The camera on the BlackBerry Z10 has been a point of contention among many reviewers, so we thought it prudent to take a closer look at the quality of pictures it takes and the software features available. We already touched on the broad strokes in our BlackBerry Z10 review, but just to recap...
The BlackBerry Z10 has a ⅓-inch 8 megapixel back side illumination sensor (with 1.4 micrometer pixels) that's capable of shooting 1080p video. Auto-focus is available alongside touch to focus, which is enabled by dragging the UI target to where you want to focus. Moving this focus to the most dimly-lit part of a photo can dramatically increase the quality of a picture.
There's 5 x digital zoom using Super Resolution technology, which monitors shifts in activity at the sub-pixel level to eliminate blur. An LED light enables continuous or flash illumination. The camera has a 5-element f/2.2 lens with a 4 mm focal length, and includes a hybrid IR cut filter to make sure infrared rays don't screw with your picture (though they can make pictures a little cool-colored). There's also a dedicated image signal processor with a 64 MB frame buffer, which keeps the live image on the display true and up-to-date relative to what the camera's pointing at. The image stabilizer has 4 degrees of freedom to make sure your pictures and videos aren't too shaky.
On the front, there's a simple 2 megapixel camera with 3 x digital zoom that can show 720p video. Pictures can be taken by either tapping the main area of the display or clicking any of the media control keys on the device. Settings allow Z10 owners to enable GPS location tagging for their photos and to pick between storing on the local storage or putting them onto your microSD memory card.
The flashiest feature the BlackBerry Z10 has to offer is TimeShift, which captures many images in rapid succession, and allows users to seamlessly roll time forward or backwards to the point where someone's face is in the proper pose while leaving the rest of the image untouched. You can also roll the entire image forward or back as you like, too. TimeShift exists as a separate shooting mode from video and stills, and takes about a ten shots.
Still shooting includes a small handful of scene modes. There are also the standard array of shooting options available, such as stabilization, burst shooting, 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio toggling, and a switch for turning flash to on, off, or auto. Most of these options are tucked away into the four corners. In the top-right, users can switch between TimeShift, video, or still shooting. In the bottom-right is the icon for the menu. In the bottom-left is a thumbnail of your last shot and quick access to the photo gallery, where users can launch into the editor, set the image as wallpaper or contact images, or share out to any number of different sources, like e-mail, BBM, and third-party apps. In the top-left is a flash indicator if you have it set to on or off (tapping it reverts to auto and hides the icon). Scene modes include auto, action, whiteboard, night, and beach/snow.
The shot-to-shot time is really great on the BlackBerry Z10 camera, but it would be nice to have a few more scene modes. For anything the camera lacks in sheer image quality, it more than makes up for with the software enhancement tools available in the Picture Editor application.
Picture Editor is a really rich suite of tools that you typically find in third-party mobile photography apps. There are fluid free-transform, cropping, flipping, and rotation tools, plus sliders for auto-enhancement, red-eye reduction, brightness, white balance, contrast, sharpness, saturation, and noise reduction. On the artsier side, there are filters for black and white, lomo, antique, sepia, whiteboard, watercolor, negative and sketch styles. Full border and filter adjustments can be applied for a sixties, grain, aged, filmstrip, halftone, and cartoon style, on top of eye enlarging and skin smoothing filters specifically for portraits. The whole image can be reverted to the original, or individual effects can be wiped easily through the overflow menu.
As for video, you have stabilization, scene modes for night, beach/snow, and auto. The LED light can be toggled to stay on or off, resolution switched between 1080p and 720p. The UI layout is more or less identical to the still camera, and the gallery links off to a similar editor suite where users can trim clip length, tweak the volume, and make a variety of adjustments, such as brightness, contrast, and color. There's also the Story Maker application that helps users splice together their video clips and still images with nice transitions, captions, and background music.
So, with all of that said, are the shots any good? Our first pass for the BlackBerry Z10 camera certainly presented a few stark differences with major competing smartphones. Just to make sure we were on the ball with our chart, we took a few more with the BlackBerry Z10 we got at the launch event and came up with roughly the same results. You can download our second full-resolution comparison chart here, or check out this thread in the forums a a bunch of sample submissions from our community. I think it's safe to say we're overall happy with the camera performance; for most casual observers, these pictures are going to be good enough to post on Facebook without being embarassed, and if you spend at least a little bit of time tweaking in the built-in photo editor, you won't really be able to tell the difference versus competitors. So far the only smartphone that has a marked a distinguishable advantage in quality is the Nokia Lumia 920.
BlackBerry Z10 owners, how are you finding the camera quality? Are there any features you'd like to see implemented? How good are the shots compared to what you were taking on your previous handset?