This page answers the most frequently asked questions about our CAMERA HW (hardware) score, which is driven by technical data and our proprietary algorithm.
Goal: the CAMERA HW score assesses how strong a mobile camera system is in the following contexts: Day, Night, Ultrawide, and Zoom photography. We call these the “pillars of mobile photography”.
What is a CAMERA HW (hardware) score?
A camera hardware score is an objective rating that is computed by an algorithm based on the technical data (specifications) of the rear camera system of a mobile phone with one or multiple cameras. The goal is to quantify how “powerful” the camera hardware is (sensors + optics).
Why do we need a CAMERA HW score?
There are 1000 new phones on the market every year. Most of them will never have their cameras thoroughly tested and rated. Our camera hardware score has been created to accurately rate more mobile cameras, faster. Ubergizmo’s CAMERA HW score saves time for both experts and novices alike.
When experts look at a mobile camera system, they use their knowledge and experience to gauge how powerful (“good”) they expect it to be. Similarly, people evaluating a car might look at Horsepower or Torque, or check the BTUs for a gas burner or furnace. They could influence whether or not you consider a product.
How do you compare different camera hardware?
Just like our CAMERA IQ scores (image-quality), our CAMERA HW score boils down to the hardware strength for typical use cases: Day+Night, Ultrawide, and Zoom photography. Day/Night photos are using the “Wide” primary camera.
Ubergizmo’s proprietary algorithm looks at the technical data we have gathered for all available cameras and computes how each contributes to the overall score.
Who created this algorithm?
He is a former computer graphics engineer who has worked at NVIDIA and 3Dfx. He was also the editor of GPU Gems 3, a best-selling graphics programming book.
Including Ultrawide and Zoom seems unfair to single-lens cameras
Dedicated Ultrawide and Zoom camera modules have been integrated for years, and their usable model is well understood. That’s how we know that both should be considered in any modern camera score.
Ultrawide in particular greatly extends the versatility of a camera system and has been proven to be very popular with users.
As a result, missing dedicated capabilities will result in a lower overall score. People can still look at the individual sub-scores to focus on one particular hardware strength they are interested in.
- Wide camera: most important for Day/Night
- Ultrawide camera: second most important
- Zoom: least important
How do you compute Ubergizmo’s CAMERA HW overall score?
The overall score is built using a weighted aggregate of the sub-scores, and ALL listed camera systems go through the same algorithm. Each sub-score (wide, ultrawide, zoom) is built based on a technical analysis of the camera’s specifications.
But, isn’t software crucial in mobile photography?
Absolutely! Software is an essential component of mobile photography and photography in general. However, Software outcomes also depend on the quality of the underlying data, and better camera hardware will yield better data.
One cannot beat vastly superior camera hardware with software, but one can have a slight image-quality edge within the same category of hardware.
That’s why there is a camera hardware arms race. Hardware is, by far, the most important quality indicator.
Can you give us an example of a camera modules comparison?
Let’s compare the Zoom Camera of the Huawei P40 Pro (score: 8.6/10) against the zoom camera of the iPhone 11 Pro (score: 5.2/10).
- iPhone 11 Pro (5.2/10): 51mm focal, f/2.0, 12 mm² sensor, OIS
- P40 Pro (8.6/10): 135mm focal, f/3.4, 17.8 mm² sensor, OIS
Based on the above specifications (and more data points), a camera expert could easily assert that P40 Pro should be better at high-powered zoom. For non-experts, our algorithm instantly comes to the same conclusion.
How do you know if the model works?
The CAMERA HW algorithmic model is based on data gathered by our CAMERA IQ benchmark (image quality). As such, we continually verify and refine the algorithm. To illustrate the previous question, here is a crop of a 10X zoom image:
Our algorithm did correctly predict that the S20 Ultra and Note 20 Ultra would yield comparable results, despite having very different zoom camera hardware. The Note 20 Ultra Camera IQ Review image analysis did confirm the algorithm’s prediction.
- S20 Ultra (9.6/10): 103mm focal, 48MP sensor (~30 mm²), f/3.5 aperture
- Note 20 Ultra (9.6/10): 123mm focal, 12MP sensor (~12 mm²), f/3 aperture
How accurate is this when compared to Ubergizmo’s image-quality test?
Our CAMERA IQ benchmark remains the most accurate way to gauge a camera’s quality, there’s no question about that.
However, little data or no reliable IQ test is available for most cameras (~1000 new phones launched per year). For these, our Camera HW score becomes the second-best indicator of a camera’s potential and can save people a lot of time, or highlights new options.
Why are iPhone and Google Pixel phones’ hardware scores so low?
Both Apple and Google seem to rely on better software to remain sufficiently competitive instead of investing more in hardware. Historically, they also have been neglecting Ultrawide or Long-Zoom camera hardware.
Our Uber IQ Camera tests show that the strategy works to a point, but also highlights some image-quality shortcomings of their choice. You can read our CAMERA IQ iPhone 11 Pro review and Google Pixel 5 review for example. The older Pixel 3 camera review is also interesting as a reference.
If anything, the gap between the CAMERA HW and CAMERA IQ scores could be considered as the unofficial “software quality” score.
Can the scores change over time? Yes, and here’s why
All scores can change if we update the algorithm or if the camera data is updated/corrected.
The x/10 scores will change as the technology gets better. The iPhone 7 wide camera was once a 10/10 when launched, but today, it is a mere 5.4/10. (Internally, we keep a higher-precision version of these scores).
How to read the numbers in the table below?
- The “Camera Hardware score” is an absolute number, which means that it has no preset upper limit.
- The sub-scores for Wide, Ultrawide and Zoom are in the x/10 format.