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This bright orange phone has a pop-out camera unlike anything I’ve seen before

The Tecno Phantom X2 Pro is a confusing phone. It has this clever, unusual, and actually very capable pop-out camera that makes you want to know more. Simply put, it’s an enticing package.

But then, when you do explore, the rest of the camera and the phone itself can be quite disappointing. There’s a lot to unpack about this odd phone, so let’s get started.

Who is Tecno, and what is the Phantom X2 Pro?

The Tecno Phantom X2 Pro held in a person's hand.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Tecno Mobile sells smartphones in 70 different countries, but you won’t find them in the U.S., and you probably won’t recognize any of the brand’s previous smartphone models either, even if you’re a die-hard mobile fan. You may have heard of Infinix, though, and both it and Tecno are owned by the same company, Transsion.

What made us pay attention to the Phantom X2 Pro? It has a pop-out camera on the back. Motorized cameras aren’t really anything new, but we’ve not seen one quite like this before. The 50-megapixel camera extends out a short distance from the body of the phone and promises to take portrait photos with a strong depth of field for that desirable blurred background look. The 65mm focal length and f/1.49 aperture certainly make it technically impressive. It’s joined by another 50MP main camera and a 13MP wide-angle camera.

The recycled plastic rear panel on the Tecno Phantom X2 Pro.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The rest of the phone is made up of a 6.8-inch AMOLED screen with a 120Hz refresh rate, a MediaTek Dimensity 9000 processor, 12GB of RAM, 5G connectivity, and a 5,160mAh battery. It comes in either a grey color or the unusual Mars Orange seen in our photos. The rear panel is made from recycled plastic and has a textured, almost fibrous finish. It feels more like fluffy cardboard than plastic and is unlike anything I’ve seen before on a phone. I really like it.

In your hand, the Phantom X2 Pro feels like many Huawei and Oppo phones from around 2019, with a gently curved screen meeting the chassis. It’s fairly slim at 8.9mm and averagely weighted at 212 grams, but the camera module on the back is not pretty at all. In black, it has nowhere to hide against the bright orange rear panel and draws even more attention to itself with the orange ring around the extendable camera. It’s not hideous, but it’s certainly not pretty, either.

What’s special about the camera

The side of the Tecno Phantom X2 Pro with the camera extended.
The Tecno Phantom X2 Pro’s camera extended Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The camera module may not grab attention due to its design, but the child in me loves to see cameras popping out the back of phones — and the Phantom X2 Pro satisfies that need, but does it actually make any difference to the photos you take? The camera extends when you tap the 2.5x option in the viewfinder, and a gloriously natural depth of field is added to your photos. This isn’t like a portrait mode with artificial blur, it looks more like a DSLR. Take a look at the gallery below to see what I mean.

The shot of the Porsche emblem is my favorite. The camera focused exactly where I wanted it to, and kept the water droplets in focus along with the emblem, then added a strong background blur — giving the photo depth and visual interest. The photo of the flowering plant shows how you can play around with the focus too. Remember, this isn’t digitally manipulated blur, it’s natural blur added by the camera lens. I like how sharply focused the flowers are, and how isolated they are in the photo.

You need to experiment with the Phantom X2 Pro’s camera to get the right look, though, and not every photo taken with the extended camera looks good, something we will come on to next. However, it’s exactly the type of feature I like, as it prompts you to mess around with it, and I know it can take some amazing photos in the right circumstances. It’s different, fun, and makes me want to go out and take photos — just to see what it can do.

Tecno also says the camera is good at taking photos of action scenes in which an object, like a car, is moving quickly. I haven’t had much of a chance to try this out, but in the photos I’ve taken, it’s hard to see any difference over other powerful smartphone cameras.

This weird camera hits … and misses

After the success of the pop-out camera, the Phantom X2 Pro gets confusing. Not every photo you take is a winner, and it goes to show just how important software tuning is to provide a consistent look to your photos, plus how a very interesting hardware feature needs great software to really bring out its best. It’s not that the Phantom X2 Pro’s camera is all bad, it’s the inconsistency that really annoys me.

In the gallery above, take particular note of the two sunset photos. The first is rather nice, with the pleasing tone of the golden sun, the growing ground mist in the distance, and the chilliness of the air all captured very effectively. The next photo is the same scene taken with the wide-angle camera, and it’s bad. From the noise on the wall to the poor focus and lack of detail, it’s a genuinely poor photo.

This was in challenging lighting conditions, so what about a daylight comparison? The other sets of photos in the gallery show how the main camera can take a pretty photo with a lovely atmosphere, and then how the wide-angle camera ruins it with edge distortion, poor focus, and all kinds of odd artifacts and errors. The main camera doesn’t escape inconsistency either, and it can badly misjudge colors. The Tecno Phantom X2 Pro’s camera is all over the place.

What about the rest of the phone?

This was the first time I’d used a Tecno phone, so it was also an introduction to the brand’s HiOS version of Android 12. Compared to operating systems like Samsung’s OneUI and Android on a Pixel phone, it’s dense and overly complicated, with multiple swipe-down and slide-in panels all providing “features” of dubious usefulness. There are a lot of pre-installed apps, many of them duplicating Google apps, plus at least one additional app store too. The screen’s responsiveness is inconsistent as well.

Performance is adequate, but overall the optimization isn’t very good. The camera app, in particular, can be slow to respond, and you regularly have to prod and poke the 2.5x button multiple times to get the extendable camera to pop out. The system lacks polish, but I have been using the phone ahead of release, so software updates may cure the slow response in the future. I haven’t been inspired to use it as my main phone, though.

Who doesn’t like a camera that pops out the back of a phone? Especially when it’s a bright orange phone! #TECNOphantomX2 pic.twitter.com/0VRStVnsFs

— Andy Boxall (@AndyBoxall) December 7, 2022

This is a shame, as the pop-out camera is fun to use and really does take photos that other camera phones can’t. But when the rest of the camera is so inconsistent, and the phone’s software, in general, is packed with off-putting apps and duplicate features (Tecno even installs its own virtual assistant alongside Google Assistant), one standout feature isn’t enough to tempt me.

I’ll be watching what Tecno does in the future because the pop-out camera shows it’s not afraid to innovate — Tecno just needs to address the rest of the phone and the software to make the whole package similarly enticing.

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