The 20k-30k price category is on fire in 2021. There are so many good phones that it can get really confusing – especially when it comes to the camera performance. Because, most brands have a balanced approach when building phones in this price range. None that I know of, only follows a camera-centric approach.
So, as a team, we sat down and re-evaluated all the phones we’ve reviewed in this price range. And, we’ve come up with three phones that we think could be the best camera phone choices: the OnePlus Nord 2, Samsung Galaxy A52, and iQOO 7.
Although, which is the absolute best camera phone under Rs 30,000 in 2021 – one that will be the benchmark for future phones? Well, let’s find out.
Let’s start with the details and textures that the three phones can capture. But before that, a quick look at the camera specs. The Nord 2 (review) has the most capable sensor among these three, in the form of the Sony IMX766. It has the largest sensor size of 1/1.56-inches and a pixel size of 1-micron, as opposed to the 0.8-micron pixel size Sony IMX682, and Sony IMX598 sensors inside the Galaxy A52 (review) and the iQOO 7, respectively. And, that is what matters. Not the resolution on offer. Which would be the highest on the Galaxy A52 with 64 megapixels on tap.
Anyway, when you present ample light to these three sensors, they are all capable of producing ample detail. Even when you pixel peep, there’s not much telling the three apart. OnePlus has also cleaned up the algorithm with a couple of software updates. The issues I had with slight over-sharpening don’t exist anymore. But yes, I did notice that the quality of the lens on the iQOO 7 is very good and therefore it maintains sharp details around the edges of the images as well. But, this is really a tiny advantage.
Let’s just move on to the testing parameters where we can spot the differences – yeah? This round is clearly a draw.
I don’t know how, but the colour science on the Nord 2 is on point, i.e. if you are not shooting HDR images. The iQOO 7 tends to botch the reds really badly, as you can tell from the sample image of the Bangalore Croton. In fact, in my second set of comparison shots, you can see the red smearing in both the iQOO 7 and the Galaxy A52. The minute texture gradients are captured beautifully by the Nord. It retains the worn out look of the book. The same is true for the Blues in Ikigai. In fact, they are badly reproduced by the iQOO 7; it is extremely over-saturated. The A52 is not accurate either. Good job, OnePlus.
Winner: Nord 2
High Dynamic Range
For all the goodwill that OnePlus gains for tuning the colours right in the non-HDR mode, it is all lost when you shoot HDR pictures on the phone. The Nord 2 almost always shoots in extremely cool tones if the scene has a lot of blue, like the sky. Having said that, while it does a decent job of controlling the highlights, the shadows do get crushed. Not as badly as previous OnePlus phones, though, that I must add. In fact, in the Galaxy A52 you will see a lot of noise in the shadows. Wait, we weren’t supposed to talk about my most active online troll.
Evidently, the iQOO 7 does the best job here of HDR stacking. A lot of the HDR processing is also dependent on the processor, and clearly the Snapdragon 870 is super capable. A recurring trend I noticed while shooting with the A52 is the Snapdragon 720 struggles a lot and processing takes ages. Even shot-to-shot speeds weren’t great.
Also, the Dimensity 1200 on the Nord 2 struggles in areas with medium dynamic range where sometimes you don’t even need to use the HDR, but the auto-HDR mode fires it anyway. I could see a lot of over-sharpening and soft details. This is where the iQOO 7 and the Galaxy A52 do a far better job. Plus, again you can see the horrendous rendition of the Blue sky by the Nord 2. I had highlighted the same problem in my review of the phone as well. Whenever software processing is involved to do HDR, the Nord 2’s algorithm tends to buckle under pressure. Just like me, in my 12th boards.
Winner: iQOO 7
Of all the three ultrawide angle cameras, the iQOO 7 has the best one. Not only because it has the highest resolution sensor of the three, but also because it offers the best colour science consistency between the primary and ultrawide cameras. Plus there are a lot of clean texture details that are clearly visible too. The Galaxy A52 has the widest lens but the contrasty, shadow-crushed look doesn’t look very attractive or natural. The Nord 2 has softer details and colour science inconsistency with the primary camera as well. Clean victory for iQOO here.
Winner: iQOO 7
The Galaxy A52 has a dedicated 5MP macro camera, which is missing on the Nord 2. In fact, the iQOO 7 achieves macro shots using the ultrawide angle camera. So, you get 13MP captures. You can go closer to the subject using the iQOO 7 and you get slightly crisper details as well. If you like capturing really close up shots, the iQOO 7 is the one to go for.
Winner: iQOO 7
When it comes to shooting human subjects, the Nord 2 makes a valiant comeback. You get fantastic facial tones and details. The iQOO 7 comes really, really close in terms of details but it has a slightly warmer tone. The Galaxy A52 is not as sharp as the other two, neither is the facial tone accurate. It tends to accentuate the reds on the face.
Winner: Nord 2
The situation is similar when it comes to portrait shots as well. The edge detection is fantastic. The facial tones and details are great too. The Galaxy A52 also benefits from Samsung’s great portrait algorithm for edge detection and natural looking blur. But, the facial tone is not great. On the iQOO 7, the app makes it very hard to take a portrait. While it does give you a lot of options to alter the settings, sometimes it won’t even blur the background even after getting all the settings right. Anyway, the portrait mode shot on iQOO 7 is the worst of the lot.
Winner: Nord 2
Finally, OnePlus has upgraded the sensor on its selfie camera to a larger resolution 32MP one. It takes absolutely great selfies. Rich in detail, and fairly unaltered, natural looking colours. In fact, here you can see that the iQOO 7 and the Nord 2 look almost identical but the Nord 2 does offer a wider field of view (FOV), thanks to the wider attached lens, which definitely is an advantage while getting group selfies. I am still taken aback by how poor the Galaxy A52’s selfies are. Anyway, against the light, all the three phones do a good job of HDR corrections. So overall, the Nord 2 would be my pick for the best selfie camera.
