rating, 3.5mm, small form-factor at the same time. So, I will stick to my Nokia 5 and Sony XZ1 compact combination for a few more years. I really hate this marketing crap the companies are pulling for forcing people buy something they aren't 100% satisfied with at the moment so they will feel incentivized when a new phone with something they wanted appears, but misses something else they had before.
    Reply
  • msildoja - Monday, July 5, 2021 - link

    Totally agree with the second part. No good compact phone on the market. Purchased xperia 5ii but returned it as it was too long. Went for asus zf8, but it has so poor battery life compared to xpetia 5ii. Sad. Reall no good phones available after sony ditched the compact series. Reply
  • yetanotherhuman - Friday, July 9, 2021 - link

    Yeah, it's incredibly tiring. I recently got a new phone, but it was too big. I left it in the box and carried on using my 4 year old phone instead. Reply
  • patel21 - Thursday, May 13, 2021 - link

    Hi Andrei,
    Wouldn't a 870 or even 865 make more sense in a compact phone like this which isn't able to use 888 to its fullest?
    They could even shave off a bit from price and the battery would also last longer
    Reply
  • sheh - Thursday, May 13, 2021 - link

    Roughly the same size as the S10 and S20.
    A good start, but shaving extra 2-3mm width and 10mm height would be welcome.
    Reply
  • tkSteveFOX - Friday, May 14, 2021 - link

    Strange, other reviews praise the camera for the price, but I also looked at their photos and more willing to go with your assumption.
    Ultrawide especially was lacking in fine detail even in broad daylight, and there's too much sharpening going in postprocessing. The main camera looks decent, but got to be expecting better than IMX686, however the front camera is miles better than anything in that price range.
    Reply
  • SolarBear28 - Friday, May 14, 2021 - link

    This is pretty much the size and price I'd want for my next phone. My 2018 Galaxy A8 is a fantastic device and still getting quarterly security updates. I'd like to stick with Samsung for their Good Lock and One Hand Operation apps but they don't makes any good phones under 6" anymore. The S21 is a fantastic device but slightly bigger and slightly more expensive than I'd like. Reply

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