Review of Realme 8 Pro: what’s next for imaging mid-range smartphones

The Realme 8 Pro is a good, inexpensive Android phone that you probably shouldn’t buy right now – at least if you’re in the US. But it is also an overview of the positive things that come in the middle class, especially in terms of camera hardware. I’ve seen the future of images on smartphones around $ 400 and that’s good.

If you’re not familiar, Realme is a Chinese company that started as a subbrand of Oppo; like OnePlus, it was founded by the former vice president of Oppo. His phones are sold in China, India and Europe. Although technically you can buy a global version of the phone and use it in the US, we would not recommend it. It is not compatible with many of the 4G bands we use in the states, so the coverage will not be great.

The 8 Pro uses a relatively new Samsung 108-megapixel sensor. That’s the same number of pixels as the main camera in the Galaxy S21 Ultra, but a different, smaller chip designed for more affordable phones. As with the S21 Ultra, the point of this technology is not in capturing 108 megapixel images (although you can do so if you wish). It combines data from groups of pixels to create a better optimized final image of 12 megapixels.

There are other reasons you like Realme 8 Pro. Considering the price of £ 279 (around $ 380), the performance is very good, thanks to the powerful combination of its Snapdragon 720G processor and 6GB of RAM. Battery life is healthy, and the phone supports fast 50W wired charging. Depending on how you feel about inspirational corporate branding, I guess the “SMILE STEP” printed on the back of the phone might be a plus (personally not my thing).

But the camera impressed me the most, and it’s a component that will probably be found on many other mid-range phones sold around the world. Let’s take a closer look.

Realme 8 Pro

8 Pro offers standard wide and ultra-wide cameras, plus macros and depth detection modules.

Camera Realme 8 Pro

In case you need a reminder at any time about how many pixels the main camera offers, you can simply look at the back of the phone where you will find the engraved “108 MP QUAD CAMERA” on the protrusion of the camera. Specifically, it is Samsung’s 1 / 1.52-inch Isocell HM2 sensor, connected to an f / 1.9 lens.

Unfortunately, there is no optical image stabilization here, but perhaps thanks to the image processing tricks that this high-resolution sensor can perform, I haven’t noticed a significant number of blurry shots that the OIS may have corrected. Other rear cameras include an ultra-wide 8-megapixel macro, a 2-megapixel macro, and a 2-megapixel depth reading camera. There is a 16-megapixel selfie camera on the front.

The main camera is able to do several interesting things. In bright daylight, it can use all 108 million pixels individually, using different pixels to capture your scene at once at multiple exposure levels and combining information into a final 12-megapixel image. In low light, the camera changes things and uses a combination of nine pixel combinations, effectively converting relatively small individual pixels – 0.7 μm to be precise – into much larger 2.1 μm pixels, which helps create less noisy images.

Photos in bright light look as good as expected. An impressive amount of detail has been captured, although some excessive sharpening is visible if you zoom in to 100 percent. The colors are too saturated to my taste; there is no amount of lawn fertilizer in the world that would make my yard look as green as 8 Pro thinks. He seems more prone to this oversaturation of landscapes and is thankfully less aggressive with photos in portrait mode. Photos in portrait mode look good and I appreciate that the camera doesn’t get cut when switching to this mode.

Dim interior lighting and low lighting are where phone cameras typically struggle, but the 8 Pro achieves impressive performance in these conditions. In moderate lighting, the images are surprisingly detailed and show little noise. The night mode of the camera will bring out even more details, although it applies a sharpening amount of focus and contrast.

Honestly, I had low expectations from the digital 3x zoom 8 Pro, but I am pleased to report that it is much better than I feared. In good light and even moderate lighting indoors, the images show a lot of detail, and under pressure I find the annoying artifacts that usually appear on digitally zoomed images.

Left: 3x digital zoom, 100% crop. Right: 108 megapixel image, 100% crop.

The camera doesn’t just fit in a 108 megapixel image. Comparing them alongside 100 percent, a photo taken with 3x digital zoom shows more detail and looks less noisy than cropping a 108-megapixel image. The power of connecting the Samsung HM2 pixels is put into effect here as well, and the result is a digital zoom that is worth your time.

There’s not that much exciting news about the other 8 Pro cameras; they are just fine. The ultra-wide is prone to some subtle but annoying color shifts: the white balance can be distorted too warm, and the blue sky sometimes looks a little gray. The macro camera is a low-resolution sensor that is little more than a trick, and the selfie camera fortunately avoids smoothing faces at default settings. All fair for the phone at this price.

The combination of 8 Pro processor and RAM is more than enough for everyday tasks and scrolling.
Photo: Allison Johnson / The Verge

Realme 8 Pro performance and display

Outside of cameras, the Realme 8 Pro is a fully capable mid-range phone. Battery life is enough to get through a day of moderate to heavy use, and the aforementioned processor / RAM combination moves through applications and tasks with ease on a daily basis. The 6.4-inch 1080p OLED with a standard refresh rate of 60 Hz is fine, but nothing special, and I had to struggle with automatic lighting by insisting on making the screen too dark on several occasions.

There’s flashy branding on the back of the device, which is or something like you. Realme 8 Pro does not support 5G at all, which should be considered if you are in the UK and considering buying a phone.

However, my biggest complaint is the optical fingerprint sensor on the screen. I would say that in at least a third of the cases when I unlocked the phone it took several attempts to read my finger. Several times – both outside in bright daylight – he gave up and I had to enter my PIN instead. If this were going to be my phone forever, I would probably skip the fingerprint sensor and personally stick to the PIN.

The Realme 8 Pro is the kind of mid-range phone we don’t see often in the U.S.: great performance and decent universal specs combined with a great camera, all of which could be equal to a price lower than $ 400.

Phones that fit this description are surprisingly scarce in the state; in fact, its closest equivalent is probably the Pixel 4A, which we have recommended as the best cheap Android phone basically since it became available last summer. The 8 Pro goes a step further than the 4A in some respects by offering an ultra-wide rear camera and fast charging. If it came down to that, we would still probably favor the Pixel because of the very good support for the device and the excellent lone rear camera.

If you live in the UK and don’t worry much about the leading screen specs, and the lack of 5G doesn’t bother you, the 8 Pro has a camera and processor that will last for many years to come. For the rest of us, the 8 Pro is (hopefully) a sign of good camera hardware coming to us soon.

Photo by Allison Johnson / The Verge