The Meizu M2 Note — How Good Can a Budget Phone’s Camera Be?

Part 4 of the Review: The Camera

A good camera is very often a key factor that people look for in a smartphone. All the manufacturers make it a point to put their best available camera tech in their flagship phones, so prospective buyers in that class are spoilt for choice. But what about people who can’t afford (or don’t want) to shell out for the latest and greatest?

The good news is that more and more budget phones are coming out with respectable — seriously good, even — camera solutions. So the question that we’re looking to answer is: is the Meizu M2 Note one of those phones?

In this part of the review, we’ll look at the camera app and its features and functionality, still image quality, and video recording quality. First, let’s take a quick look at the m2 note’s camera specifications and features.

Meizu M2 Note Camera Specifications:

  • Rear camera: 13 Megapixel ƒ/2.2 autofocus, dual-tone LED flash
  • Front camera: 5 Megapixel ƒ/2.0
  • Still: 4:3 aspect ratio, Manual Mode, Beauty Mode, Panorama, Light Field, QR Code Scanner, Live Image Filters, HDR
  • Video: 16:9 aspect ratio, 1080p video recording, 720p slow-motion, stereo audio recording

The camera app: Meizu’s camera app is quick and responsive, taking just a second at the most before letting you snap away. Most of the controls are on-screen, where on one end you have the shutter icon, flanked by the video recording icon and a recent photos icon. Next to those, you can access the “…” menu for additional settings, switch between the rear-facing and front-facing camera, add a live filter to your next shot, and quickly cycle through flash settings.

On the other end, you have a small, swipeable set of shooting modes (which you can also tap to pick and choose, if you prefer to do it that way):

  • Auto: The default camera mode.
  • Manual: Lets you adjust the shutter speed, ISO, exposure compensation, and focus.
  • Beauty: Lets you minimize any imperfections you think you should in profile shots.
  • Panorama. Lets you shoot, uh… panoramas.
  • Light Field: Lets you defocus certain areas in a photograph.
  • QR Code and Barcode Scanner. It’s nice to have this out of the box and not need a separate app just to have this functionality.
  • Slowmotion. Lets you shoot slow-motion videos. Makes sense.

Going into the camera app’s menu, you’re given several more options and settings to tweak if you’d so like. I do wish HDR was placed in the main viewfinder controls instead of buried in this menu. I also didn’t appreciate that the camera app frequently failed to remember any of the options or settings I’ve tweaked the last time around (for example, my preferred grid), leaving me to set those back to where I want to the next time. It’s a relatively minor annoyance, but an annoyance nonetheless.

That said, the camera app is more than serviceable; it gives you plenty of useful features and functionality out of the box, and it’s fairly speedy and easy to use.

The best way to get a feel for any mobile photography solution is to just go out and shoot photos. I went with the default, out-of-the-box settings, so every photo I took was on “auto” mode, and they’re all posted here completely unedited. I left the technical decision making to Meizu’s stock camera app and just focused on composition and getting things in frame.

Indoor, plenty of natural light, dark areas in the background, obligatory cat
Up close with an old matchbox in a dusty corner of a room
Cafe Voila!
Tasty, pretty, makes you fat
Inside the Red Bus Diner
Indoor detail, against light
Trikes on a city street
A sunny afternoon

Still Image Quality: The Meizu m2 note makes it easy to capture some really good-looking photos during the day and in well-lit indoor spaces. The 13-Megapixel shooter captures a pretty good amount of detail, good contrast, and noise is kept low in general when you’ve got a decent amount of light.

It doesn’t perform as well in lower-light situations: you’ll notice the noise levels start to go up the less light the camera has to work with, and using the flash gives you mixed results in terms of trying to get a good-looking photo that isn’t too blown out. That said, low-light performance was still slightly better than what I expected, which is nice, I guess.

The only way to really squeeze the most low light performance from the Meizu m2 note — or any budget-class phone camera and ones that don’t come with optical image stabilization — is to use manual mode, try to keep the ISO levels low, keep the camera steady as it takes a few seconds to take the shot, preferably mounting the phone on a tripod. This is probably not a phone you want to take clubbing with you.

Video recording: the m2 note captures some good-looking 1080p video with stereo sound. It doesn’t offer any sort of image stabilization, so unless you keep your hands steady when recording videos, you will see shakiness; there’s just no going around it. Additionally, you can snap still photos while shooting videos as well, which is a nice option to have.

You can also capture slow-motion video, which is a nice addition that you don’t usually see in budget-class shooters. The m2 note shoots 100fps 720p videos and plays them back at 25fps. It’s a nice little extra to have.

What Meizu gives you is a very good camera that you normally wouldn’t expect to find on a budget phone — that alone makes the M2 Note worthy of consideration.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the M2 Note’s camera performance. It made it easy for me to capture great-looking images while offering more advanced, granular controls if I wanted them (and I do!). I’ll be continuing to test the camera more in the coming weeks and months to see what else I can do with the advanced functionality that it makes available.

In the next and final part of this review, I’ll be writing my final thoughts and conclusions, including answering the question of who should or shouldn’t buy this phone, in the Final Part of the Review: The Wrap Up — Read it now!

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