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The vivo X60 Pro+ might be the best smartphone out there for photographers – if you can find one: Digital Photography Review


Have you ever wondered what would happen if a smartphone manufacturer put nearly all of its research and development funds into developing the ultimate camera system for its flagship device? The resulting phone might look a lot like the vivo X60 Pro+. This device, which was made in partnership with Zeiss, features a four-camera array, including ultrawide, 1x, 2x and 5x periscope camera modules, as well as LIDAR focusing and top-of-the-line optical image stabilization technology.

The vivo X60 Pro+ is a flagship smartphone and while it does lack some features you might expect from a range-topping device nowadays (such as Qi wireless charging, an ultra-high-resolution display and robust IP-ratings for dust and water resistance), the X60 Pro+ makes up for those omissions with what may very well be the best camera array on any smartphone.

Key specifications:

  • Main camera (1x, rear): 50 MP 1/1.3-inch GN1 sensor, 23mm equiv. F1.57
  • Ultra-wide (0.6x, rear): 48 MP ultra-wide gimbal camera, 14mm equiv. F2.2 (114º AOV)
  • 2x telephoto camera (2.2x, rear): 32 MP sensor, 50 mm equiv. F2.08
  • 5x telephoto camera (5.4x, rear): 8 MP sensor, 125 mm equiv. F3.4
  • Selfie cam (1/2.8″,0.8µm): 32 MP, 26mm equiv. F2.5
  • 4320p/30 fps, 2160p/60 fps, 1080p/60 fps video
  • 5-axis video stabilization, HDR10+ video recording


When it comes to where the vivo X60 Pro+ fits in the company’s lineup, and how you can get hold of one, it gets a little confusing. The X60 Pro+ is the flagship, sitting above the similarly-named X60 and X60 Pro, but there’s a new X60t Pro+ that swaps out the sensor behind the 50mm equiv. lens. All the devices were launched with different model numbers in different regions at different times, with some features and specs across regions being limited.

The device we have for review is the global version of the X60 Pro+ (model V2074), which appears to be available to purchase only through online retail platforms such as AliExpress and eBay, with prices ranging from ~$900 to $1,300. We have contacted vivo for additional information on availability, but have not received a response as of the time of publication.

Something else to keep in mind when purchasing an X60 Pro+ is that although the global version of the device does have 5G connectivity, it only supports certain bands. You can find out which 5G and LTE (4G) bands inside the X60 Pro+’s modem are supported in your region using this tool from Kimovil.


Externals

From the front, the X60 Pro+ bears a striking resemblance to Samsung’s S20 lineup, complete with a ‘punch hole’ selfie camera, curved display and and even the same button layout—a volume rocker and the power button, both one-third of the way down on the right-hand side. The frame of the device is constructed of a blue-anodized aluminum that matches the faux ‘vegan’ leather on the back of the device that, surprisingly, feels and looks almost identical to the real thing.

As with most smartphones nowadays, the first thing you’ll notice on the X60 Pro+ is the 6.56” Super AMOLED curved display. While the resolution (1080 x 2376 pixels, ~398 ppi) feels lower than what you’d expect from a $1,000+ flagship smartphone, opting for a lower resolution means the device can hit a 120Hz refresh rate and offer 1,300 nits of peak brightness, making it suitable for capturing and watching HDR10+ content (Netflix actually just approved it for HDR support). And if you think you’re concerned about the lower pixel density, don’t be. It’s nearly unnoticeable unless you’re looking extremely closely at text or UI elements and not once throughout capturing images or video did my brain recognize the discrepancy compared to the likes of my iPhone XS (~462 ppi) or a friend’s Pixel 5 (~432 ppi).

As a whole, the device feels nice in the hands. It feels substantial and the curved edges make it comfortable to hold – a welcome detail considering the phone measures in at 158.6mm x 73.4mm x 9.1mm (6.24” x 2.89” x 0.36”). This puts it in a similar size group as a Samsung S21 (not S21+) and a bit larger than the iPhone 12 Pro. I’d say I have relatively average-sized hands for someone 6′ 2″ (188cm) and I found it was usable as a single-hand device, but definitely more comfortable when interacting with it using two hands.

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Internals

At the heart of the X60 Pro+ is an Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 5G chipset that consists of one 2.8GHz Kryo 680 core, three 2.4GHz Kryo 680 cores, four 1.8GHz Kryo 680 cores and a single Adreno 660 GPU core. The device lacks a microSD card slot, but is available in models with either 128GB or 256GB of UFS 3.1 solid-state storage, which come with 8GB or 12GB of RAM, respectively.

Communication specs include 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac/6 dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, NFC and the sole physical I/O on the device is single USB-C port on the bottom of the device (sorry, no 3.5mm headphone jack). There’s also an under-screen fingerprint sensor, an accelerometer, a gyro (which likely helps with image stabilization as we’ll get to below), proximity sensor, compass and color spectrum sensor (for adjusting the color shift of the screen based on your environment).

