BlackBerry DTEK60 camera review: The BlackBerry DTEK60 represents a lot of firsts for the company, with a fingerprint sensor, Type-C USB port and the largest ever camera arrangement of any ‘Berry thus far. But is it any good?
The hardware at play is actually supplied by Chinese manufacturer TCL, nowadays primarily responsible for the Alcatel brand and as such the phone’s design is a notable departure from older BlackBerrys, with a premium metal frame, glass front and back and notable camera bump.
There’s a circular 21-megapixel sensor featuring a relatively wide f/2.0 aperture, EIS (electronic image stabilisation), PDAF (phase detection autofocus) and a dual-tone LED flash on the back, whilst the 8-megapixel front facer enjoys a dedicated single LED flash and an f/2.2 aperture.
BlackBerry DTEK60 camera review: UI
It wasn’t until BBOS 10 that BlackBerry really started to put some effort into the functionality of its phone’s camera interfaces and whilst the jump to Android has nixed certain unique features like Time Shift, they’ve gained greater overall versatility, at least in the example offered up by the DTEK60.
The UI surrounds the viewfinder with a host of tools and features, creating a somewhat cluttered, but readily accessible experience. The right side lets you get at different filters, the mode button, the shutter, the front camera switch and your gallery, whilst manual controls like focus, white balance, ISO and exposure are always present along the bottom of the screen.
Tapping any of these brings up specific controls to the left of the shutter button, whilst the left side of the interface features controls for flash, timer, aspect ratio (which also changes photo resolution, but doesn’t make this immediately apparent), HDR and access to a further sub-menu with the ability to change factors like geolocation.
It’s a bland, busy, but relatively intuitive UI that doesn’t need much explaining and provides plenty of control whether you want to tap to snap or fiddle for a more precise result.
BlackBerry DTEK60 camera review: Photo quality
Whilst being able to capture seriously high-resolution photos on a BlackBerry is a nice enough novelty in its own right, the DTEK60’s 21-megapixel snapper is also pretty versatile. It’s the best camera the company has ever offered up in a smartphone and whilst it falls short of the mark when compared to the likes of the best in the business (think iPhone 7, Galaxy S7 and Xperia XZ – the usual suspects), for most users, it’ll prove more than competent.
Click on camera samples to view in full resolution.
The DTEK60 copes well with high contrast elements, although darker areas pick up grain and noise along the way. Fine detail appears sharp, the phone is quick to focus and colours are captured pretty accurately too.
Flip on HDR and you can expect that signature heavily processed look. Still, overall images retain a pleasing appearance and issues of grain in darker areas of the frame are alleviated. If the stylised HDR output of the DTEK60’s camera isn’t to your taste, however, look to phones like Google’s new Pixels for a more natural HDR image.
Macro shots are top notch, with pleasing levels of bokeh and no heavy-handed over sharpening to speak of, once again rendered with true-to-life contrast and colour.
It’s much the same story when you switch to artificial lighting. Shots lack pop as the camera, again sways towards accuracy, but as a result, contrast often suffers and grain is more prevalent once again.
Kill the lights and the f/2.0 aperture isn’t wide enough to capture anything of use without the help from the flash. Results with the dual-tone LED offering are visible, but not exactly attractive, the strong point of focus from the flash leads to heavy vignetting with the centre of frame left accurately rendered whilst, everything around it is murky and discoloured.
The wide angle of the front-facing snapper is well suited to group shots and selfies retain a pleasing amount of detail in typical lighting conditions, but the addition of the front-facing flash grants you a little more flexibility when it comes to where you can snap your selfies, versus many rival smartphones out there.
BlackBerry DTEK60 camera review: Video quality
Much like stills, footage shot on the DTEK60 at any resolution looks accurate, albeit flat. You can expect clear stereo audio recording, quick autofocus and fast contrast adjustment too. The Snapdragon 820 also accommodates Full HD video recording at 30 and 60 frames per second as well as 4K video recording at 30fps.
EIS, which isn’t switched on by default, produces micro-tremors within footage, so whilst useful, is best used when standing and moving the camera from a fixed position, rather than walking or running.
BlackBerry DTEK60 camera review: Verdict
It should come as no surprise that the DTEK60’s camera is the most competent BlackBerry snapper ever and the front-facing 8-megapixel offering isn’t too shabby either. You can expect accurately exposed and coloured snaps, even if they don’t ‘pop’ like the images produced by some rival devices, along with plenty of control over images at the point of capture.
It lags behind in low light performance, image stability and some of the finer nuisances of image processing, but as part of a £475 smartphone that can go toe-to-toe with devices almost £200 more expensive, it’s an extremely compelling offering for the price.
You can see full resolution photo samples from this article here.