Vodafone Smart V8 camera review: Vodafone invited us along to the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed, so we thought what better time to test out the camera on its new premium mid-ranger, the Smart V8.
Compared to last year’s Smart Ultra 7, both snappers have received a resolution bump, with a 16-megapixel primary snapper and an 8-megapixel front-facer (versus 13 and 5-megapixels respectively) at your disposal. Both can capture at up to Full HD video too and there’s an impressive amount of customisation on offer from Vodafone’s latest camera software.
Vodafone Smart V8 camera review: UI
Open up the viewfinder and you’ll see that it’s loaded with features which does create a somewhat cluttered appearance. Six shooting modes, including manual control, night mode and long exposure live under a shortcut next to the shutter button, whilst real-time filters can be applied by using the button on the other side.
You can swipe to jump between the most useful modes; panorama and video, straight from the viewfinder, whilst there are also readily accessible options for HDR, timer, flash control and Active Photo (a riff on Apple’s Live Photo feature) that adds a brief moment of video before you tap the shutter when capturing stills.
Diving into the settings you’ll find even more controls to fine-tune the V8’s shooting experience, with the ability to change resolution, add a watermark, apply EIS and more; and those options change depending on the mode you’re shooting in or which camera you’re shooting from.
The viewfinder looks almost unchanged when using the phone’s front-facer but there are some notable alterations. You can swipe from regular shooting to beauty mode or video. The former adds an additional beauty slider that applies real-time skin softening and a few other tricks on a 1 to 10 scale whilst there’s an ever-present exposure adjustment slider in whichever mode you’re shooting in.
The mode switch offers just one extra option in wide selfie, whilst you can again toggle HDR, the timer and flash directly from the viewfinder. There’s also a smile-activated shutter feature, but if you’ve also toggled on the ‘V gesture’ capture option from within the settings menu it won’t work, despite being switched on.
With so much functionality on display from the off, it’ll take time to familiarise yourself with all of them, and the quirks of some of the more unique features to boot. Dig deep enough though and you might be surprised by the range of features it offers up.
Vodafone Smart V8 camera review: Picture quality
For the most part, the V8’s primary camera proves to be a dependable mid-range effort producing consistently clean images across a range of environments. At full crop, you’ll spot that fine details are a little muddied and murky but in both natural and artificial lighting, the V8 can capture nicely-coloured and clear shots, with an impressively clean capture of moving subjects.
It would appear that high contrast conditions are particularly challenging for the snapper on the V8, with blown-out bright areas and underexposed shadow that comes across as almost total blackness. HDR also seems to only have a minimal effect, even if it does generally improve photos. We’d suggest flipping the phone into Auto HDR, even though it pushes the shutter lag to around a second.
There’s a dual-tone LED flash that helps illuminate subjects in low light relatively well, with the only real issue being a narrow spread giving most flash shots an undesirably heavy vignette.
On the selfie front, most shots will appear a little underexposed with default settings, however, the on-screen exposure adjustment can fix that at the point of capture. As for colour, the phone once again nails accuracy, although fine details again adopt a cloudy finish.
There’s a screen-based flash feature, and the option of HDR selfies are welcome too, whilst the beauty mode should only be used at lower levels as when pushed your mugs distorts beyond the point of appealing.
Vodafone Smart V8 camera review: Video quality
We were able to capture test footage from within Jaguar’s performance area at the 2017 Goodwood Festival of Speed and the V8 once again demonstrated its competency when capturing motion. It also appeared perfectly comfortable handling fast changes in contrast and focus too.
Unlike with stills, colours look, for the most part, a little washed out in video footage, with the exception of punchy reds, that for some reason, retain a far more pleasing level of vibrancy and saturation over the rest of the spectrum. A complete lack of image stabilisation is the most obvious shortcoming, however. Small judders and shakes will always be picked up whilst audio is clear but lacks bass.
Vodafone Smart V8 camera review: Verdict
It might sound like we’re hating on the Smart V8’s camera capabilities but whilst narrow dynamic range and lacklustre image stability are symptoms of the phone’s hardware, its software quirks and some of the image processing foibles we’ve identified could potentially be improved with a little more work on Vodafone’s part culminating in an additional software update.
As part of a £160 metal-bodied, responsive, 4G smartphone, the snapper setup on the V8 is actually highly commendable; with a versatile sensor (especially at that price) and more modes and control than even some flagship handsets offer.