Camera performances on the mid-rangers or budget phones have always struggled to make a mark. Of course, they all do well in daylight and macros but when the lights go down, so do their performances and on many occasions, they are not usable. However, that could change with the arrival of a new trend – the dual camera set up, once the preserve of premium phones, has now made its way to more affordable devices as well. Of these, two of the most recent are the Honor 6X and Coolpad Cool 1. Both devices claim to bring high-end photography (or close to high-end photography anyway) to phones that do not cost a bomb. Which does a better job? We put the cameras in various situations to find out. Read – and view – on.
(A note: we recommend you take a look at the full-sized images and make your own judgments too. For what is a better photograph often depends on the perspective of the views: for instance, saturated colors appeal to some while others tend to be picky for true to life images. Pick the winner across each segment as you go forth and at the end, you might have a winner of your own.)
The spec side
Let’s get the specifications out of the way first as to some – especially the geek squad – these are very important!
|Honor 6X||Coolpad Cool 1|
|Primary Camera||Pair of 12MP Sony IMX386 f/2.0 + 2MP cameras||Pair of 13MP Sony IMX258 f/2.0 cameras with one dedicated for B&W|
|PDAF + LED Flash||PDAF + Dual Tone LED Flash|
|1.25 µm pixel size||1.12 µm pixel size|
|Secondary Camera||8 MP, f/2.2 Wide Angle||8 MP, f/2.2 Wide Angle|
In black and white: the one for Monochromes:
The Cool 1 uses the second of the primary cameras for shooting monochromes. And this is not just applying a filter but using their proprietary algorithms to render a good quality true monochrome picture. The camera app has a dedicated option for monochrome, tap on it and you are good to go. Reverting to the color mode is as easy as tapping the back button.
The Honor 6x too can do monochromes but it does so by picking the option from the list of filters. Cool 1’s output is leaps and bounds better than the 6x’s which produces more of a flat image. We will let you take a look at the sample images below to see what we are saying.
The better quality images from the Cool 1 are more evident when shadows are involved, one of the tricky situations in photography.
Bokeh Blues: Changing the apertures
Camera phones have always taken a dig at the DLSRs and now they are trying to bring some of the elusive features to the smartphones – ability to change apertures (why is that important? Check our Tech Detox section). Honor 6x advertises this as the strength of its dual camera set up, with a range of F16 – F0.95, which in sheer numbers is a wide aperture, and so this must be awesome? Well, though it has not talked about it as much, the Cool 1 does have the same feature, with the same range of aperture. But if you’re thinking this means you will start shooting those amazing BOOOOOKEH portraits and pictures, you are in for a disappointment.
The output of both the phones are very similar and all they do is blur out the portions of the image outside of a certain zone, that you can move around before you make a click. Imagine a kid is in front of you with arms wide open, if you are focusing on his face, his arms would go out of focus along with the background giving it a rather awkward look. This is no different than the changes you can make via the tons of post processing apps such as Aviary, PicsArt and so on you get on Google Play. All that this option is doing is cut that post processing. But if you choose the right subject and right situation, this option can produce some wonderful images. Don’t call it DSLR quality – the DSLR owners out there will laugh.
Shot in broad daylight: Daylight images
While most of the phones shoot good pictures in daylight, handling the light in the backdrop, mostly the sun will be a vital parameter for judgment. Cool 1 tends to saturate the colors a bit while Honor 6x sticks to true to life colors and is a few notches crisper too. And upon keen observation and zooming into the pictures, you will also realize that the Honor 6x has a better dynamic range.
Getting close: Macros and closeups
This is easy peasy for most of the phones out there, even the dirt cheap ones. But those with a keen eye for detail can be very demanding as well! Both the phones are good in locking the focus quickly in close ups but the Honor 6x has a slight edge here with that better dynamic range ability. On the other hand, the Cool 1 can get a notch much closer to the subject as compared to the Honor 6x.
Lights will guide you home: low light and indoors
The Honor 6x has a better, newer lens and has the advantage of the pixel size being slightly bigger than that of the Cool 1 (1.25 µm vs 1.12 µm). The Cool 1, on the other hand, has an ace up its sleeve too – it uses the second 13.0-megapixel camera for improving the overall processing during low light and indoor shooting. We showed you the benefits of this in our Cool 1 review and they are very evident here in the comparison as well. Handling lights and flares, keeping the overall noise in check and maintaining sharpness is better on the Cool 1. But in cases where the skies are involved as we saw in the daylight images, things tend to get a little blown out while the Honor 6x still manages to capture the blues and retain them.
Getting modular: Different shooting modes
The Honor 6x clearly offers a better range of options than the Cool 1 and all of them work well as well. The panorama for instance on the Cool 1 is a shaky process while its seamless on the Honor 6X. The Pro Mode is offered for both stills and video on the 6X and works better than the one on the Cool 1 which doesn’t have it for the videos. There is a built in long exposure mode on both the phones but the 6X has a few options within it and it makes the overall experience more “fun” and that is what photography should be at the end of the day.
Moving images: Video modes
The Cool 1 can shoot 4K video @30fps, 1080p @30fps, 720p @120fps while the 6x can do 1080p @30fps. So for those who are hell bent on a better resolution, the Cool 1 may sound good and it does well too. The focusing speeds across both the phones are similar with the 6X having a slight edge in terms of the speed. In addition to that, there is a Pro mode for the videos as well on the 6X, something that we do not often see! LG’s V10/V20 had this and it is good to see this feature making its way to mid-range devices. All this goodness holds in daylight and the performance in both phones drops drastically in low light, which was expected, to be honest.
Shoot me, please: Oh the selfies
Though both phones have a similar configuration the Cool 1’s selfies are sharper and capture more details. The 6x’s selfies come out as if one were in the middle of a fog or the lens had some vaseline smeared all over it. Both come with beauty modes that would turn you into dolls that can be sold alongside Barbies.
Give me the winner, won’t you?
So which is the better shooter? That answer lies with YOU! Because you decide what you use the camera for, what situations you use it in, what kind of results appeal to you. Are you someone who would use the auto mode most of the times or do you love to try a plethora of options that the software provides? Do you shoot lots of videos? Do you use the pro mode for the videos? Do you constantly get into that frenzy for selfies? Does the noise in low light pictures get you edgy?
These and many more questions are what you must ask yourselves and while you do that, take a look at the pictures we have clicked across various situations. See what you like and keep a score and in the end, you would have arrived at the answer! And IN case you arrive at a tie, our choice might just nudge you towards the right answer!
While the Honor 6X has a secondary lens on the primary camera for changing the aperture, the Cool 1 has a better one for two reasons – monochromes and improved low light photography and it does both of these things much better than the 6X. Where it lags is in the ability to handle the light well in the background, in daylight conditions. Many portions are blown out. While the panorama images on 6X are good, the ones on Cool 1 need improvement, including the shooting process itself. The selfies are clearly washed out in the case of the 6X while the Cool 1 has much sharper images. 4K shooting is possible on the Cool 1 while 6X provides pro mode in videos. In this price range, most of the phones struggle in low light photography and the Cool 1 does slightly better in there. The most of the other bells and whistles that 6X provides can be made possible via third party apps also.
Hence we lean towards the Cool 1, which has a slight edge in spite of certain shortcomings. What do you folks think? What is your choice? Let us know!