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Camera Features

The Z10’s camera app emphasizes point-and-shoot simplicity over control. While its approach to basic picture taking is impressively polished, it lacks some useful features that are becoming standard on the dominant platforms. A high dynamic range (HDR) mode, very useful for scenes with bright highlights and deep shadows, and a panorama function are conspicuously absent.

With Blackberry 10 being a relatively new operating system there is also not the same degree of choice as in the Android or iOS app stores. With 360 Panorama we found a third party panorama app in the Blackberry World app store, but at this point no HDR apps or camera apps with built-in HDR mode appear to be available. In its standard shooting mode the default camera app also lacks face recognition, increasing the odds of poor exposure and missed focus when taking pictures of people. This is an odd omission considering the Time Shift feature described below is capable of detecting faces in images.

Time Shift

 The Time Shift feature captures a quick 10-frame burst and lets you pick the best image. You can also choose faces individually from different frames.

The Z10’s headline photographic trick is Time Shift, a clever mode that takes a high-speed burst of ten images starting the second before you pressed the shutter. When shooting hard-to-catch action you can then scroll through the frames and pick the best one to save.

But the function really comes into its own when taking a group picture. The phone identifies subjects’ faces and you can separately select the best version of each individual’s head from the ten frames, building a photo that seamlessly merges images taken instants apart. Ideally, you end up with a single frame in which no one is blinking or talking. The only problem with the implementation as it stands is that you have to make your frame picks or face selections immediately after you snap the picture. It would be nice if the whole multi-frame capture could be saved for later “processing.”

Time Shift lets you pick the best face for each person and merge them seamlessly into one photograph.

Similar features have recently become available on various new devices. Time Shift is functionally a hybrid of Samsung’s Best Face feature for Android and Microsoft’s BLINK app for Windows phones. The new HTC One's Zoe movies also include a similar function. We suspect this type of feature will grow to be standard on phones in the near future. 

Shooting and Scene Modes

The default shooting mode is “Normal,” and it provides a satisfying point-and-shoot experience. In the menu you can choose from two further modes. The “Stabilized” mode simply is an electronic image stabilization function. It pushes up the ISO in low light in order to increase shutter speeds and decrease the risk of camera shake. The drawback is of course an increase in image noise but given the Z10's lack of manual control over ISO this mode offers at least some control over shutter speeds in low light.

The Burst mode shoots approximately 5 full-resolution frames per second over the course of 150 frames. Unfortunately you have no control over shutter speeds and in its Auto mode the Z10 attempts to stick with low sensitivities, resulting in blurred motion and camera shake in anything but the best light.

That said, you can combine the Burst shooting mode with the Action scene mode and by doing so achieve faster shutter speeds. The Action mode prioritizes action-stopping higher shutter speeds to avoid motion blur, increasing ISO as needed.

Other scene modes include the Night mode which does the exact opposite and allows the shutter speed to drop to 1/9th sec, prioritizing low ISOs. The Whiteboard mode, in a nod to BlackBerry’s business roots, helps avoid the underexposure that normally results when a whiteboard fools an auto exposure system (the Beach or Snow mode addresses the same effect in the great outdoors).

These scene modes are in essence the same as what we've seen on almost every digital camera since the early 2000s. What is slightly unusual on the Blackberry Z10 is the ability to combine shooting and scene modes. You have virtually no control over exposure on the Blackberry but choosing the Action or Night scene modes at least allows you to get faster or slower shutter speeds.

Digital Zoom

The Z10 offers a 5x digital zoom, which simply crops the image and then upsamples it back to 8 megapixels. The results are predictably underwhelming as you can see in the samples below. Zoom is controlled via the familiar pinch-gesture but, given the loss in image quality, should really only be used if you cannot get any closer to the subject.

Blackberry Z10 image at wide angle...
...and and image shot form the same position with 5x digital zoom applied.

Post Capture Editing (Gallery App) 

Tapping the last photo you’ve taken in the camera app takes you to a basic gallery in which you can only flick by one image at a time. Opening the Pictures app separately, you have a lot more flexibility in finding a given photo, with the ability to scroll quickly through screenfulls of thumbnails or jump to the most recently taken or viewed shots. It all works well with one exception: creating and populating albums is a byzantine process that involves using the File Manager app. It’s a small but stunning user interface fail. 

BB10’s Pictures app provides easily scrollable gallery views.

Tapping the pencil icon while viewing a picture opens an unusually full-featured editor. You can crop and rotate, and tweak brightness, contrast, white balance, saturation, sharpness, and noise reduction.