The device is powered by a 4,200mAh non-removable battery that offers fast charging via the USB-C connector up to 55W. I measured that 30 minutes of charging would give me about 80% battery capacity, and a further 15 minutes would finish it up. I would like to report a precise range for how long you can expect the battery life to last on a given day, but the reality is it varies greatly on how you’re using the device and what features you have turned on/off.

On days when I was shooting photos and video from a full charge, the phone would last for about four hours of on-display time, which I found impressive considering the amount of processing power required to capture such high-resolution photos and video. When going about more casual usage, such as browsing my RSS feeds, scouring Reddit and watching YouTube videos, the phone would easily hit six hours of on-display time and last throughout an entire day and halfway through the next before needing to be charged.

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Software

With the internal hardware out of the way, let’s cover the operating system and software. The international version of the X60 Pro+ runs on Funtouch 11.1, which is vivo’s custom skin for Android 11.1 While there are some benefits to vivo’s Funtouch OS, such as the proprietary camera app that makes the most of all the camera components that I’ll dig into below, the system is loaded with vivo-branded bloatware, including a default wallpaper app that displays images that are actually not-so-discreet advertisements, which you’ll find out if you accidentally tap on the wallpaper on the lock screen.

However, if you remove the bloatware from view, delete all the apps that can be deleted and choose your own wallpaper, the experience is not all that different from stock Android 11, which is very decent overall.

A trio of screenshots showing the first-party camera app user interface (and the plethora of camera modes).

As for the first-party camera app, it is easily the most comprehensive camera app I’ve come across. So much so it’s almost overwhelming at first. However, that’s to be expected when you consider this device is effectively four point-and-shoot cameras in one with plenty of software-powered capture modes to boot.

Upon first opening the camera app, you’ll see six capture modes displayed at the bottom: High Resolution, Night, Portrait, Photo, Video and Pro. Six modes weren’t enough though apparently, so under a seventh ‘More’ tab, you’ll further find eleven more capture modes, including: Panorama, Live Photo, Slo-mo, Timelapse, AR stickers, Supermoon, Doc (a built-in document scanner mode), Astro Mode, Pro Sports, Long Exposure and Double Exposure.

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Camera modules

vivo hasn’t held back when it comes to stating the photographic capabilities of its X60 Pro+ smartphone. The phrase ‘Professional Photography’ is printed on the top of the device and the camera bump is emblazoned with details and specifications of the onboard camera modules. This might seem like overkill for a smartphone, but vivo has the hardware – not to mention the partnership with Zeiss – to back up its marketing material.

A close-up shot of the main (1x, wide) camera module with the 2x and 5x telephoto modules below.

The main (1x, wide) camera on the X60 Pro+ is a 23mm (full-frame equivalent) F1.57 lens with a 1/1.31″ Samsung S5KGN1 sensor (1.2µm pixels) behind it. It features dual-pixel phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and sensor-shift image stabilization.

A close-up shot of the Zeiss and T* branding, with the ultrawide camera module behind it.

The 48MP ultrawide camera is a 14mm (full-frame equivalent) F2.2 camera module powered by Samsung’s half-inch IMX598 sensor (0.8µm pixels). It features advanced sensor-shift stabilization technology that vivo refers to as ‘Gimbal Stabilization 2.0.’

A close-up shot of the 2x and 5x periscope camera modules, complete with the Zeiss Vario-Tessar branding and LED flash array.

The 2x camera module uses a 1/2.8″ Samsung S5KGD1 sensor (0.8µm pixels) and is a 50mm full-frame equivalent F2.08. The 5x periscope camera module offers a 125mm full-frame equivalent focal length and uses an 8MP OmniVision OV08A10 sensor. The front-facing selfie camera uses the same 32MP S5KGD1 sensor from Samsung and offers a 24mm full-frame equivalent experience with an F2.45 aperture.

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Still photos

So, we know the X60 Pro+ is no slouch in the specifications department, but does that translate to real-world usage? Absolutely.

Due to the sheer number of shooting modes the smartphone has to offer, the first party camera app is a little overwhelming to use at first. But with a few hours of familiarization, it becomes fairly intuitive and easy to get from one shooting mode to another.

One of the stand-out shooting modes of the X60 Pro+ is its Portrait mode. In addition to Zeiss’ signature T* coating on the lenses in the camera modules, which helps to dramatically reduce ghosting and flares, vivo also partnered with Zeiss to create a custom simulated bokeh effect, which results in background blur effect emulating the look of the Zeiss Biotar lens.

As for the accuracy of the depth map, I found the X60 Pro+ was proficient at distinguishing the subject from the background. Compared to an iPhone 11 Pro and a Pixel 5, the vivo was always the fastest to focus on the subject and overall tended to have the most accurate matte, particularly on tricky areas like hair.

