If you are a smartphone camera enthusiast then you must have heard about the DxoMark.
But if you are choosing a camera phone based solely on the score from the DxoMark, then you are probably not doing the right thing. But first, let get into the details of various aspects they consider for the overall score.
Major tests for the DxoMark score
Portrait Score: Color Depth
This test basically measures color sensitivity of the camera lens. Color sensitivity of a camera lens means how well the lens is able to distinguish between different shades of a particular color. The more subtle difference the lens can distinguish the better the color sensitivity of that camera is.
Landscape Score: Maximum Dynamic Range
This test is performed with the lowest ISO setting which results in longer shutter time, though they use a tripod stand for keeping the phone stable.
Dynamic Range is the ratio of the highest brightness the camera can capture to the lowest brightness it can capture. This test basically measures the quality of the Dynamic Range of the camera.
Sports & action score: Low-Light ISO
Action photographers experience problems while capturing fast moving objects and in low light scenarios. The main problem is the lack of exposure in these conditions. You will have to increase the ISO setting to compensate it. But the problem is while increasing the ISO the quality of the image reduces.
This test measures the degree to which the ISO can be increased without losing on the photo quality.
The Overall score is the average of the above 3 scores. Though they are many other subtests which are part of the aforementioned major tests. This includes artefacts, zoom etc.
Now, let us boil down to our main topic.
Do the scores really justify the camera quality?
Fast-Evolving Camera Features
For those who are into the smartphone market for a few years, you would know how quickly it is evolving. Cameras are an integral part and they have a major contribution in the smartphone evolution.
There are many features like the Night Sight in the Pixel 3 or the bokeh enabled video recording in the Mate 20 Pro, which is not taken into account while calculating the DxoMark score. Though they might not seem important to them it definitely adds to the user experience. It also baffles me that they praised the low light photography of the Note 9 but completely ignored the Night Sight on Pixel 3.
Assigning Numbers to subjective things
There are many subjective things which come into play while selecting a better camera. For example, there are 2 smartphones having the feature of portrait mode shots, but one produces great results with slower shutter speeds while the other has faster shutter speed with a bit poorer result. Now, How will they assign numbers in the portrait test for those two phones? They can assign the greater number to the one producing better results, but a person like me will definitely get annoyed with slower shutter speeds.
This leads to one conclusion that you cannot assign numbers in such subjective scenarios.
Can we rely on the score for video recording?
The answer is a big fat NO.
The reason is a simple analysis. Huawei’s P20 Pro leads the DxoMark’s score chart with a score of 109. Hence you will tend to go for the P20 Pro, but if you compare it with the iPhone 8+ which has a score of 94, you would realize that the iPhone 8+ performs much better. This is because of better audio quality. Audio quality accounts for only 30% in the DxoMark’s video recording test.
It is highly impractical to give such a low preference for audio in the test.
The score will definitely fool you if you look at it for a better video recording phone.
DxoMark’s Business model
DxoMark is a France based consultancy firm. It charges fees for advising camera hardware companies and the smartphone companies on how to improve their camera based on their own analysis.
They sell a highly expensive Testing suite to these companies for improving their camera quality. Those who pay for it like Samsung and Huawei will undoubtedly rank better in their tests. Now there is nothing wrong in selling their analyzer for companies to improve upon their camera. But the problem is what might seem best to them may not be the best for an end user. And as already mentioned, they don’t take into account some of the most interesting features on the current flagships.
One more problem is that many consumers still believe the DxoMark’s score blindly which forces many companies to buy their analyzer suite. Now as more companies adapt to their standards, the smartphone camera revolution may be in the hands of a single company. This will translate to no more new camera features or innovation in the camera department because as usual they will be ignored.
This is what DxoMark could do
I believe the tests are done as thoroughly as the description in their official website. But to provide us with a better analysis they must not boil down to a single score. They should provide us with the individual scores in different tests and leave it upon us to decide which is better for us. If they truly want to help the end users with their analysis then they should revise their business models so that anyone buying their suite must not get an unfair advantage.
Smartphone cameras have improved by a huge margin if we look at only the previous 5 years. Smartphones are in a way the best cameras as it is always with you, helping you to capture the precious moments instantaneously. Hence I will not able to see the smartphone camera revolution crippled by a single company.