Phantom X2 Pro: Using The World's First Phone With a Pop-Out Portrait Camera

Tecno's global flagship, the Phantom X2 Pro, offers a true background blur effect, unlike the iPhone 14 and Samsung Galaxy S22, which create this effect via software.

Sareena Dayaram Senior Editor
Sareena is a senior editor for CNET covering the mobile beat including device reviews. She is a seasoned multimedia journalist with more than a decade's worth of experience producing stories for television and digital publications across Asia's financial capitals including Singapore, Hong Kong, and Mumbai. Prior to CNET, Sareena worked at CNN as a news writer and Reuters as a producer.
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Sareena Dayaram
5 min read
Tecno Phantom phone
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After dominating in Africa, Tecno aims to make a splash globally with a world first in a smartphone. The Chinese company launched its new Phantom X2 series lineup in Dubai on Wednesday, led by the Phantom X2 Pro, which will sell for roughly $930 when converted from 3,499 Saudi riyal. This phone's headline feature is a retractable 50-megapixel portrait camera, which apparently makes the Phantom X2 Pro the world's first commercially sold smartphone to offer said feature.

In general, the Phantom X2 Pro portrait camera took great pictures whether it was day or night. I was pleased by the clarity and sharpness of the images as well as the natural bokeh effect created by the camera. Many popular smartphones like the iPhone 14 can achieve this background blur effect with the help of their software and depth sensors, but Tecno's Phantom X2 Pro gives you a true bokeh effect. That said, it doesn't have many extra tools and customization for portrait mode like the iPhone 14 does. What the X2 Pro does have is a bunch of filters as well as what I can only call "digital plastic surgery" tools that this phone would be better off without (more on that later).  

Phantom X2 Pro design and specs

Tecno's Phantom X2 Pro is a seriously swanky device that's all but guaranteed to draw double takes. The review unit I received came in a bold orange colorway complete with a textured rear, which Tecno says is composed of discarded plastics recovered from shores around the Indian Ocean. In fact, when I first laid eyes on the X2 Pro I couldn't help but let out a "wow" as I took in the device's vast camera bump sprawled across the striking orange hue. 

Apart from the flashy design and retractable camera, the Phantom X2 Pro has many of the specs you can expect from a 2022 flagship like a sharp 6.8-inch FHD+ display, a Mediatek 9000 processor, solid cameras, fast 45-watt charging and 5G. Compared to Samsung's Galaxy S22, this X2 Pro has faster charging, at least on paper, and the same high resolution. But it doesn't have a telephoto camera and it uses a different chipset, which also held up comparably well on our benchmark tests. 

Tecno Phantom phone
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Tecno Phantom X2 Pro camera

The Phantom X2 Pro also has a formidable camera bump thanks to its retractable camera. It takes the form of a large black squircle, which houses the pop-out portrait camera, along with two other cameras and a flashlight. The portrait camera has a 50-megapixel lens, a 65mm focal length and a large aperture (f 1.49). It definitely evoked feelings of nostalgia for me since you can see and hear the portrait lens pop out of the back of the phone when your switch to portrait mode. 

In practice, the Phantom X2 Pro took wonderful portrait shots that let the subject pop and offered a natural bokeh effect whether it was day or night. The camera also has a shallow depth of field, which makes the subject look sharp relative to the background. You can also take portrait shots with the selfie camera.  

Read more: How to take advantage of the iPhone's portrait mode

But for all the emphasis Tecno put on its portrait camera, it doesn't really stand out from competitors in terms of image quality, even though the natural bokeh effect is commendable. In addition, there's a lack of manual controls, white balance controls and fewer tools for portrait mode compared to the iPhone 14 and earlier iPhones. For instance, the iPhone lets you change the way light appears on your subject, which can make your photo look stylized. 

tecno phantom x2 pro
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I'm also worried that the X2 Pro's retractable camera would undermine the durability of the device. After all, it lacks an official IP rating for water and dust resistance. But Tecno says the retractable portrait lens is waterproof and dustproof, adding that the inside of the lens is sealed as well as the connection between lens and body. That said, the Phantom X2 Pro isn't the first commercially sold phone to boast a retractable camera, even if it's the first to feature a retractable portrait camera. Several years ago, fellow Chinese smartphone makers like Oppo and Vivo beat showed off phones with pop-up selfie cameras like the Vivo Nex and the Oppo Reno 2.

The X2 Pro's 50-megapixel portrait camera is accompanied by a 50-megapixel main camera and a 13-megapixel wide-angle lens. On a standalone basis, I was impressed with the sheer clarity and crispness of the photos, even while zoomed in, as well as the overall richness of the image. You can see the camera in action in the pictures below.

portrait of a golden brown dog named rocky

Taken in a bright room. The Phantom X2 Pro captured a richly colored image of Rocky, his fur and the background. 

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dog fur close up

Rocky's coat zoomed in. The Phantom X2 Pro managed to capture single strands of hair clearly. The device maxes out at 20x digital zoom.

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room with an ocean view

The Phantom X2 Pro managed to capture the indoor environment as well as the outside view clearly. This was a tricky photo for the camera to handle since there was some sunlight pouring into the window.

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ocean and buildings

Zooming in.

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golden brown dog sits

Example of portrait mode image at night.

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Apart from the portrait lens, the Phantom X2 Pro's other major standout photography feature (and not necessarily in a positive way) is its wide range of options for virtual retouching. There were a lot of filters to choose from to jazz up your selfies, but there were also a selection of "digital plastic surgery" choices. You could slim down the size of your waist, make your butt more plump, slim down your shoulders, etc. I am completely against having these sorts of tools feature natively on a phone, as it encourages their use – and there are a lot of mental health implications for this relating to beauty standards and body dysmorphia. It's one thing to download an app that digitally alters your physical appearance. Having that functionality baked right into your phone's camera takes it to a whole new level.

Tecno Phantom's photo editing screen

On the panel below, you can digitally alter your physical features by choosing from the panel below.

Overall, I am impressed with the Phantom X2 Pro, Tecno's first major global flagship phone. Not only has it made smartphone history, but this phone has a daring design, a crystalline display and solid cameras including that pop-out portrait lens. While it lacks some of the software features of its rivals, some may take consolation in the fact that this phone offers a true bokeh effect instead of an artificial one. That said, it's still hard to recommend buying this phone over a Galaxy S22 or Galaxy S22 Plus unless you're truly determined to own a phone with a pop-out portrait camera. The Phantom X2 Pro is set to launch in India, parts of Africa, and the Middle East later this month ahead of a wider international release thereafter.

To learn more details about the Phantom X2 Pro, check out our specs chart below.

Tecno Phantom phone
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Tecno Phantom X2 Pro specs

Phantom X2 Pro
Display size, resolution, refresh rate 6.8-inch AMOLED, FHD + (1080x2340 pixels), 120Hz
Pixel density TBC
Dimensions (millimeters) 164.6 x 72.7 x 8.9mm
Weight (ounces, grams) TBC
Mobile software Android S
Camera 50-megapixel (retractable portrait lens), 50-megapixel (main), 13-megapixel (wide angle)
Front-facing camera 32-megapixel (front camera)
Video capture 4K
Processor Media Dimensity 9000 chip
Storage/RAM 12GB + 256 GB
Expandable storage None
Battery/Charger 5160 mAh, 45W fast charging
Fingerprint sensor Under display
Connector USB-C
Headphone jack None