The auto-enhance one-touch fix option does a satisfactory job in modifying contrast and brightness if you don’t want to fiddle. This is a lot of power for a built-in editor; the fly in the ointment is that you can’t zoom in on images, which are already squeezed between three tool bars. That means that while useful for really basic adjustments, you’re flying blind with more delicate operations. 

The gallery app includes an impressively capable editor that can tweak a number of image parameters. Unfortunately, the inability to zoom in limits its use for fine adjustments.

The editor also has two sets of effects, grouped under “Artistic” and “Styles” sections. Lomo, sepia, antique, black and white, negative and a few others are deemed Artistic. The Styles include sixties, grain, filmstrip, and half-tone. But why is “Cartoon” a Style while “Sketch” is Artistic? These filters aren't anything you wouldn't have seen somewhere else before but given the lack of third party editing and filter apps in the Blackberry World store these effects might get more use than they would on other platforms.

The editor offers a number of special effects, from Lomo ...
to Sketch ...
to Sixties ...
to Age.

If the editor detects a face in the frame, it also offers two portrait-specific Style options, though you’re probably better off ignoring them. Smooth Face sandblasts all detail from skin tones, leaving people looking like mannequins. It also enlarges their eyes just enough to be disturbing. The Big Eyes style, on the other hand, gives people enormous googly eyes like something hauled up from a deep ocean trench. You wouldn’t use it on anyone you liked.

The gallery app offers social media integration, making it easy to share images on Facebook, Twitter, BlackBerry Messenger, email, and Foursquare. 

Story Maker

BlackBerry’s included Story Maker app is a simple way to create montage videos from stills and videos captured with the Z10.

Story Maker cranks out cute montage videos with a minimum of user effort.

Select a few photos and videos, pick a sound track (there’s an innocuous selection preloaded, or you can use your own music) and a theme, and presto, the app spits out a 720p video with Ken Burns-style panning and zooming on stills and a variety of transitions. You can reorder items and change the duration they’re displayed, but Story Maker is really about keeping the process dead simple. Aesthetically, the results are surprisingly satisfying. Technically, it would be nice to have 1080p output for viewing on big screens. 

Comments

Total comments: 26
write2alan
By write2alan (3 months ago)

I just picked up a new Z10 for $200 CAD with no strings attached and very impressed with the phone and its features. The camera is decent. The newest updated OS (Blackberry is Linux based) can run most Android apps. LOL....
Mr. Chen did listen and he should have done this years ago! Maybe Google didn't let them make their phones Android compatible at the time.

0 upvotes
eveningaccessories
By eveningaccessories (Apr 25, 2013)

I definitely like the camera shortcut. Who wants to fumble around when you're anxious to take a picture. My current camera delays until the focus is correct so I think that is good in a phone also. Limited options are good for me. Too many and I can't remember what's what.

0 upvotes
eveningaccessories
By eveningaccessories (Apr 25, 2013)

You've given a good description of the Blackberry. It looks very sleek, comfortable and functional. I would certainly consider buying one.

0 upvotes
eveningaccessories
By eveningaccessories (Apr 25, 2013)

Thank you for this review. Blackberry has always been through of as a serious phone but I guess lately has become less popular. Its good to see them get back in the running. A good camera should help.

0 upvotes
Tom Goodman
By Tom Goodman (Apr 22, 2013)

I'd like to amend the now famous maxim that "the best camera you own is the one you have with you" to read "the best camera...except those built into cellphones."

3 upvotes
T3
By T3 (Apr 22, 2013)

Plenty of people are taking great pictures with phone cameras these days. The maxim still holds true. Just take a look at the various Flickr iPhone photo galleries:

http://www.flickr.com/groups/throughthelensofaniphone/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/lumixm43/8655228068/

I've seen far worse photography done with much more advanced DSLRs.

1 upvote
Tom Goodman
By Tom Goodman (Apr 22, 2013)

Not convinced.

1 upvote
T3
By T3 (Apr 22, 2013)

@Tom Goodman, you're not convinced because you're probably one of those crazy pixel peepers who can't enjoy a photo unless you're scrutinizing it at 100% magnification in Photoshop! Hahaha. Well, hate to break it to you, but out in the REAL world, people don't look at photos that way. Ultimately, today more than ever, the actual image is far more important than the device you used to capture the image. That's what photography is really about-- the photo, not the device. But alas, there are people like you who just don't get it, and think photography is more about the equipment than the actual photo.

2 upvotes
Tom Goodman
By Tom Goodman (Apr 22, 2013)

You are wrong on every count. Indeed, cellphone camera zealots like yourself are the ones who believe equipment is all. Throwing around phrases like "pixel peeper" reveals your true orientation. I have never used it myself. Throwing around assertions about what "photography is really about" only reveals your own insecurities...or hubris!

