A year ago, getting a good camera in a phone costing less than Rs 10,000 was considered a pipe dream. The Asus ZenFone 5 and Xiaomi Redmi 1S changed that perception, with cameras that delivered a very decent performance even though the devices in which they were featured did not cost a bomb. The result? Today, consumers expect decent cameras even in the budget smartphone category. So the first device in the YU series, the Yureka, has its task pretty much cut out in this department.

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It does tick the boxes in terms of specs – the rear camera is of 13.0 megapixels and is a Sony IMX 135 CMOS sensor, with a F/2.2 aperture, and is made using the five piece Largan Blue Lens Architecture. The front is a 5.0-megapixel affair. But all this is just so much jargon. How do those cameras actually perform? Well, we gave them both a go, sticking to auto mode.

These were the results we obtained [click on each for full version]

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Based on these, here are our conclusions:

  1. In terms of handling, we actually found the Yureka very easy to use because of its relatively light weight (something like the Redmi Note is heavier). Yes, we would have liked a camera button, but all said and done, this is not a difficult device to use as a camera, if you are a gent. We think the ladies will struggle a bit with it due to the sheer size of the phone.
  2. First off, we have no complaints about the speed of the camera, which we think is a notch above both the Asus ZenFone 5 and the Redmi 1S. Pictures were taken almost the moment we hit the shutter. Touch to focus worked smoothly too. And before anyone asks, we faced no heating issues even while shooting videos a few minutes long. The phone does heat up slightly when you take a lot of photographs, but stops well short of reaching alarming levels.
  3. The interface is typical Cyanogen where you can switch between different modes (Auto, HDR, and so on) by simply flicking upwards on the camera screen. We really prefer this to the tedious go-to-settings-and-pick-an-option mode in other devices.
  4. You also get filters and editing modes in the gallery app. However, an odd feature that we noticed in the gallery app was that when we selected a picture, it seemed to pixilate briefly before appearing. It is more a oddity than a deal-breaker really.
  5. Moving on to performance itself, the Yureka’s cameras are very steady performers, especially in daytime conditions outdoors. We took some very good pictures of Delhi’s city centre, Connaught Place, using it. A slight blue tinge sometimes seemed to come into some pictures but this was very rare. In general, when the light was good, the cameras delivered very decent shots, and even took some very good close ups. Some might find the colors a trifle faded, as compared to the Redmi 1S and the Redmi Note 3G, but we actually think that the Yureka’s camera was more realistic in many cases.
  6. “But what about low light conditions?” is a query that comes up frequently during camera phone discussions these days. Blame it on the Lumia 920! Valid enough, nevertheless. Well, our answer there is that the Yureka is pretty decent in well-lit conditions indoors and all right, in the evenings, but if you are using it in relatively dark conditions, then be ready for the grains and noise to creep in. In this regard, the ZenFone 5 continues to set the benchmark for the sub-Rs 10,000 group, even though it often sacrificed megapixels at the altar of low-light clarity.
  7. In terms of videos, we found the Yureka doing a very good job in normal, daylight conditions (it shoots full HD videos). The night time experience was not the greatest but then again, considering its price point, we did not go in expecting something path breaking here.
  8. The front facing camera comes with facial recognition but misses out on features like smile recognition and gesture support. We also think that it is way too realistic – Lenovo stole a march over the competition with the automatic beautification mode in its selfie cameras in the Vibe series. The Lumia Selfie camera app works on similar lines and we think that there is something to be said for smoother skinned selfies!
  9. The editing tools themselves work well enough, and there is good social network connectivity within the Gallery app itself. No, we do not expect this will stop people from using Instagram filters, but you definitely can get along without having to download any image editors.

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Conclusion

All said and done, the Yureka is a steady rather than spectacular shooter. It is a quick camera and thanks to Cyanogen, lets you do a fair bit with the images you shoot. Colors are realistic and detail is decent. In terms of image quality, we would put it a slight notch below the Asus ZenFone 5 and the Redmi Note 3G, but well above the Lumia 535 and 530 and the Moto G (yes, even the 2nd Generation in good light conditions). It also bests the ZenFone 5 in terms of speed. It does tend to fade out a bit in low light conditions, but even so, at Rs 8,999, the Yureka does enough to make itself one of the better smartphone cameras in its price band.


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Associate Editor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.