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ZTE Axon 30 Ultra Camera review: Excellent long-range zoom

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107
camera

The Axon 30 Ultra is ZTE’s 2021 flagship device. It boasts a 6.7-inch, FHD+, an AMOLED flexible curved screen display with 144 Hz refresh rate, and a Snapdragon 888 chipset running Android 11. Providing enough juice to power all that, the Axon 30 Ultra is equipped with 4600 mAh battery that offers super-fast 65W charging.

Burnishing its flagship credentials, the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra also comes with a quad camera on the rear that includes main, ultra-wide, portrait, and telephoto modules. The primary and ultra-wide cameras are built around different 64 MP Quad Bayer (16 MP output) sensors. The main camera uses a Sony IMX686 chip linked to a f/1.6-aperture OIS lens, with a Samsung GW3 sensor on the ultra-wide coupled to a 120° field-of-view, ultra-low distortion, f/2.2-aperture lens.

The dedicated portrait camera uses the same 64 MP Samsung sensor as the ultra-wide alongside a f/1.9-aperture lens. Finally the tele shooter features an 8 MP sensor with a periscope telephoto lens for 5x optical and up to 60x hybrid zoom.

That’s a lot of hardware for a device that falls within our Premium ranking segment of smartphones priced between $600 to $799. Let’s see how it gets on in our DXOMARK Camera tests.

Key camera specifications:

  • Primary: 64 MP Sony IMX686 sensor with f/1.6-aperture lens, Laser Focus, OIS
  • Ultra-wide: 64 MP Samsung GW3 sensor, 120° field-of-view, f/2.2-aperture, ultra-low distortion lens
  • Portrait: 64 MP Samsung GW3 sensor, f/1.9-aperture lens
  • Tele: 8 MP sensor, periscope telephoto 5x optical lens, OIS
  • Video: 4320p (8K) at 30 fps, 2160p (4K) at 30fps (tested), HDR10, 10-bit color depth

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


ZTE Axon 30 Ultra
107
camera
108
photo
64
zoom
98
video

Pros

  • Good detail in outdoor and indoor photos and videos
  • Pleasant white balance in outdoor and indoor photos
  • Extended depth of field in photos
  • Good detail in long-range zoom photos
  • Effective stabilization in outdoor and indoor videos

Cons

With an overall score of 107, the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra offers significant improvement over its predecessor, the Axon 20 5G. This was especially true in our Photo and Zoom categories, where the device’s flagship processor and quad-camera delivered very good performance. The inclusion of OIS on the main and periscope-zoom modules also enables 8K video at 30 fps with 10-bit color, as well as long-range zoom shots with very good detail rendering. Both are impressive for a device in this price segment.

The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra records successful indoor images with accurate target exposure and pleasant color. Focus is also a strength, with good sharpness on both faces in group shots. Although some fine details are lost, noise remains low.

Autofocus performance is also a good strength. Unfortunately some major drawbacks in video and photo performance prevented the device from scoring higher. As a result the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra ultimately ranks below many Premium devices we’ve tested.

For photos, a lack of dynamic range in all scenes is disappointing, especially when compared to its main competitors in the Premium segment. For video, the device captures good detail in the 4k/30fps footage we evaluated, but noise is often visible. Video stabilization is also fairly effective, but significant issues with autofocus and ghosting in low light affected its overall ranking.

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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s competitors, the Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos) and the Xiaomi Mi 11.

Photo

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra achieves a Photo score of 108. In this section, we take a closer look at each sub-attribute and compare image quality against competitors.

Exposure and Contrast

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

69

111

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (111)

In these tests we analyze target exposure, contrast, and dynamic range, along with 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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s exposure performance in a high-contrast scene.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, limited dynamic range with strong highlight clipping
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), improved dynamic range with well-exposed sky detail
Xiaomi Mi 11, improved dynamic range with well-exposed sky detail

Color

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

90

106

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (106)

In these tests we analyze color rendering, skin tones, white balance, and color shading, along with 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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s color performance in an indoor setting.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, vivid and pleasant color rendering
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), vivid and pleasant color rendering
Xiaomi Mi 11, inaccurate color rendering due to low exposure

Autofocus

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

98

109

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

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

These samples show ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s depth of field in a group portrait.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, depth of field
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop: good sharpness on second face
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), depth of field
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), crop: good sharpness on second face
Xiaomi Mi 11, depth of field
Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: second face is out of focus

Texture

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

94

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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s texture performance in the lab.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, 100 lux
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop; good detail rendering
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), 100 lux
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), crop: good detail rendering
Xiaomi Mi 11, 100 lux
Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: excellent detail rendering

Noise

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

69

99

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s noise performance in the lab.

