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TCL 20 Pro 5G Camera review: Excellent high-end option

Reading Time: 15 min read
117
camera

The 20 Pro 5G is the latest mid-range device from the Chinese electronics company TCL and sits at the top of their current smartphone line up. It runs Android 11 with the TCL UI skin, is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 750G chipset, and offers 256GB internal storage that’s expandable via micro SDXC. The phone features an attractive design, built around a 6.67-inch FHD+ curved AMOLED display with a 60 Hz refresh rate. There’s also a 4500 mAh battery with 18W wired and 15W wireless charging.

For photography, the device features a quad rear camera including a 48 MP primary module and a 16 MP ultra-wide. A 5 MP macro cam and a 2 MP depth sensor for bokeh simulation complete the shooting options. Let’s see how the device performs in our DXOMARK Camera tests.

Key camera specifications:

  • Primary: 48 MP 1/2.0″ Quad Bayer sensor, 0.8μm, 26 mm-equivalent f/1.79-aperture lens, PDAF and OIS
  • Ultra-wide: 16 MP 1/3.06″ sensor, 1μm, 16 mm-equivalent f/2.4-aperture lens
  • Macro: 5 MP 1/5″ sensor, 1.12μm, f/2.2-aperture lens
  • Depth: 2 MP 1/5″ sensor, 1.75μm, f/2.4-aperture lens
  • Video: 2160p/30 fps

About DXOMARK Camera tests: For scoring and analysis in our smartphone camera reviews, DXOMARK engineers capture and evaluate over 3000 test images and more than 2.5 hours of video both in controlled lab environments and in natural indoor and outdoor scenes, using the camera’s default settings. This article is designed to highlight the most important results of our testing. For more information about the DXOMARK Camera test protocol, click here. More details on how we score smartphone cameras are available here.

Test summary


TCL 20 Pro 5G
117
camera
124
photo
59
zoom
102
video

Pros

  • Accurate target exposure on indoor and outdoor photos and videos
  • Good detail on indoor and outdoor photos
  • Fast and accurate autofocus for video and photos
  • Pleasant bokeh photos with good blur intensity and accurate depth estimation
  • Good detail on close-range zoom photos
  • Neutral white balance in all videos
  • Well-controlled noise in indoor and outdoor videos

Cons

  • Limited dynamic range in indoor and low-light photos
  • Exposure instabilities in outdoor photos
  • White balance casts often visible in photos
  • Low exposure in flash off photos
  • Low detail in long-range zoom photos
  • Strong frame shifts in all videos
  • Autofocus failures in low-light videos

An overall score of 117 lands the TCL 20 Pro 5G lands around the middle of the DXOMARK Camera overall ranking but makes it one of the best options in the High-end segment. That’s a very respectable result for the TCL device, which finds itself a point ahead of more expensive devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos) on 116, and only a point behind the OnePlus 8 Pro or Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro 5G on 118.

The TCL 20 Pro 5G delivers accurate exposures in most outdoor scenes with good detail rendering and pleasant skin tones on portraits.

Its Photo score is 124. and key strengths for stills include accurate target exposures, with well-exposed portraits and fairly extended dynamic range in bright outdoor scenes. Dynamic range is more limited both indoors and in low light, with some highlight and shadow clipping often visible, but by and large target exposures remain accurate in all lighting conditions.

We did observe some slight exposure instabilities, so you don’t always get the same results across consecutive shots, but it’s a minor niggle in an otherwise good performance for exposure. Color is good too, with nice rendering and pleasant skin tones in many examples. Slight white balance errors do occur, with a pinkish color cast outdoors on occasion and cold or blueish casts in low light, but overall the color problems are mild.

The TCL 20 Pro 5G holds on to plenty of detail in indoor and outdoor shots, too. Things get a little softer in low light and occasionally face rendering can look a little unnatural in portraits, though. Noise is also well controlled in most conditions, with only a fine luminance noise visible in indoor and outdoor scenes. Noise gets a little coarser in low light, though.

Autofocus is accurate in all conditions, with no serious failures observed during our tests. Under benchmark testing in the lab we found focusing fast and responsive under balanced lighting conditions, with just a slight delay under simulated HDR conditions. Depth of field is also fairly extended, so faces towards the back of a group or backgrounds generally still offer a reasonable level of detail.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, accurate target exposure and neutral white balance indoors

TCL 20 Pro 5G, wide depth of field, slight loss of detail on background subjects

Shooting in portrait mode, the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s bokeh simulation has an attractive blur intensity and good depth estimation aided by the dedicated depth sensor.

In our night photography tests, we had some mixed results. In auto-flash mode, the flash fires automatically when a face is detected, and overall exposure and color are pretty good, with a high level of detail in faces. On the downside, dynamic range is limited and backgrounds are under exposed.

