What is BlueImage and can it help Vivo beat the Galaxy S24 Ultra in low light photography?

vivo x100 ultra reaction post
Vivo is expected to soon unveil its next flagship phone, the Vivo X100 Ultra. The announcement is most likely going to happen in May in China. Ahead of the official release, the company's Vice President and General Manager of Brand and Product Strategy, Jia Jingdong, took to the Chinese social media website Weibo to tease the upcoming product.

And more specifically, Jia Jingdong focuses on something called "BlueImage", which seemingly is a technology for imaging.  Let's see what could this be, and more importantly, what changes we can expect from it.

BlueImage: what the teaser tells us

The teaser contains a long text in Chinese (I read it in a machine-translated version) that talks a lot without saying much. Of course, it's a teaser so it's bound to not say much, but still, my curiosity got a tiny little bit annoyed.

Despite that, let's see what we could figure out from the teaser and its contents (remember, it's machine-translated so it's possible that not everything is completely accurate):
  • The post talks about how Vivo is the "King of Imaging" for the following reasons: advancements in optics, algorithms, and computing power, also the development of its own imaging chips and algorithms;
  • It says that BlueImage is part of Vivo's Blue Technology Matrix;
  • The post mentions the collaboration with optical giant Zeiss for lens technology;
  • It also mentions where BlueImage technology can help: scenarios like clear backlighting and low-light night vision. The post also hints that imaging tech can be used for health monitoring (like early diabetes detection), and productivity features like virtual measurement, document generation, and "multi-terminal image circulation".

What interests us here is mainly the improvements this tech can bring to the camera. Those are "clear backlighting" and "low-light night vision".

In photography, backlighting stands for the technique in which the subject is illuminated by the light in the background. This technique could give creative results in photos and it's frankly a nice extra to have in your phone camera. As for low-light night vision, that one's clear. BlueImage should hopefully bring better nighttime photography to the Vivo X100 Ultra.

BlueImage results: what it could bring to the table

From what I can deduce from the machine-translated text of the teaser, we're probably talking about technology for the camera sensor or image-processing technology. It's most likely going to be a fancy technological twist to the sensor or the way the phone takes images.

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However, what we're interested in is not the tech itself (although this could be cool too) but more what results it will produce.

First, let's talk what what other rumors are circulating online about the Vivo X100 Ultra camera, to try to get a fuller picture.

The X100 Ultra is rumored to sport the following specs:
  • An impressive 200-megapixel periscope telephoto camera with 4.3x optical zoom and 200x digital zoom;
  • 50-megapixel LYT-900 main sensor;
  • 50-megapixel ultra-wide lens;
  • 50-megapixel telephoto camera.

We also have the partnership with Zeiss, also mentioned in the teaser as well. Zeiss is most likely collaborating with Vivo on the phone's lenses.

All in all, those specs alone seem very compelling, even without the "BlueImage" behind-the-scenes stuff.

Now, let's look at the Vivo X100 Pro, released in November 2023, to hopefully give us some more information on what we can expect from the X100 Ultra.

The phone has a main sensor with 50MP resolution, 50MP ultra-wide, and a 50MP telephoto camera. A direct comparison with the rumored Ultra specs shows that only the telephoto camera may be technically upgraded to 200MP.

As you can see from the images above, the Vivo x100 Pro is already a great performer in the camera scene. It's hard to imagine what improvements will the BlueImage technology bring.

We have realistic colors and a beautiful dynamic range in these photos. The portrait mode images almost look like they've been taken with a professional camera, and so are many of the other pics provided by the company.

Vivo X100 Ultra competitors: can it beat the S24 Ultra or the iPhone 15 Pro Max

Of course, I'll inevitably be comparing this phone to some of the strongest players on the flagship scene in terms of photography. Although the Galaxy S24 Ultra is currently struggling with camera bugs (for some users), when it's bug-free, it's more than capable of delivering great photos.

The iPhone 15 Pro Max is also a very capable Vivo X100 Ultra competitor. Despite the iPhone not being the kind of zoom, its other photos are pretty good.

Then we have the BlueImage improvements that are teased in the Weibo post. And more specifically - better low-light photography and probably the possibility to take creative photos with backlighting? Those will, if they turn out true, definitely bring something to the Vivo that the other two phones here don't have.

*Beautiful photo courtesy of Koke Mayayo (TheVisualKiller) on Unsplash. Taken with a Canon DSLR camera, not with a phone, by the way.

Meanwhile, the Vivo X100 Pro already produces great nighttime photos. The official page for the phone shows us a couple of examples:

However, keep in mind that we didn't take these photos so I can't tell you the conditions and the time of the day those were taken.

Despite that, those have a good level of detail and the camera doesn't get confused by lights in the darkness. Let's compare to the competitors' night modes:

As you can see, the Galaxy S24 Ultra manages to capture great night-time and low-light images. The phone keeps the light sources intact and lots of details are preserved in the shadows. In some cases, we can have some noise reduction and sharpening that can be a bit damaging to the image (sample 4).

The iPhone 15 Pro Max also does quite well, keeping everything just a tad bit darker - but hey, it's a night photo, so better look like a night photo!

It's hard to say how much the Vivo X100 Ultra will improve for night-time photography thanks to BlueImage. But just looking at these photos (which are already pretty good), it makes sense to get excited for what the Ultra will bring. We'll have to wait and see to know for sure.

Overall, all that BlueImage talk seems interesting and for the nerds out there, definitely enticing. But the most important thing is what it will bring. Backlight photos, better low-light... and what else? Is there going to be other camera improvements that Jia Jingdong doesn't mention? I guess we'll know soon enough when the phone gets unveiled in May.

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