The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s noise performance is consistent with competitors in most lighting conditions, but more noise is visible in very low light.

Bokeh

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

35

80

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (80)

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 show ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s bokeh simulation and blur gradient capabilities in an indoor scene.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, bokeh mode
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop: no foreground blur
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), bokeh mode
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), crop: nice foreground blur
Xiaomi Mi 11, bokeh mode
Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: nice foreground blur

Night

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

38

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 show ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s night performance in auto-flash mode.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, auto-flash: slightly low target exposure and limited dynamic range
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), auto-flash: better target exposure and dynamic range
Xiaomi Mi 11, auto-flash: better target exposure and dynamic range

Artifacts

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

63

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 corners, distortion, and chromatic aberrations, as well as for processing artifacts such as ghosting and fusion errors, hue shift, and ringing.

This sample shows hue shift and color quantization artifacts in a high-contrast image.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, artifacts
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop; color quantization, fringing, and unnatural detail rendering

Preview

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

38

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 in the preview image when zooming with both buttons or when using the pinch-zoom gesture.

These samples show differences in ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s dynamic range and contrast rendering between the preview and final image.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, preview: some hue shifts artifacts are visible only in preview
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, capture: differences in dynamic range and contrast rendering

Zoom

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra achieves a Zoom score of 64. 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 the competitors.

Wide

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

32

57

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (57)

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 show the performance of the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s ultra-wide camera under indoor conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, wide dynamic range but low target exposure and visible artifacts
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), improved target exposure but more limited dynamic range
Xiaomi Mi 11, improved target exposure but more limited dynamic range

Tele

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

85

140

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (140)

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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s tele performance using a long-range zoom setting in an outdoor scene.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, long-range zoom
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop: good detail
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), long-range zoom
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), crop: low detail
Xiaomi Mi 11, long-range zoom
Xiaomi Mi 11, crop: low detail

Video

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

NOTE: The sample video clips in this section are best viewed at the highest resolution available. 

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra achieves a Video score of 98. 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.

Exposure and Contrast

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

68

103

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (103)

These video stills show the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video exposure performance in outdoor lighting conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, low target exposure with limited dynamic range
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), good target exposure with slight shadow clipping
Xiaomi Mi 11, good target exposure with wide dynamic range

Color

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

91

105

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

These video stills show the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video color under indoor lighting conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, accurate and vivid color
Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), accurate and vivid color
Xiaomi Mi 11, accurate color rendering

Autofocus

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

73

108

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (108)

These sample clips show the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video autofocus tracking performance in low light conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, focus is on the background and refocusing occurs

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), accurate and stable autofocus

Xiaomi Mi 11, inaccurate but stable autofocus

Texture

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

79

97

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

This graph shows the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video texture measurements in the lab.

The ZTE Axon 30 Ultra captures excellent detail in bright light and although it’s on par with the Xiaomi Mi 11 in these conditions, its measured acutance scores drop off in low light.

Noise

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

88

105

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

These sample clips show the ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video noise performance in a low-light scene.

 

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, visible noise

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), visible noise

Xiaomi Mi 11, very visible noise on moving objects

Artifacts

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

71

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 ghosting artifacts.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, video artifacts
ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, crop; ghosting artifacts

Stabilization

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra

94

102

Huawei P50 Pro
Best: Huawei P50 Pro (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 ZTE Axon 30 Ultra’s video stabilization performance under indoor lighting conditions.

ZTE Axon 30 Ultra, effective stabilization in both static and walk situations

Samsung Galaxy S21+ 5G (Exynos), some residual motion visible

Xiaomi Mi 11, effective stabilization

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