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9 phones with the most interesting camera tricks: iPhone X, Note 9 and more

From pop-up selfie cams to thermal imaging and face tracking, we look at phones with the unique camera features.


Lynn La

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Doing more than just snapping pics

These days, it takes a lot more than capturing clear photos and video to impress a phone buyer. From tech giants like Apple and Samsung, to less well-known companies like Asus and Cat, many phone makers deck out their cameras with a little something extra. Whether or not these goodies are actually useful or just a mere party trick is up for debate, but check out these phones that have interesting camera features.

2 of 10 Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple iPhone X

Though many phones have facial recognition, Apple's method on its iPhone X uses a unique technology it has branded as Face ID. It employs an infrared camera, a depth sensor and a dot projector to map out 30,000 points on your face and create an artificial 3D scan. Though it's not infallible, Face ID is secure enough to use for digital payments through Apple Pay, and you can use it to send fun animated emojis.

3 of 10 Angela Lang/CNET

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

The Note 9 comes with AI software that analyzes a scene and quickly detects if you're shooting a flower, food, a dog, a person or something else entirely. There are 20 scenic categories, then the camera optimizes white balance, saturation and contrast to make photos pop. In addition, the phone's S-Pen stylus can trigger different camera actions. In a couple of clicks, you can open the camera app, flip the camera around and take a photo.

4 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

Google Pixel 2

The Pixel 2 may not have a secondary rear camera or any fancy extra hardware, but it does contain a feature that makes it one of the better phones to record video with. The phone's rear camera combines optical image stabilization with gyro-based electronic image stabilization, the latter of which can be toggled on and off. Together, they make for super smooth and natural-looking video. Let's just hope its upcoming Pixel 3 successor can do the same if not better.

5 of 10 James Martin/CNET

LG V35 ThinQ

The V35 ThinQ has two 16-megapixel cameras on the back. One is a standard lens and the other is a wide-angle, which lets you capture more content in each frame. Similar to the Note 9, the phone has an "AI Cam" feature (specific to LG's ThinQ-branded phones), which enables the camera to identify more than a thousand objects and images, then group these things into 18 different categories like a person, cityscape or food. It'll then auto-adjust the camera settings accordingly and suggest filters.  

6 of 10 Angela Lang/CNET

Oppo Find X

Like the iPhone X, the Find X's Face Unlock feature uses a secure 3D scanning method. Oppo's supplier boasts a 0.0001 percent false recognition rate and payment-level authentication. In addition, it has a module for rear and selfie cameras that slides up when you want to take a shot. The pop-up camera array may sound gimmicky, but it's actually a clever idea that frees up screen real estate and helps keeps the phone's backing clean and beautiful to behold.

Vivo Nex
7 of 10 James Martin/CNET

Vivo Nex

As Oppo's sister company, Vivo released a phone with a tucked-away camera as well. Its Nex hides just the 8-megapixel selfie camera, which pops up when you take a selfie. The mechanism feels pretty sturdy too, and unlikely to break.

8 of 10 Patrick Holland/CNET

Huawei P20 Pro

With its mirrored purple back and three rear cameras, the P20 Pro stands out from the crowd. Its setup includes a 40-megapixel main camera, a 20-megapixel monochrome lens to add richness and detail, and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens, which helps in taking portrait mode shots and zoom in up to 3X. Check out our epic iPhone X, Galaxy S9 Plus, Huawei P20 Pro, Pixel 2 camera showdown here.

9 of 10 Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Cat S61

The S61 is one of the most novel phones on this list. Not only is does it have a built-in thermal imaging camera so you can visualize temperatures with some trippy pictures, it packs an air quality sensor and a laser-assisted measuring tool as well.  

10 of 10 Josh Miller/CNET

Asus ZenFone AR

Launched last year, the ZenFone AR was the second phone to support Google's mixture of AR and VR technology after the Phab 2 Pro from 2016. As part of the company's now defunct Tango initiative, it had an additional rear camera to measure distances in 3D. From there, it rendered virtual- and augmented-reality environments through your phone -- which was still pretty neat. 

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