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Asus ZenFone AR Camera Review: Photo and video capture fully tested

For our full Asus ZenFone AR camera review, we spent several days testing the photo and video chops of this premium £800 smartphone.

Although the ZenFone AR’s major selling point is its support for Google Tango and DayDream, we were very keen to test out this flagship phone’s 23-megapixel rear camera too. Featuring a Sony Exmor RS sensor, Optical Image Stabilisation and premium focus tech, the ZenFone AR has the potential to be one of the best mobile cameras around.

Of course, Asus’ super-smart handset is up against some stiff competition to be crowned the camera phone king. Samsung’s Galaxy S8, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium and the HTC U11 are just three of its closest rivals launched in 2017, all offering a solid shooter for capturing your everyday life.

So is the ZenFone AR worthy of a place in our round-up of best smartphone cameras? Here’s the restults of our testing complete with full samples. Check out our in-depth ZenFone AR review for everything else you need to know about the phone.

Asus ZenFone AR camera specs

Here are the camera specs for the main and secondary snappers.

Main camera

23-megapixels

Sony Exmor RS IMX318 sensor (1 / 2.6”)

F/2.0 aperture lens

Phase Detection and Laser Autofocus

RAW capture

4K video maximum

Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) for photos

Digital Image Stabilisation (EIS) for video

Front camera

8-megapixels

F/2.0 aperture lens

Fixed focus, 84-degree wide-angle

720p HD video maximum

Asus ZenFone AR camera review: User experience

Asus’ camera app offers a lot of on-screen functionality, although you can also simply point and shoot if that’s what you want. That swift Phase Detection Autofocus is bolstered by laser guidance, so your subject will be locked onto in next to no time, ready for a snap. The ZenFone AR’s shutter action is just as quick, so you can rattle off loads of shots in quick succession when needed.

Comprehensive manual controls are just a tap away, with the ability to tweak white balance, ISO levels and the usual settings. You even get a spirit level, to eliminate any wonky shots. Likewise, you can begin shooting video with just a quick tap of another button – no awkward switching between modes necessary.

Asus has absolutely stuffed the ZenFone AR with bonus camera modes too. Many of these are standard fare, including timelapse and slow motion video capture. However you also get some funny and unique additions, including a Children mode (which plays a comical sound effect to attract your nipper’s attention) and the ability to craft your own GIFs.

We’ll cover some of the others in the appropriate sections of this camera review.

Asus ZenFone AR camera review: Photo quality

In decent lighting conditions, the ZenFone AR’s camera captures very solid shots. Natural hues shine through, even when snapped in artificial light, while detail levels are ideal for viewing back on a massive TV. We rarely had to stray from the standard auto mode, which does an excellent job of judging a scene and picking the best settings to match.

Fast-moving subjects occasionally pose a problem, especially if they’re close to the lens when snapped. However, Sony’s sensor generally captures clean photos, with little motion blur to ruin the result.

We were also impressed by our macro shots, which are packed with tiny details. Asus has tucked away a Depth of Field feature in the camera modes menu which is supposed to add a bokeh-style blur effect to the background, faking the results captured by dual lens snappers. However, we found that our standard snaps offered a similar level of blurring, to help our subject stand out when shot up close.

If lighting conditions aren’t quite perfect, the ZenFone AR still copes very well. For instance, evening shots still boast quite accurate colour reproduction on auto mode, as well as respectable detail levels.

High contrast scenes are handled perfectly by the HDR Pro mode, which blends together several snaps into one photo. The auto mode’s standard HDR feature leaves murky areas when shooting against a bright sky, which is a shame, yet clarity is excellent with HDR Pro, making it a very worthy addition to the camera modes line-up.

In extreme low light conditions, the ZenFone AR isn’t as strong at image capture as some of its closest camera phone rivals (including the HTC U11 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8). However, you get two tools to help out in these situations.

First up, the two-tone LED flash is a good way to get a well-balanced photo, without washed out colours or grain. Alternatively the optional low light mode is quite effective at sucking in plenty of light, for greater clarity. The results are still quite grainy, but admirably usable thanks to that OIS (which counters any hand tremors as the long exposure works its magic). Of course, the image size is also reduced, as you can see in the comparison below.

Note that you can also shoot in RAW format if desired, which is handy for any pro photographers out there.

Check out our photo samples gallery below for some other examples of shots taken on the Asus Zenfone AR’s rear camera.

Asus ZenFone AR camera review: Video quality

If you want something to shoot plenty of home movies on, the ZenFone AR does a decent job – although it’s far from the best option right now.

Whether you’re shooting Full HD or 4K resolution video, the results are crisp enough to enjoy on a television. The lens deals well with lighting changes and adapts to most conditions, although low light is a struggle. High contrast (for example, shooting someone against a bright sky) is generally well handled, while colours are accurately reproduced, just as they are in the ZenFone’s photos.

However, image stabilisation is weak in comparison to the results from the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and the iPhone 7 phones. Asus’ digital stabilisation has only a minimal effect, meaning you really don’t want to be moving and shooting at the same time.

If you want a smooth finish, we recommend shooting at Full HD at 60 frames-per-second and standing as still as possible.

Check out our full ZenFone AR camera video test samples below.

Asus ZenFone AR camera review: Selfie camera

The 8-megapixel front-facing camera sports an 84-degree wide-angle lens and so can capture sharp shots with plenty of space for a few heads at once. Great news for those obligatory group photos.

As you might expect, you get the full complement of beauty modes to alter your appearance virtually and make you look like some kind of terrifying (yet oddly gorgeous) mannequin. Otherwise, if you simply want to snap your mug in all of its naked unaltered glory, the ZenFone does a solid job. You can expect quite bright, detailed shots that can be saved as well as shared.

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