Vivo saves its best camera features for its flagship X-series, but some of those carry over to devices like the V27 Pro. It’s just a matter of how much falls into place.
That places this phone firmly in the mid-range as an alternative to other similar options, some of which cut more than a few corners on the camera side. Vivo doesn’t want to earn that kind of reputation, pushing this phone as an upgrade on them rather than a major downgrade from its own flagships. Its limited release means few likely noticed the phone is out, but you can still get your hands on it if there’s enough inside to keep things interesting.
Design and build
The V27 Pro felt very similar to the previous V25 Pro, with a slim and elegant design amplified by the colored back in the Magic Blue variant I had for my review unit. It’s a unique look that I don’t generally see in other phones, where the finish reacts to UV light to appear as a different shade depending on how much light hits it. I tended to keep the clear silicone case on the phone but that didn’t break the effect.
As for the front, Vivo has opted for a larger 6.78-inch AMOLED (2400 x 1080) with a 120Hz refresh rate. It’s curved around the edges, unfortunately, as I believe flatter displays are better, but if you’re into that sort of thing, this is curved that way. Thankfully, the silicone case does wonders for grip when holding the phone for landscape shots, otherwise it would be a slippery affair.
Again, Vivo has opted not to get an official IP rating, so it’s unclear what kind of durability you can expect. While I doubt the strange spray of water would cause any harm, I wouldn’t take it to the pool to take pictures. You presumably get stronger glass on the front and back, except Vivo doesn’t say exactly what that is. Plastic edges frame the two sides together, and while it appears the device is built solidly to keep water out, I can’t say for sure what you can get away with here.
This is one of the first Android phones to run on the MediaTek Dimensity 8200 processor, a solid chipset that brings a 4nm process chip to one of the Vivos mid-rangers for improved performance across the board. My unit came with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, although other variants bump up to 12GB and 256GB respectively. Vivos Extended RAM returns, allowing you to add an additional 8GB of virtual memory pulled from inactive memory to give your phone a boost.
While the phone supports 5G connectivity, the bands are mostly found in markets outside of North America, though you may benefit from this if you travel to other parts of the world. Otherwise, you won’t encounter any problem on 4G LTE in North America.
The thing about the V-series is that it’s a true measure of what Vivo can do when it’s not partnering with anyone. Zeiss’ growing presence in X-series cameras is notably absent in the V27 Pro, but that’s by design, not an omission. In the V25 Pro, the results were largely positive, indicating that the phone could produce good photos in a variety of conditions.
Equally, the rear camera array is very heavy with overwhelming focus on the main camera. It’s a 50-megapixel (23mm equivalent), this time with a Sony IMX786 image sensor that has previously been banned in other phones, sometimes replacing other lenses rather than the main one. The f/1.9 aperture is the largest available and is the only lens with phase detection autofocus and optical image stabilization. Pixel binning means the camera takes 12.5 megapixel images unless you shoot in high resolution mode.
The 8-megapixel (16mm equivalent) ultra-wide-angle camera maintains the same 120-degree field of view, but gets only a slight upgrade over an OmniVision OM8D1 image sensor with an f/2.2 aperture. The measly 2 megapixel (24mm equivalent) macro camera uses an OmniVision OM8021 image sensor with an f/2.4 aperture and 4cm focal length to get close to subjects.
Vivo has chosen, again, to leave out a telephoto lens, suggesting that up to 2x digital zoom is good enough to produce quality images. The front camera is a 50 megapixel (24mm equivalent) Samsung Isocell S5KJN1 Type 1/2.76 sensor with 0.64m pixels and f/2.5 aperture. Besides the main rear camera, it is the only other camera that supports phase detection autofocus.
If you’re coming from any Vivo phone, the camera app will feel like familiar ground. There are no major interface changes, with all modes where they normally would be. For a mid-range phone, however, there’s plenty to choose from. You get the usual modes, like Night, Pro, Portrait, and High Res, along with Long Exposure, Super Moon, Sports, and Double Exposure, among others.
