We review the BlackBerry KEYOne’s 12-megapixel camera, to see if this new BlackBerry Android smartphone can compete with other flagship mobiles for photography chops.
We’ve seen a lot of strong mobile cameras in 2017 so far, which can capture your everyday existence with impressive clarity. From the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Sony Xperia XZ Premium to the dual-lens LG G6 and Huawei P10 Plus, pretty much every new premium blower offers excellent camera tech that can shoot realistic photos and up to 4K video. Even cut-price handsets like the Moto G5 Plus pack solid, feature-stuffed snappers these days.
BlackBerry’s KEYOne is the company’s first phone release of the year. This Android handset boasts a physical keyboard, which already sets it apart from the competition, but what about that camera tech? On the back of the KEYOne you’ll find a 12-megapixel shooter loaded with plenty of smarts, including the same Sony sensor found on Google’s Pixel phones. Definitely a promising start.
We’ve tested out the KEYOne’s camera in full for this in-depth review. Here’s all you need to know, including full photo and video samples - and check out our in-depth KEYOne review for our full verdict on BlackBerry's latest blower.
BlackBerry KEYOne Camera Review: Specs
Phase Detect Auto-focus (PDAF)
4K video recording at 30 frames-per-second
4x digital zoom
Electric image stabilisation
1080p Full HD video recording
BlackBerry KEYOne Camera Review: App and features
You can quick-load the KEYOne’s camera with a quick tap of the edge-mounted Convenience Key, if you set it up that way. This allows you to jump straight into the camera app in less than a second, which is handy for impromptu shots. However, this feature doesn’t work when BlackBerry’s handset is hibernating sadly.
Boot up the app and you’re presented with quite a few on-screen options and toggles. You get a choice of auto or manual modes, which you can switch between in the settings at any time. Most people will of course opt for auto, although it’s nice to have the pro controls if you’re a bit more confident with taking shots and want a very specific ambience.
From the main screen you can toggle the HDR, flash, timer, aspect ratio and switch between the front and rear cameras. You can also add a filter if that’s your bag, or open up the camera settings and modes menus.
A small number of modes are on offer, limited to the most basic features. You can snap a panorama pic of your surroundings, switch to video recording or get a bit of slow motion capture on the go. That’s your lot, and that’s fine by us. If you want the likes of stickers, AR craziness and other camera modes, check out the Galaxy S8, Xperia XZ Premium or Huawei P10 instead.
BlackBerry KEYOne Camera Review: Photo quality
Focusing on your subject isn’t a particularly speedy action, certainly compared with the likes of the HTC U11 or Galaxy S8. Thankfully the KEYOne’s shutter action is quite nippy, so you can take lots of shots in quick succession. Plus, if you’re trying to take a tricky action shot, you can simply long-press the shutter button to enter burst mode, which takes and saves dozens of shots in just a couple of seconds.
The fast shutter action should help out with moving subjects, but we ended up with quite a few blurry shots when trying to snap kids and pets, even in strong daylight. If you move the phone to track your subject and take a couple of snaps, chances are you’ll get a usable photo. Rivals such as the HTC U11 and Xperia XZ Premium perform much better in this area however.
If you’re trying to take an easier still-life shot, then the KEYOne does the job perfectly. Colours are realistically captured and you get some serious detail packed into every photo, so your photos will look smart when you check them out on a TV. Impressive depth of field helps your subjects to stand out too.
High contrast situations are well-handled, with a little legwork from the auto-HDR mode. Shoot your subject against a bright sky, for instance, and you’ll still capture plenty of detail. You won’t simply be left with an ugly, murky snap. Low light performance is also decent, limiting the amount of grain that creeps in as long as conditions aren’t too dark. If you’re struggling, there’s a pretty powerful dual-LED flash to help out.
Check out some of our KEYOne photo samples below. For a full-sized view of the larger images, just click.
BlackBerry KEYOne Camera Review: Video quality
Video recording on the KEYOne is a straightforward process. Just flip to the video feature with a tap of the mode button and away you go.
Our samples shot at Full HD 30 frames-per-second (the default setting on the KEYOne) came out well. Footage is detailed enough and the lens copes reasonably well with changes in lighting and focal distance.
You get an enhanced image stabilisation feature to help with any judders too. This digitally tweaks your video to reduce the shaky motions caused by moving and filming at the same time. On the KEYOne this is pretty much identical to the HTC U11’s stabilisation, while not quite matching the Galaxy S8 or Xperia XZ Premium for smoothness.
When shooting at 60 frames-per-second or 4K resolution, this image stabilisation is not active. You’ll want to keep as still as possible therefore, to avoid your video looking too jerky.
Still, the 60FPS mode offers a pleasingly smooth frame rate which makes your video look natural and lifelike. Meanwhile the 4K Ultra HD resolution option boosts detail levels, so your home movies will look great when viewed back on a 4K-ready telly.
Check out our BlackBerry KEYOne video samples below.