Turn the flash off for a night portrait and things don’t improve, with both the subject and background very underexposed. Flash-off mode is better for nightscapes, but with some obvious highlight and shadow clipping, the results are a little underwhelming compared to the best devices.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, bokeh shot, nice blur and pretty accurate depth estimation
TCL 20 Pro 5G, flash-off, strong highlight clipping

The TCL 20 Pro 5G achieves a decent score of 59 in our Zoom category. The lack of a dedicated tele-lens means medium and long-range zoom shots lack detail, but the device is good at close-range where the level of detail is fairly high. Tele shots display accurate exposure, but noise is visible in most images.

The ultra-wide module doesn’t offer the widest field of view we’ve tested, but its 16mm-equivalent lens is a useful addition. Geometric distortions are well controlled and the ultra-wide camera delivers generally accurate exposures in all lighting conditions. On the downside the slight white balance color casts we observed on the main camera persist in wide shots, but of more concern is an unpleasant purple color fringing in some images.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, close-range zoom, loss of fine detail
TCL 20 Pro 5G, ultra-wide angle, accurate exposure, slight color cast

The Video score of 102 confirms the TCL’s solid performance for a mid-ranger. Moving image enthusiasts will be impressed by its performance both indoors and outdoors. Exposures are accurate, noise well-controlled and autofocus is fast to react. Some autofocus failures and loss of detail can be seen in low light, as well as strong frame shifts and visible artifacts in most recordings, but overall there’s a lot to like about the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s video performance.

Below you can find a detailed analysis and image samples for all Photo, Zoom, and Video sub-attributes, as well as comparisons with two of the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s competitors, the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos) and the OnePlus Nord.

Photo

The TCL 20 Pro 5G achieves a Photo score of 124. In this section, we take a closer look at each sub-attribute and compare image quality against competitors.

Exposure and Contrast

TCL 20 Pro 5G

92

109

Huawei Mate 40 Pro+
Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ (109)

In these tests we analyze target exposure, contrast, and dynamic range, including repeatability across a series of images. Tests are undertaken in a wide range of light conditions, including backlit scenes and low light down to 1 lux. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s exposure performance in a backlit indoor scene compared to the competition.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, accurate target exposure, acceptable dynamic range
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), slightly low target exposure, more highlight clipping
OnePlus Nord, accurate target exposure, strong highlight clipping

Color

TCL 20 Pro 5G

95

105

Huawei Mate 40 Pro+
Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ (105)

In these tests we analyze color rendering, skin tones, white balance, and color shading, including repeatability across a series of images. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s color performance in outdoor light compared to the competition.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, slight pink white balance cast
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), accurate white balance
OnePlus Nord, slight green white balance cast

Autofocus

TCL 20 Pro 5G

100

109

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Best: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (109)

In these tests we analyze autofocus accuracy and shooting time, including repeatability, in the lab. We test focus failures, depth of field, and tracking of moving subjects using perceptual analysis of real-life images.

This graph shows the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s autofocus performance in the lab at a light level of 1000 lux.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, fast and accurate autofocus performance in good light

Texture

TCL 20 Pro 5G

96

111

Xiaomi Mi 11
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 (111)

In these tests we analyze texture on faces and objects, including objects in motion, in a range of light conditions, using several lab test setups and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s texture performance in indoor lighting compared to the competition.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, indoor portrait
TCL 20 Pro 5G, crop: good detail
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), indoor portrait
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), crop: slightly lower detail
OnePlus Nord, indoor portrait
OnePlus Nord, crop: slightly lower detail

This graph shows the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s texture measurements in the lab.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, texture comparison

Noise

TCL 20 Pro 5G

72

99

Huawei P40 Pro
Best: Huawei P40 Pro (99)

In these tests we analyze noise on faces and objects, including objects in motion, in a range of light conditions, using several lab test setups and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

This graph shows the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s noise measurements in the lab.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, noise measurements by lighting condition versus competitors

Bokeh

TCL 20 Pro 5G

60

75

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (75)

For these tests we switch to the camera’s bokeh or portrait mode and analyze depth estimation, bokeh shape, blur gradient, and repeatability, as well as all other general image quality attributes mentioned above. The score is derived from perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples shows the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s bokeh simulation under indoor conditions compared to the competition.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, strong blur intensity, good depth estimation
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), motion blur, more depth estimation errors
OnePlus Nord, high detail in the face, deformations around the hand

Night

TCL 20 Pro 5G

33

82

Huawei Mate 40 Pro+
Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro+ (82)

In these tests we shoot a selection of images in pitch-black darkness as well as with city lights in the background providing some illumination. We shoot sample images with the camera at default settings in both flash-auto and flash-off modes. We analyze all image quality attributes but we pay particular attention to exposure, autofocus, and color. We do not test night modes that have to be activated manually.

These samples shows the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s night performance in auto-flash mode compared to the competition.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, good target exposure and detail on the face,  underexposed background
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), brighter exposure on the face and background, accurate skin tones
OnePlus Nord, good target exposure and detail on the face, underexposed background

Artifacts

TCL 20 Pro 5G

70

75

Google Pixel 4
Best: Google Pixel 4 (75)

In these tests we check images for optical artifacts such as vignetting, flare, lens softness in the corner, distortion, and chromatic aberrations, as well as for processing artifacts such as ghosting and fusion errors, hue shift, and ringing.

