Lenovo hasn’t really done well in the high-end range of smartphones in India, with one device I remember being good but not getting a great attention, the Vibe Z2 Pro. Since then, there were quite a few attempts from the company to come up with great devices in the mid-range segment as well, but not enough they could deliver.
The latest addition to the premium range, is the Lenovo Vibe Shot, and for the first time, we feel that the company has been able to deliver something excellent in terms of design and form factor. But, is this camera-centric device good enough as an overall package, to compete against the likes of OnePlus 2, Asus ZenFone 2 Deluxe and others below the price point of Rs. 30000? Let’s find out.
Rather than getting into each aspect, let me cut short the review into what I’m really impressed about, and what should have been better.
Camera – The sole talking point of the device
If there is something one would not stop praising, it is the camera. Indeed, the phone is named, advertised, and is known for majorly the camera, although Lenovo hasn’t called upon a compromise with the other specs.
A 16-megapixel BSI sensor with a six-piece module, added with Optical image stabilization – that constitutes the rear camera theoretically. There’s even a triple-tone flash added for natural brightening in low light conditions. This flash, according to the company, automatically adjusts the light based on ambient light conditions.
Focusing was pretty quick, though it wasn’t the quickest. Many a times, I had to manually tap to focus on the object, otherwise it took about a second to autofocus.
Since there is a dedicated hardware button provided to switch between Auto and Pro mode, you know you can play around with the settings a lot, to bring out captures with manual ISO, focal length, shutter speed, white balance and depth adjustments. Auto isn’t bad at all, but Pro offers even better flexibility to those who know adjustments can help take a better picture.
The capture quality in bright light is excellent, with deep and rich colors, natural at looks. In low light, it doesn’t struggle even a bit, but as said above, things look much better when the manual settings are in place. But for focusing, the IR autofocus doesn’t seem to do much in low light.
Panorama is actually huge, and while previewing the panoramic capture for the first time, you would see the picture being rendered on the screen when zoomed in. In the Pro mode, there are a few modes to play around with, and if given a good time and tries, you might see something that is actually comparable to the best smartphone cameras.
The fancy 4K video recording is not possible, but there is more than just decent video capturing that you get at 1080p resolution with the rear camera. It isn’t extra-ordinary, as the Galaxy Note 5 seems to have done a tad better job here, though we are comparing two very differently-priced phones. Here, there is noticeable stabilization seen due to the OIS, and you won’t see the very little shakes doing any harm in the final video.
The design – made to look like a camera
If the glass on the back is pardoned, you are looking at a stunning design. The Vibe Shot comes with a dual-side glass protected by Gorilla Glass 3, but the back having a black background, seems to easily show a collection of fingerprints. Otherwise, the phone looks more like a camera than a smartphone when seen from the back.
Hold the Vibe Shot horizontally, and you will see this quite similar to a digital camera, with a brushed-aluminum look strip on the top, that houses the camera on one corner, while having the Lenovo Vibe logo on the other. The glass on both the sides and the central core with a metallic frame on the side, makes it look like a sandwich-design having three distinguishable layers.
The metallic frame that runs around, houses quite a few buttons. On the right are four keys, Volume rocker, power, Auto/Pro mode toggle and a dedicated shutter key. Hey, just to make you feel that this is more a camera than a phone, the Vibe Shot has a lanyard slot as well.
Since the size is 5-inch, it isn’t uncomfortable in any way, as the glass body usually seems slippery but for this size, the phone fits well in the palm.
The display does enough to impress, since the 1080p resolution is sharp and the colors come out to be great with saturation, not overly done or not too pale. Viewing angles are good, but under the sunlight, reading isn’t really easy as it seems reflective to an extent. The touch response is great, and even the slightest of touches is well recognized and responded to.
While it is being touted as a great camera smartphone, what I liked about the device, is that the company hasn’t compromised much on the other aspects. Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 processor is packed along with 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage, though there is a MicroSD card slot for storage expansion if that available storage of about 25GB isn’t enough.
The device runs Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, with its Vibe UI that is highly customized, making it similar to several Chinese ROMs, which means you won’t see an app drawer, though there can be widgets placed on the home screens. There are quite a lot of pre-installed apps, including CloneIt, SyncIt, ShareIt, Companion, WPS Office, Navigate, Evernote, Guvera Music, apart from the Google apps and a few tools.
There are some very useful functions given in the UI, including Quick Snap, Knock to light, and Smart scene summing it up for gesture features, and the notification panel has a shortcut to read all of the recent notifications in a timeline. Quick Snap would take a capture with the camera, when the screen is turned off and any volume key is pressed twice. Knock to light is something similar to LG Knock On, or the double-tap-to-wake feature.
Performance isn’t the swiftest, with some hiccups along the way, and the heavily loaded games dropping a few frames. But if we’re talking about the interface and multitasking, there was seriously nothing that was letting the device down. There was a good number of apps running in the background, and switching between them didn’t slow down or take noticeable time.
The only times when I felt the device to slow down and lag a bit, is when some app was open and the screen is locked, and from the lock screen I try to open the camera app. Since this is something many of us do regularly (launching the camera straight from the lock screen), the issue was disturbing.
One issue with glass bodies, has always been with the heating of the device. The Vibe Shot is no exception, though the body heated up significantly lesser than how it does on Sony Xperia series, on doing the same activity (playing games, video recording). Thankfully, we aren’t seeing apps crashing or forcefully shutting down due to the high temperature.
Only one aspect can be blamed for some disappointment – battery. A 2900 mAh battery packed in, one would expect a day’s usage with over 4 hours of screen-on time, but it was only once that the phone could have screen active for that time on a single charge. Usually, it is about 3 hours and 20 minutes either way. Standby isn’t great, but if you decide to give it a shot with some continuous video usage, it will let you do that for well over four hours at a stretch. There’s a difference, and you don’t get over three hours of screen-on time because of the background apps killing the battery most of the time.
There is support for 4G LTE and it latches onto the network quite quickly, while testing with Airtel 4G in India. There is a “Smart” option that turned off WLAN and used to active data network, which might be more due to the speed, but still, not a smart feature for those who don’t like to bear the data costs.
All the good and bad said, is the Lenovo Vibe Shot worth it? does it attract with only its camera and build? Let’s be frank. There is not a huge demand for phones that excel only with the camera. But, there still is a niche group of users who try to take advantage of a smartphone camera to the fullest, so much that they expect to leave their digital cameras behind while traveling.
Well, the Lenovo Vibe Shot is no replacement for a DSLR camera, and while we are at it, there is no smartphone capable of replacing a DSLR. But the Vibe Shot is surely one of the best smartphone cameras today, giving a tough challenge to Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and LG G4, and somewhere winning it with the available options, though you might not be able to rely on it as a top-end smartphone for productivity.
Since the company has gained a name as something one would usually see only in the budget range, one might feel it odd to pay that amount even if the phone offers a lot for it. But, if someone chooses to ignore the brand, the Vibe Shot is an excellent offering.