Toy Photography is one of those subset hobbies in geekdom that’s pretty daunting from an outsider. It used to be that toy photographers would need to spend thousands of pesos to purchase photography equipment, on top of the payments for the toys they need to take a picture of.
However, with the steady update of smartphones and their corresponding camera optics, smartphones have become a solid alternative for taking toy photographs. What used to be a very expensive entry point into the hobby has changed into something more affordable and attainable even for everyman.
If you’re one of those people who want to start trying their hands at taking pics of their toys but can’t afford to spend oodles and oodles of money just yet. Here are three entry-level smartphones that you can try your hands on to start your toy photography journey.
The skinny: Entry-Level smartphones
What we have onboard are three smartphones coming from Xiaomi, realme, and Vivo. They’re the Xiaomi Redmi 9T, realme C15, and the Vivo Y20i.
So for this post, what I’m going to look for on the three phones would be:
Ease of use for total photography newbies
Untouched quality of shots
As mentioned, this article focuses on entry-level toy photography. This means if you’re a person who has no background in photography and is simply looking to dip your toe into the hobby, then this article is for you.
This article won’t focus on the more advanced strategies such as shoot tweaks via the phone’s pro mode, or even setting up lighting or even dioramas for your toy shoots or post-processing. We’re focusing on the out-of-the-box, default capabilities of each phone in terms of toy photography.
So without further ado, here we go!
Xiaomi Redmi 9T
For the test shots of the Xiaomi Redmi 9T, I used the Palamute and Magnamalo amiibos that came with the Monster Hunter Rise Collector’s edition. I used the pro setting (default settings), default photo shoot mode, and the 48MP shoot mode of the smartphone.
Xiaomi Redmi 9T Default Photo Shoot Mode
From L-R: Normal shoot mode with 1.0x / Normal shoot mode with 2.0x
Xiaomi Redmi 9T Pro Shoot Mode (Default settings)
From L-R: Normal pro mode with 1.0x / Normal pro mode with 2.0x
Xiaomi Redmi 9T 48MP
What really shines with the Xiaomi Redmi 9T is the 48MP shoot mode of the camera. You can clearly see from the shots I took that there are far more discernible details compared to the regular shoot mode of the phone. What I liked with the 48MP Shoot mode too is that you don’t have to deal with any settings to show really great shots unlike the pro shoot mode of the phone. You can pretty much point and shoot, and with proper lighting, you get great shots.
Moving next to the realme C15. Unlike the Xiaomi Redmi 9T which has at least three photoshoot modes you can use, the realme C15 has two modes that fit toy photography- the default photo shoot mode and the Pro (expert) shoot mode.
realme C15 normal shoot mode
realme C15 Pro (expert) Shoot Mode
For the realme C15’s case, there is little difference between the two shoot modes. Unless you want to fine-tweak the pro expert shots, the default photoshoot mode provides the same shots as the pro expert mode. This however isn’t really bad since both modes provide sharp details. However, those shots do look a bit rougher compared to the 48MP shots of the Xiaomi Redmi 9T.
Of course, the last but not least, the Vivo Y20i. Similar to the realme C15, the Vivo Y20i has only two shoot modes from the default camera app that you can use for photography. And like the realme C15, both shoot modes provide the same quality of shots.
Vivo Y20i normal shoot mode
Vivo Y20i pro shoot mode
However, the Vivo Y20i takes softer-looking shots compared to the realme C15. In fact, the photos I took using Vivo look a bit smokier than the realme C15, and that would affect much of your shot’s quality.
Side by Side: Best of the three phones
To showcase what the three phones have to offer, I also took shots of the Magnamalo amiibo to compare each phone’s best shoot mode. For the Xiaomi Redmi 9T, I chose the 48MP shoot mode, while for both the realme C15 and Vivo Y20i I chose the pro or the phone’s corresponding pro shoot mode.
As you can see, in terms of the photo quality, both the Xiaomi Redmi 9T and the realme C15 provide better quality shots than the Vivo Y20i. The only big difference is your preference between the harsher colors and details from the C15 or the softer but more vibrant colors from the Xiaomi Redmi 9T.
Shots: Best of the three phones
In terms of my decision between the three, I’d choose the Xiaomi Redmi 9T because I’d like softer detailed shots for my toy shots. While the realme C15 is a close second since the sheer details you can see, even if the shots look a bit rougher or harsher do stand out.
To add to the decision, the Xiaomi Redmi 9T offers better performance than the realme C15 which are both in the same price range. In fact, the Xiaomi Redmi 9T costs ₱7,990 with the 6GB RAM/128GB ROM capacity while the realme C15’s 4GB RAM/ 128GB ROM configuration at the same price. Meanwhile, the Vivo Y20i is in the ₱8,990-price range but has a lower ROM capacity of 64GB.
That’s why the Xiaomi Redmi 9T beats the realme C15 on three factors: (1) ease of use; and, (2) amount of shoot modes you can use. As my stipulation for this comparison post, one of my biggest factors is the ease of use for newbies. And since the 48MP shoot mode, pretty much point and shoot, newbie toy photographers can easily take great shots outside of the box. Factor number 2 would be the number of shoot modes you can use in the Xiaomi Redmi 9T. While the realme C15 has two usable shoot modes, the Xiaomi Redmi 9T has three that you can easily interchange with. Of course, the 48MP would be the more obvious choice for a more detailed shot, the other two modes can easily be swapped in if you are unable to set up a diorama for your toys. Lastly, (3) price point. Pricewise, the Xiaomi Redmi 9T offers better value for money, providing not only more shooting options for starting toy enthusiasts but also more storage than the realme C15 at the same price.