This sample shows multiple artifacts including color fringing, hue shift and unnatural detail rendering.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, artifacts
TCL 20 Pro 5G, crop: color fringing, hue shift and detail artifacts

 

Preview

TCL 20 Pro 5G

64

77

Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max
Best: Apple iPhone 12 Pro Max (77)

In these tests we analyze the image quality of the preview image and the differences between preview images and captured images, particularly in terms of exposure, dynamic range, and bokeh effect. We also check the smoothness of the field-of-view changes on the preview image when zooming with both buttons or when using the pinch-zoom gesture.

These samples show the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s preview performance in low light.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, preview image
TCL 20 Pro 5G, final image: similar exposure and noise to preview

Zoom

The TCL 20 Pro 5G achieves a Zoom score of 59. The Zoom score includes the tele and wide sub-scores. In this section, we take a closer look at how these sub-scores were achieved and compare zoom image quality against competitors.

Wide

TCL 20 Pro 5G

38

54

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (54)

In these tests we analyze the performance of the ultra-wide camera at several focal lengths from 12 to 20 mm. We look at all image quality attributes, but we pay particular attention to such artifacts as chromatic aberrations, lens softness, and distortion.

These samples shows the performance of the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s ultra-wide camera in daylight conditions compared to the competition.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, very strong purple color fringing
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), less color fringing, some hue shift in the sky
OnePlus Nord, slight color fringing, hue shift, noticeable underexposure

Tele

TCL 20 Pro 5G

73

133

Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra
Best: Xiaomi Mi 10 Ultra (133)

In these tests we analyze all image quality attributes at focal lengths from approximately 40 to 300 mm, paying particular attention to texture and detail. The score is derived from a number of objective measurements in the lab and perceptual analysis of real-life images.

These samples show the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s and its competitors’ tele performance indoors using a close-range zoom setting.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, close-range zoom
TCL 20 Pro 5G, crop: very good detail
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), close-range zoom
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), crop: good detail
OnePlus Nord, close-range zoom
OnePlus Nord, crop: very good detail

Video

The TCL 20 Pro 5G achieves a Video score of 102. A device’s overall Video score is derived from its performance and results across a range of attributes in the same way as the Photo score. In this section, we take a closer look at these sub-scores and compare video image quality against competitors.

In our Video tests we analyze the same image quality attributes as for still images, such as exposure, color, texture or noise, but we also include such temporal aspects as speed, and smoothness and stability of exposure, white balance and autofocus transitions.

NOTE: The sample video clips in this section are best viewed at 4K resolution

Exposure and Contrast

TCL 20 Pro 5G

85

103

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (103)

Color

TCL 20 Pro 5G

95

105

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (105)

These video clips show the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s video exposure and color in indoor light compared to the competition.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, pleasant color and skin tone rendering, neutral white balance, accurate exposure but some instabilities and limited dynamic range
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), slightly inaccurate skin tones, pinkish white balance, stable exposure, wider dynamic range
OnePlus Nord, inaccurate skin tones, exposure instabilities and clipping

Autofocus

TCL 20 Pro 5G

88

105

Huawei Mate 40 Pro
Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro (105)

These sample clips show the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s video autofocus performance in low light.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, autofocus instabilities in low light
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), slight refocus in low light
OnePlus Nord, slight refocus

Texture

TCL 20 Pro 5G

81

97

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (97)

This graph shows the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s video texture measurements in the lab.

Video texture comparison: good detail indoors (100 lux) and outdoors (1000 lux), loss of detail in low light

Noise

TCL 20 Pro 5G

90

105

Huawei Mate 40 Pro
Best: Huawei Mate 40 Pro (105)

These video stills show the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s video noise performance in low light compared to competitors.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, video noise
TCL 20 Pro 5G, crop: strong noise in low light
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), video noise
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), crop: noise in low light
OnePlus Nord, video noise
OnePlus Nord, crop: noise in low light

Artifacts

TCL 20 Pro 5G

73

94

Oppo Find X2 Pro
Best: Oppo Find X2 Pro (94)

For video artifacts, we check for the same kinds of artifacts mentioned in the Photo section, along with such video-specific artifacts as frame rate variation in different light conditions, judder effect, and moving artifacts (artifacts such as aliasing, color quantization, and flare can often be more intrusive when moving than in a still image).

This video still shows ringing in indoor conditions.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, still from video
TCL 20 Pro 5G, crop; ringing

Stabilization

TCL 20 Pro 5G

83

102

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
Best: Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra (102)

In these tests we analyze residual motion when handholding the camera during recording, as well as when walking and running with the camera. We also look for stabilization artifacts such as jello effect, sharpness differences between frames, and frame shift (abrupt changes of framing).

These sample clips shows the TCL 20 Pro 5G’s video stabilization in outdoor conditions compared to the competition.

TCL 20 Pro 5G, some residual motion, visible frame shifts
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra (Exynos), good stabilization, some frame shifts
OnePlus Nord, good stabilization

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