Lumia 550 camera review: We fully test this budget Windows 10 phone’s 5-megapixel camera, including photo and video samples, as well as the 2-megapixel selfie camera.
Microsoft’s Lumia 550 is the most affordable Windows 10 phone yet at just £99, a serious chunk cheaper than the Lumia 650 and the flagship Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL mobiles. But is the Lumia 550’s 5-megapixel camera a good snapper for the price? We took the phone around London to grab test photos and video samples and here’s our full camera review.
Lumia 550 camera interface
If you’ve already read our Lumia 650 camera review, you’ll know what to expect from the Lumia 550’s camera app as it’s exactly the same. That’s definitely a good thing as you get a clean, simple-to-use interface which has some excellent manual controls hidden within easy reach.
Want a hassle-free camera experience? Well, you can just point and shoot for perfectly decent results, thanks to the Lumia 550’s autofocus. Switching to video mode just takes a tap, and then you’re ready to shoot home movies. Up at the top of the camera app you have fast access to the flash and Rich Capture mode (which allows the Lumia to automatically pick the best settings for each shot – best left on unless you’re going to use the manual controls). You can also flip between the front and rear cameras here.
If you want to tweak your photo before you snap it, just tap the arrow to the right of the bar. This expands the bar and reveals the manual settings, with direct control over the camera’s white balance, ISO, brightness, shutter speed and focus. These manual settings will be a little advanced for the average amateur snapper, but anyone who knows their way around a DSLR will appreciate the simple sliding controls, plus the fact that you can see the effects in real time.
We did notice a little bit of slowdown and stutter when using the Lumia 550’s camera, although thankfully this wasn’t a serious issue. If you’re unlucky you might miss an action shot as you wait for the camera to catch up, but we never saw any full-on crashes.
Microsoft Lumia 550 camera performance
Point-and-shoot pictures tend to come out well thanks to the Lumia 550’s reasonably quick and effective autofocus and the Rich Capture mode. A confusing mix of dark and light areas occasionally poses a problem as the camera struggles to cope with the contrast, but you get plenty of detail packed into every shot when the lighting is more camera-friendly. At low light you’ll need to use the single LED flash to fend off grain and blurry snaps, but it does a decent job providing your subject is stood close by.
In fact, the Lumia 550’s 5-megapixel camera appears to be just as capable as the more expensive Lumia 650’s 8-megapixel snapper. Stack similar shots side-by-side and you’ll usually be hard pressed to work out which camera took which photo. And at this price point, the Lumia 550 definitely stands up well to the competition from the likes of Vodafone’s Smart Prime 6 and the Motorola Moto E.
Here’s our gallery of test photos taken with the Microsoft Lumia 550.
Microsoft Lumia 550 video performance
When it comes to shooting simple video, the Lumia 550 does a solid job for the price. Just don’t expect your home movies to look like a Peter Jackson-style visual feast.
Maxing out at 720p resolution video, our Lumia 550 still managed to capture a reasonable amount of detail in our test movies. The auto-focus lens works quickly, snapping from long to short distance and back again in roughly a second, while correcting the balance so your video isn’t under or over-exposed. And while the Lumia 550 still struggles with high-contrast scenes, it performs just as well as most other rival cameraphones at the £100 price-point.
As with those phones, the Lumia also lacks image stabilisation. So if you’re going to shoot video, you might not want to move around too much.
Check out our Lumia 550 video sample, shot at 720p/30fps, below.
Microsoft Lumia 550 front-facing camera
The Lumia 550’s 2-megapixel front-facing camera is certainly basic, but that doesn’t mean it’s rubbish thankfully. The lens seemed to cope with a range of lighting conditions, until you get to a dimly lit room. In low lighting, our selfies were very grainy and basically unusable, but all of our other photos would be fine for social sharing. And the lens does the job for Skype chats too, capturing your mug with enough detail and keeping you sharp in focus.
Check out our full Lumia 550 review for more info on this cut-price Windows 10 phone.
Many thanks to Carphone Warehouse for supplying the Lumia 550 review sample. You can grab the Lumia 550 from Carphone right now, starting from £7.50 a month.