Which cameraphone is king of natural bokeh?

Scarlette Lennon23 June 2022Last Update : 7 days ago
Which cameraphone is king of natural bokeh?


Maybe you remember the iPhone 7 Plus – the phone that brought a telephoto camera and made multiple cameras mainstream, something we have taken for granted for years now. However, it was not the first to have more than one rear camera, nor was it the first to play with artificial bokeh – HTC One (M8) did 2 years earlier. But Apple’s trend-setting power made 7 Plus’ Portrait mode a must-have feature across the industry.

Where are we going with this? Well, in 2022, the smartphone camera is dramatically improved compared to the times of the iPhone 7. And one of the areas where we have seen a marked development is large sensors and bright and / or long lenses. So could faux bokeh on smartphones be a thing of the past now that we have cameras that can deliver the real thing? Or can they?

Ever since the Xperia 1 IV stepped in our door in early May, we’ve been thinking about what its telecamera can do for pictures of people. An 85 mm equivalent lens with an f / 2.3 aperture sounded like a recipe for nice bokeh. We found a more comprehensive comparison of newer phone cameras for the purpose of taking portrait photos – all without the software enhancements for portrait modes that all phones now have.

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra
ZTE Axon 40 Ultra
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G
Sony Xperia 1 IV
Honor Magic4 Pro

Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra • ZTE Axon 40 Ultra • Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G • Sony Xperia 1 IV • Honor Magic4 Pro

We had a general understanding of the practical aspects of depth of field and out of focus blur – simply put, brighter lenses and nearby subjects for shallow DoF. We also had a decent understanding of the effects of sensor size and focal length in terms of how they relate to background blur (and foreground too, but let’s keep it simpler) – of experience and intuition.

Bokeh experiments

But when you have a lot of phones, each with two or three cameras with vastly different sets of specifications, intuition can not tell you how all the numbers are related and how the end results – the images, will be compared. So we did some math.

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