Additional settings, especially in the Photo mode, include special options such as stabilization, motion autofocus, a leveler and Master Effects. The latter was a great add-on to the previous V25 Pro and thankfully it returns here, where leaving it on lets you adjust exposure by simply swiping up or down on the screen. While you get AI-assisted composition as an option, you can also turn it off. The Natural Color setting doesn’t come with Zeiss input like it does on the X90 Pro, but it’s worth using to avoid too much saturation in high-contrast scenes.
Given that the V27 Pro is only about six or seven months removed from its predecessor, its image quality unsurprisingly doesn’t make a dramatic leap. There are some noteworthy incremental improvements, however, particularly with dynamic range and color reproduction.
I left the AI assist off because it acts largely as a color and contrast boost for added vibrancy, but otherwise doesn’t do quite as well in bringing out more detail from an image. For this, you should trust the built-in HDR, which is more effective this time. Again, not a dramatic difference, but one that pays off when shooting in varying conditions.
Despite the lack of a telephoto lens, 2x zoom shots aren’t bad. Vivo uses the larger sensor and does some magic with the calculation to reduce noise or pixelation, though it’s a steep drop when zoomed in beyond that, rendering many images terrible and unusable.
In night mode, or just in low light, in general, the results come out cleaner, which is a very good sign coming from a previous phone that already looked good that way. You don’t always have to go to Night to shoot in low light when Photo mode might still offer it. I’d say it depends on how much light you have to work with or how much detail you want to preserve. Night uses more noise reduction and speckles lights more than Photos, which is why night landscapes and architecture will usually appear brighter in Night, while skin tones will appear softer and more natural in Photos.
Portrait mode is also limited by the built-in optics, and I found I had to hold the phone very still to get a good portrait, likely due to the digital zoom involved. As usual for Vivo, there are plenty of options to smooth skin and make a myriad of adjustments to faces, which always makes me a little uncomfortable when I see it. But that’s a big deal in markets where Vivo is strongest, so it is what it is.
Ultra wide angle and Macro
There’s not much to say about these two lenses because they just look like add-ons, as Vivo hasn’t put anywhere near as much assets into them as compared to the main shooter. I won’t say ultra-wide-angle shots are bad — they’re not — but they’re not that interesting either. Even so, the same principles of exposure, color, and contrast apply, so you have a few tools at your disposal to capture something decent to work with.
This isn’t necessarily the case with the macro camera, which struggles when dealing with something that isn’t well lit. The other issue is where the light source is coming from. You have to get really close to your subject to focus on it, except you also increase the chances of casting a shadow that ruins the shot. This makes most overhead shots difficult to pull off, complicating an already complex mode.
Pro and high resolution
This is where you get the most control over how you want to shoot, albeit with key differences between them. You won’t be shooting in full-resolution RAW, but that gives the Pro mode a better chance in low-light than the high-res, which can be noisy in comparison. Both are my favorites due to the creative options available in later posts.
Whether it’s a RAW image or a 50 megapixel one, I can at least try to do something with it in Lightroom. Vivo managed to tweak things with both modes to improve the output, although I would have appreciated the ability to use Natural Color in high resolution (Pro supports this).
I played around with the videos to see if anything stood out and found more than adequate results. The footage might not blow anyone away, but for a midranger, the V27 Pro is no slouch. You can shoot in 4K at up to 60fps and use night mode for video up to 1080p plus capped at 30fps. Unsurprisingly, you’ll notice that quality takes a hit when you use ultra-wide or zoom in, making the limitations of the wider camera array clear.
A competitive player
The Vivo V27 Pro is well built and packed with solid features and performance, making it a very competitive player in the crowded mid-range field. The V27 Pro comes in at between $400 and $500 when converted to dollars, which is solid value for what it offers.
Are there alternatives?
Were it more widely available, it would be hard not to look good at it as an alternative to others. But when it comes to those who face it, the Samsung Galaxy A54 comes to mind as a phone that quietly continues to benefit from the cascading effects of the S series.
The Google Pixel 7a follows a similar path, so it’s hard to give up just the photographic aspect. Google’s latest phone barely has a gap between it and the flagship Pixel 7, which is why it could be one of the best value options for 2023. Don’t rule out the iPhone 14 if your budget has room and you want to give video recording priority.
Should you buy it?
Yes, if you want a good mid-range phone, most others won’t have it.
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