1 upvote
Eric Hensel
By Eric Hensel (Apr 23, 2013)

The problem is, Tom, whether or not your original post is correct --it's irrelevant

1 upvote
T3
By T3 (Apr 23, 2013)

Tom, I'll say it again: it's about the photos. I could care less about what someone uses to create a photo. I use Canon FF and APS-C DSLR bodies, an Oly m4/3, various compact P&S cameras, and yes, a smartphone camera, too. Doesn't matter, I've gotten wonderful, memorable, cherished photos from all of them. Like I said, it's about the photos, not the device. Open up your mind. Sadly, narrow minds have narrow ideas, hence your comment that I am a cellphone camera "zealot"! Haha. Yes, someone who says that it's about the photos, not the device, is a cellphone camera "zealot". Hahaha! Absurd.

I stand by my assertion that "the best camera is the one you have with you" still holds truer than ever. But only a device "zealot" would say something like "...except those built into cellphones"...especially in the face of evidence to the contrary:

http://www.mobilephotoawards.com/slideshow.php

The pictures say it all.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 9 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Anepo
By Anepo (May 31, 2013)

If you plan on repeating chase jarvis's famous line, then please at least get it f*****g right!

0 upvotes
tompabes2
By tompabes2 (Apr 22, 2013)

Daylight images are very good for a smartphone! More or less same quality as the best smartphones (iPhone 5 and GS3/4).
In low light, that's another story... at the moment only smartphones with optical stabilizer (the 920 and the HTC One) can deliver decent results (but the 920 has serious problems in daylight...).

0 upvotes
mr_landscape
By mr_landscape (Apr 22, 2013)

I do not understand dpreview team! For what sake they review mobile phones with crippled camera abilities? There are MANY dedicated cameras and lenses that completely out of the coverage.

2 upvotes
nima66999
By nima66999 (Apr 22, 2013)

tnx

0 upvotes
andreas2
By andreas2 (Apr 22, 2013)

I bought a camera and all I got is this phone.

0 upvotes
captura
By captura (Apr 21, 2013)

BB has indicated that the OS from the 10 will be going into their Playbook tablet, eventually. Those of us who have a Playbook would like to know when.

0 upvotes
knize10
By knize10 (Apr 21, 2013)

Tomorrow's junk.

5 upvotes
andreas2
By andreas2 (Apr 22, 2013)

Include every piece of electronic equipment you have ever bought.

2 upvotes
raimaster
By raimaster (Apr 21, 2013)

Ouch do you use Z10 from Verizon for this test?? its bad, really bad because it has the oldest OS. Try the newer ones from AT&T or Canada carrier or event download the latest OS. There is many improvement, Yes, Z10 has HDR mode, it has also stabilization shooting mode (my fave mode), - check it out nice shot by Z10:
http://jtinseoul.wordpress.com/

Comment edited 6 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 21, 2013)

It's got a stabilization mode but not optical stabilization which is a big difference. Once an update is available we will have a look at that HDR mode.

4 upvotes
raimaster
By raimaster (Apr 21, 2013)

Firstly i really want to know which OS version dpr team use for this test? Second, its bit too early to make a test because new OS 10.1 just leaked yesterday (you can download it) add. new feature such as HDR and camera improvement even better. Do you want to re-shots again after upgrading the OS? I have Z10 and i think its not below the other smartphone on market today. Few camera application is really good.
BB z10 + app UberIris http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/51247925

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Lars Rehm
By Lars Rehm (Apr 22, 2013)

If we'd always wait for firmware updates we'd never get anything tested. The device is available in the shops, people need to make buying decisions with the current firmware and that's what we are testing with, not something that "got leaked" today.

3 upvotes
dpLarry
By dpLarry (Apr 22, 2013)

True. That's why the camera reviews are alot faster now.

2 upvotes
raimaster
By raimaster (Apr 22, 2013)

Oh no way, once you buy from another carriers today (except Verizon) the newer OS is already there to download. Published since last month i guess. Why it is important? because you will have Z10 with overall much better performance and slightly better in low light shooting.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
RC
By RC (Apr 22, 2013)

You are talking beta firmware (or is it even alpha?) and I am pretty sure that DPR used the latest standard firmware for their test, which would be a V 10.0.xx firmware. I have the Z10 and I also own the iPhone 5, Galaxy Note II and the latest HTC One and the Z10 has by far the worst camera. It isn't bad for snapshots, not at all but comparing it to the mentioned other phones I own, it lacks a lot of quality. DPR is right and you cannot expect DPR to test an alpha/beta build or even wait for the "next big" firmware update. This is ridiculous. Btw: My Z10 has the latest 10.0.10.99 (Vodafone) firmware.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Total comments: 26
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