Imaging : See What Others Can’t See
I’m sure you’ve heard of this tagline or seen this hashtag again and again. You’ve probably seen plenty of images on Facebook claiming the power of the phone’s low-light capability, ASUS even has a website with the name.
So just how good is this LOW LIGHT capability?
First up – DOES IT WORK? Yes it does, here’s how LOW LIGHT mode works.
It works great, right? YES and NO. You see, in the image above I had the ZenFone 2 placed stationary, held in place by the sturdy branches of bushes found around Taipei 101 and I set it to be timered.
Put it simple – it is was PERFECTLY executed to overcome the flaw of the Low Light mode. You see, what the Low Light mode does it that it lengthens the exposure and from what I gather, processes the picture but bumping up the exposure even further. You get 3 – 4 stops brighter exposure easily.
What you should know is that by having longer exposure means it’s loses out the capability to freeze moments.
Another thing to note is that Low Light mode files are saved at a much smaller resolution.
At 16:9 aspect ratio, the default maximum available resolution is at 4160 x 2340 pixels but Low Light mode gives you brighter exposure BUT at the expense of shutter speed and resolution of which the image is now resized to 2080 x 1170 pixels.
In a more simple term – you get 1/4 (or 25%) the original available image size. It looks fine on phone screens and even on Facebook but heck, you should know what you’re getting – right? 🙂
I believe that’s the direction ASUS is coming from, the smaller image size makes motion blur less noticeable. For example if you used Low Light mode for a group photo, it’s likely you’ll see weird outer lines or eye movements and all.
So should you be using the Low Light ability? In most cases – NO. The only time I could think of using the Low Light mode is that the scene is really dark and you need to show something from that scene and couldn’t care about the reduced image quality and neither do you care about the high chance of motion blur due to handshake.
Have a look at the image below, it’s taken handheld. Look at how the details are captured on AUTO mode while the one taken with LOW LIGHT mode seems blurry (I assure you I held it as best as I can).
Now have a look at this, compare the LOW LIGHT mode image against the AUTO MODE image that went through exposure correction.
As if that’s not enough, here’s a 100% crop from both image (with pre-post processed AUTO MODE). Notice how much more zoom in it is within the given pixel dimension.
Here’s another comparison.
Notice how the overall exposure of the AUTO MODE image looks better and there is much reduction in the motion blur of moving subjects at the background? Take note also that the texture on the ground is better retained in AUTO MODE, and bear in mind also that AUTO MODE has 4 times greater image size for better detail retention.
Summary – the camera in AUTO MODE is good enough and more often than not, performs better than LOW LIGHT mode. A post-processed AUTO MODE image often turns out better than the image taken in LOW LIGHT mode.
One thing that surprised me is the ability of ASUS’ camera to focus under low light condition.
Here’s an image I took with the ZenFone 2, I took the image in both AUTO MODE and LOW LIGHT mode. It was during this test when I discovered that the Samsung Galaxy S6 with its awesome camera wasn’t able to lock focus at all, let alone grab a decent image. Kudos to ASUS on this part!
LOW LIGHT mode on ASUS’ ZenFone series is nothing new though, it’s been around since the earlier generation ZenFone but what ASUS did was that they’ve improved the software and the LOW LIGHT mode’s output is more pleasing now.
Phew so that’s it for the LOW LIGHT mode comparison. Next up we’ll have a look at SUPER RESOLUTION mode.