Winner: Nord 2
If you want to take selfie portraits, the Nord 2 and the iQOO 7 do a fabulous job of creating very believable looking bokehs. But, then again, the Nord 2’s wider FOV gives it an advantage. And, I really don’t know what has happened to Samsung’s wonderful algorithm. The Galaxy A52’s edge cutout is seriously bad and the phone kept spitting out one bad human shot after another. Very, very disappointed. This isn’t what I expected from a Samsung phone.
Winner: Nord 2
Finally, coming to the low light shots. The iQOO 7’s IMX598 sensor has way better light sensitivity. Plus, the colour accuracy is close to accurate. But, between the Nord 2 and the A52, OnePlus does it better. No questions asked. The low light performance is so good on the iQOO 7 that you don’t even need the Night mode. But, the Night mode is very well tuned by OnePlus. It cleans up a lot of the noise and makes the final image look very attractive.
In fact, OnePlus also has this Ultra Dark Mode. Thanks to which, you can see the transformation of the scene in our second sample. The iQOO 7 does a good job too but the green chromatic aberration in the shadow noise is prominent. I couldn’t get the Galaxy A52 to shoot one usable shot with Night mode. It is severely stunted by an underpowered ISP and performance grunt. We really under-estimate the importance of a powerful SoC on phones for good camera performance.
So, for low light shots, I’d say it is a toss up between the Nord 2 and the iQOO 7. If the iQOO 7’s sensor has better light sensitivity, the Nord 2 makes up for it by offering a very good Night mode algorithm.
Winner: iQOO 7 and Nord 2
Low Light Selfie
In low light selfies, I have no doubt in my mind that I prefer the Nord 2 for its natural looking selfies. I don’t know what kind of special stuff the camera algorithm engineers at iQOO were smoking that they felt people actually prefer such extremely gaudy white-face selfies. The AI Extreme night selfies are a joke. The Galaxy A52’s low light selfies are not worth talking about.
Winner: Nord 2
Video – Rear Camera
Evaluating the 4K video recording from the rear camera of all these phones, the iQOO 7 has an immediate advantage with the 4K 60fps recording option. But there is no stabilisation at 4K 60fps. Although, note that the iQOO 7 can shoot 4K videos in the BT 2020 colour space, which is a much wider colour gamut compared to the BT 709 colour space employed by the Nord 2 and the Galaxy A52. When it comes to stabilisation though, you will find both – the iQOO 7 and the Nord 2 – do a decent job of cancelling aggressive shakes but can’t do much to control the motion of walking. The Galaxy A52 doesn’t offer stabilisation at 4K video recording, which is extremely limiting.
As for the sound, the Nord 2’s sound recording is great but the Samsung Galaxy A52 offers slightly more punch in the low end of the frequency spectrum while recording. The iQOO 7 is really bad.
All things considered, I’d say the iQOO 7 would be my choice for shooting videos, if you don’t care much about sound quality.
Winner: iQOO 7
Video – Front Camera
While recording with the front camera, the Galaxy A52 has an inherent advantage with its 4K recording option along with 1080p 60fps as well. Plus, the A52 is the only one among the three that offers image stabilisation at 1080p 30fps. Plus, the sound recording quality is fantastic too, which is equally good on the Nord 2 but bad on the iQOO 7 (again). But, when you look at the image quality, I really like what the Nord 2 can do. You can offer all the extra recording modes and upgraded resolution, but if your algorithm shoots highly over-exposed footage, it is not really useful now is it? That is the inherent problem with the Galaxy A52. I wouldn’t show off the footage by the A52 to my friends or share it on social media.
Winner: Nord 2
Camera App and Features
We are all well aware by now that the Nord 2 uses OPPO’s camera app. Unlike, OnePlus’ very own minimalistic app experiences, this one offers more modes including AI based features like AI Portrait mode and Beautification options. You also get a couple of extra modes such as Dual View video and Film mode. The iQOO 7’s app is not as intuitive but offers a whole lot of extra modes apart from the AI features, of course. You get special movies for Long Exposure, Double Exposure, and Pro Sports shooting. All of these feel more useful to me.
But, the king of all camera modes and features is the Samsung Galaxy app. Plus, it is far more intuitive to use as well. Not only do you have the Single Take mode, you also get a Fun mode that incorporates all of Snapchat’s really cool filters. And then, you have the AR Doodle mode, Super Slow mo, and much more.
Winner: Galaxy A52
So, here we are. Time for the conclusion. Well, all parameters considered, the OnePlus Nord 2 has the best camera on a smartphone under Rs 30,000. Not because it does one thing really well but it gets many things right. From colour accuracy to a great Night Mode to fantastic selfie shots, the Nord 2 is clearly the benchmark going forward for us here at MySmartPrice.
The iQOO 7 comes really close. Too bad it’s been dethroned because it is clearly better at certain things like High Dynamic Range, the low light sensitivity of the IMX 598 camera, and the ultrawide angle camera performance . But, it just doesn’t feel like a complete camera owing to a few unnecessary missteps such as a poor Portrait mode and over-saturated colours.
Now, I had high hopes from the camera performance on the Samsung Galaxy A52, to be entirely honest. But, I was completely let down by the results. I am sure many of you were expecting it to be an easy victory but now we know the downsides of using a processor with an ISP that is not very capable in this price range.
So, I hope this camera comparison was helpful. I really love doing camera comparisons. They are very revealing and uncover a lot of truths. I’ve kept it very objective and it should really help you folks make the right decision.
Thanks for reading till the end of this article. For more such informative and exclusive tech content, like our Facebook page