by Brandon Butler
Blind Smartphone Camera Bracket 11/29/2020

On Marques Brownlee’s Twitter feed, @MKBHD, he’s been running a blind smartphone camera bracket. Yesterday was the finals, between cameras H and K.

I’ve been playing along and voting on his Twitter polls each day, and while I’m really interested to see which smartphone camera wins the bracket, I do have some nitpicks about how the bracket is run.

I love the blind test, but we’re being asked to judge a smartphone camera on a single photo. I’d like to see a few different photos from each camera. And I think this could have been called the “social media blind smartphone camera bracket, as we’re seeing the photos resized down to social media posts. This is fine, but one of the advantages of, say, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is the larger sensor, resulting in more detail and higher-quality photos at full resolution or when printed. Scaled down to social media sizes, I expect the full range of 12’s to be indistinguishable. And I assume Brownlee knows this and is likely only testing a single iPhone 12 camera.

This kind of single-photo judging bracket also puts single-lens cameras like the iPhone SE up against the triple-lens iPhone 12 Pros. A single-lens camera beating out a triple-lens system doesn’t mean very much if you’re only comparing a single lens. If you were testing the zoom lens, the triple-lens camera automatically wins (or the single-lens forfeits). And then there’s the iPhone’s ability to shoot RAW with third-party apps like Halide and the Sony Xperia 5’s Photo Pro mode for manual control of the camera, none of which can really be accounted for here.

But that may all be perfectly okay. If a triple-lens camera system is producing garbage photos across all three lenses, then a single-lens camera producing perfect photos would almost certainly be the better buy — although the nice thing about smartphone buying in 2020 if you have to try really hard to find any smartphone taking bad photos.

I think the most useful result of this blind test is for the manufactures being able to identify which kind of output (saturation levels, HDR, skin tone, depth of field) people tend to prefer without the bias of Apple vs Android.

MKBHD says he’ll have a video out with the results in a few days, so all we know for now is which photos were most liked, and the result was H.