Compared to an iPhone 11 Pro and a Pixel 5, the vivo was always the fastest to focus on the subject and overall tended to have the most accurate matte, particularly on tricky areas like hair.

Another standout stills mode onboard the vivo X60 Pro+ is its Night Time mode. Considering the 1x camera module features a (relatively) large 1/1.31“ sensor (1.2µm pixels) inside and sensor-shift image stabilization, Shots taken using the Night Time capture mode are impressive. As visible in the below comparison, the X60 Pro+ captures far more detail than the iPhone 11 Pro, which is no slouch. Colors do come out more saturated than I’d personally like to see, but overall the amount of light it can pull from a scene that’s nearly completely dark to the human eye is outstanding.

vivo has also included a dedicated Macro mode that can either be turned on automatically when it detects a close subject or activated manually when in the ‘Pro’ shooting mode. Images captured in the Macro mode appear less sharp than non-macro images, but it offers a decent magnification ratio with respectable images as a result. Below is a gallery of macro shots taken with the X60 Pro+ in various scenes:

The last capture mode I spent a good time poring over is the X60 Pro+’s High Resolution mode. When shooting in High Resolution, you can use the ultrawide, 1x and 2x camera modules, which will yield 48MP, 50MP and 32MP, respectively. You can also use an even higher 100MP mode when using the 1x camera module, which provides a respectable improvement over the 50MP capture mode.

Below is a gallery of images captured with the X60 Pro+’s High Resolution modes from each camera module, as well as comparison photos captured with an iPhone 11 Pro at the same location:

As for your day-to-day captures with the standard (auto) capture modes, the X60 Pro+ delivers. Switching between cameras is simple and the versatility is great. Personally, it feels as though vivo goes a little too hard with the contrast and saturation on its straight-out-of-camera JPEGs, but that’s not uncommon to see with most smartphones. One area where vivo hasn’t seemed to go overboard with is noise reduction; while you can tell some is being used, particularly in low-light scenes, the ‘watercolor effect’ isn’t nearly as pronounced in images shot with the X60 Pro+. Below is a collection of images captured in four scenes (each with very different lighting), with each of the four camera modules:

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Video capture

As with stills, the X60 Pro+ has a lot to offer in the video department. While its overall video quality is great and on par with other flagships at this time, its stabilization performance is what sets it apart from its contemporaries.

Specifically, vivo uses what it calls ‘Gimbal Stabilization 2.0’ in the ultrawide camera module, which appears to be a sensor-based stabilization array that, as its name suggests, offers gimbal-like stabilization performance. In the 1x and 2x camera, vivo also uses sensor-shift stabilization, but the stabilization isn’t nearly as capable as the setup found on the ultrawide module.

As seen in the video comparison above, the X60 Pro+ offers an array of stabilization modes depending on the camera module and resolution you’re using. When shooting 4K video (either 30 fps or 60 fps), you have sensor-based stabilization for the ultrawide, 1x and 2x camera modules. When dropped down to 1080p, you have the option to use what vivo calls ‘Ultra Stabilization’ for the ultrawide and 1x camera modules. vivo doesn’t specify the difference between these modes, but based on our testing, it appears as though ‘Standard Stabilization’ uses only the physical sensor-shift stabilization while the ‘Ultra Stabilization’ uses both the sensor-shift and digital image stabilization.

The X60 Pro+ can also record 8K video at 30 fps with both the 1x and 2x camera modules. You don’t have any image stabilization or other fancy features during 8K recording and I did notice the live view display would sometimes drop frames during recording, but the resulting footage looks solid in well-lit environments. That said, considering the incredible quality of the 4K video the X60 Pro+ can capture, I’d suggest avoiding 8K video unless you absolutely need the resolution for whatever reason.

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Final thoughts

The X60 Pro+ is an intriguing device from vivo. It lacks a few features we’ve come accustomed to seeing in flagship devices (most notably a high-resolution display and Qi charging), but in exchange you get perhaps the most impressive camera array on any smartphone we’ve seen to date.

Is it worth the ~$1,200 or so it costs to get your hands on one in most markets? As is often the case, it depends. If you can get over the lack of wireless charging, the inability to add more storage and the bloatware that comes with its FunTouchOS, the answer is, without a doubt, yes. Simply put, there’s nothing like it out there right now. However, those are some big caveats, especially if you live in North America, where it’s 5G connectivity is limited for now to T-Mobile’s n41 (2.5GHz) band.

In the month or so I’ve been using the X60 Pro+, more often than not, I’ve found myself leaving my larger dedicated cameras behind and slipping the X60 Pro+ into my pocket alongside my personal iPhone XS. The results might lack the image quality of a dedicated stills or video camera when examined in detail, but with the X60 Pro+ I genuinely feel as if I’m carrying a respectable hybrid camera, a set of primes and gimbal, all in a device that’s smaller and thinner than the owner’s manual that came with my Canon EOS R.


Scoring


1 Inside China, vivo devices run OriginOS 1.0



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