How does an experienced photographer get on with a smartphone she’s never used before? Denise Maxwell, a professional ‘all rounder’ skilled in a range of genres, tries out the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold.

In partnership with TECNO

As a photographer my phone is important to me. It’s nowhere near replacing my mirrorless cameras or DSLRs, but there are many cases when it is my camera. I’ve had images taken on phone that have been published in the UK press, so it’s important that any phone I use meets the high standards I need.

At the recent Mobile World Congress show in Barcelona, I got to try out the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold. TECNO is a Chinese smartphone maker and while its phones are well-known in Africa and other parts of the developing world, the name is less recognised in the UK.

Tecno stand at MWC
TECNO’s stand at the MWC show in Barcelona. Credit: Denise Maxwell

On first impressions, the phone stands up well against any of its competitors. The handset is sleek, feels well made, and is a similar weight to other fold phones. Furthermore, the fold opens smoothly, and the crease is not visible when you are working on the open screen. For only £850 or so on eBay, the PHANTOM V Fold seems to be phenomenal value for money, as so many similar phones cost almost double this.

Tecno product shot flipped out
A great-looking phone with lots of screen ‘real estate.’

As a photographer, I do not want to spend nearly as much on a phone as I do on a camera. I simply can’t justify spending £1500 on a phone that will need to be upgraded in a couple years.

TECNO PHANTOM V Fold: at a glance

  • 50MP f/1.9 main camera, PDAF
  • 50MP f/2.0 telephoto camera, PDAF (2x)
  • 13MP f/2.2 ultra-wide-angle, PDAF
  • 16MP f/2.5 inner selfie-camera
  • 32MP f/2.5 outer selfie-camera
  • 7.85inch folding screen, AMOLED, 120Hz, 1100nits
  • 6.42inch cover screen, AMOLED, 120Hz, 1100nits
  • MediaTek Dimensity 9000+ sensor
  • 5000mAh battery

Capturing accurate skin tones with TECNO

As with many readers, I used phones a lot for photography during the recent lockdown, and a few things soon become obvious. First, not all smartphones are created equal when it comes to camera performance.

Second, it soon became blatantly obvious how many phones were terrible at managing skin complexions, particularly black skin. One of the main selling point of TECNO’s phones is the inclusion of software that reads and reproduces all skin tones correctly, especially from dark to light skin tone. After hearing this, they had my attention!

Tecno universal tone chart
Image credit: Denise Maxwell/TECNO

Imagine being able to shoot of group of friends with different skin tones standing together and each one comes out looking great. TECNO’s newest model includes ‘Universal Tone’ technology which uses AI to accurately capture skin tones, and even though the PHANTOM lacks this, it has recently been leveraged on newly launched TECNO CAMON 30 Series.

TECNO’s research established 268 different skin tones, coming up with a large database that is the most detailed in the industry. Indeed, the company has worked with a range of parties, including the BBC and professors from top universities, to further this concept of ‘inclusive portraiture.’

Tecno skin tone statement
Credit: TECNO

This is a game changer for me, as it has been a major decision in not upgrading my phone yet. I didn’t like the idea of spending good money on a phone I was not completely happy with, particularly if the camera performance had been optimised for white skin.

Image quality is clear and sharp, and when shooting black people against a white background, the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold captured various complexions accurately and well. I have owned other phones that would struggle with this and prioritise getting the white background correct instead of the black skin tones in front of the white background! (there have been so many articles written about this over the years).

Tecno advertorial photo  shoot
Credit: Denise Maxwell

This photo above was taken at a studio photoshoot in March. The TECNO PHANTOM V Fold automatically managed a number of different skin tones against the bright white background. With other phones I would have had to correct its automatic reading of the scene, increasing the brightness manually and totally blowing out the white.

Speed and intuitive handling

Another attraction of the phone is its speed. It only takes seconds to access the cameras from the locked screen – all that is needed is a quick double-press of the side button.

Tecno Phantom Fold speedy performance
The Tecno Phantom Fold is great when you need to shoot quickly. Credit: Denise Maxwell.

The TECNO PHANTOM V Fold is also very intuitive to use. The phone opens up to look like a tablet, in a similar way to how blogging cameras work. In practice, this means you can preview a photo as you are taking another one if you wish to compare, or show your subject how they look on screen so they can make adjustments or get into a different position.

I really appreciated the size of the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold’s screen, too. If, like me, you are getting to the age where you have to listen to your optician and start wearing glasses you were prescribed years ago, being able to review images on a huge 7.75-inch screen really helps.

It allows a fully immersive experience, not only for work, but also for watching TV programmes while travelling. The dual split screen also makes multi-tasking a lot easier, meaning I could leave my laptop at home.

Tecno Phantom Fold screen out
Credit: Joshua Waller

You get a lot of choices when it comes to cameras. The phone offers a 50MP f/1.9 wide camera, a 50MP f/2 telephoto and a 13MP f/2.2 ultrawide, along with a 32MP f/2.5 cover camera and 16 MP f/2.5 selfie camera. So there are lots of options, particularly when you need wider angle shots, and even the selfie camera, which I wouldn’t tend to use for my photography, delivers good results (a neat feature enables you instantly take selfies when smiling).

Tecno Phantom Fold selfie
A fast and effective taker of selfies. Credit: Denise Maxwell

When shooting outdoors, the dynamic range is amazing; though the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold does err on the side of over-saturation at times, this can be compensated for, or easily fixed at the editing stage.

Tecno Phantom Fold oversaturation
Any slight oversaturation is easily fixed. Credit: Denise Maxwell.

The battery charges quickly via USB-C, so even if you lose the supplied cable, replacements are cheap and easily found. I was impressed with the battery life, particularly considering I was using the handset for more than just photography. A healthy 12GB of RAM is provided too, which can be expanded by a further 9GB.

The only real downsides are the rather tinny sounding speakers, which I discovered when recording a video of a BBC Radio 6 concert, and the need to buy a separate holder for the phone.

TECNO PHANTOM V Fold final thoughts

So to conclude, the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold is a great all-rounder for photographers. It captures different skin tones amazingly well, thanks to some of the most advanced technology in this area, and is packed with useful features for photographers while staying affordable. The screen is bright and colourful, with a great refresh rate. Plenty of memory is provided, and the TECNO PHANTOM V Fold is very easy on the eye, too. A worthy purchase for any photographer.

Further reading
How to take better smartphone photos