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This Android phone has a camera feature I’ve never used before, and I love it

Vivo V30 Pro with Aura Light held up against a bunch of fake flowers and purple candle on a stand.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

We have all had some amazing moments ruined by flash. That is why the flash’s utility on our phones has largely stayed out of photography and been limited to ensure that we don’t stub our pinky toes while grabbing a snack from the kitchen in the middle of the night.

But as we know from large studio setups, good lighting is vital for images; high-end cameras aim to address the limitation of low light with larger camera sensors and lenses with wider apertures. For phones, unfortunately, the physical dimensions of a camera module do not facilitate that liberty to a great extent. Vivo, which is known for some prodigious phone cameras, has an intuitive solution to the problem — and it involves using a smarter and refined version of the flash.

The recently announced midrange phone, the Vivo V30, features a fill light that dynamically changes intensity and color to brighten up scenes that otherwise appear too dull. Before I dive deeper into the significance of the light, here’s how the Vivo V30 Pro’s camera levels up against flagship phones.

What makes the Vivo V30 Pro’s camera special

Close of a gray Vivo V30 Pro's camera module with T* Zeiss lens coating held against a printed cloth.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Vivo has a long history of exceptional cameras on smartphones, and its recent generations of the X series attest to that notion. It’s not just me who says this; multiple other phone reviewers chime in on this sentiment, primarily for the outstanding portrait effects that replicate Zeiss lenses on Vivo’s high-end phones. However, these abilities have remained limited to flagships from the company and are trickling down to the midrange V series for the first time.

Speaking of its hardware, the Vivo V30 Pro comes with a 50-megapixel Sony IMX 920 sensor, which is also seen on the Vivo X100 — another phone from the brand that left us stunned with its low-light and portrait abilities. The sensor is exclusive to Vivo and has been tuned for more natural colors, better saturation, and less chromatic aberration. The company also gives it a fancy name: Vivo Camera-Bionic Spectrum, or VCS. Another 50MP telephoto lens with 2x zoom is used for portraits and is the first midrang phone to feature special Zeiss lens coating and portrait camera effects inspired by classic Zeiss lenses such as Biotar, which were previously limited to the X series.

Aura Light on a gray Vivo V30 Pro held by a man in the hand against a circular mirror.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

What makes the V30 Pro stand out from the rest of the crowd — within and outside the company — is its Aura Light. The Aura Light is a square-shaped fill light at the bottom of the camera module. Integrated as a central feature of the phone’s camera, the Aura Light’s colors (from warm to cool white) and intensity can change automatically based on dominant colors in the frame and the distance from the subject.

To me, using the Aura Light has been a transformative experience, and it makes me feel that every phone camera must have this feature. Below, I will try to prove my point with a series of images I took without and with the Aura Light and emphasize the improvements (or, in certain cases, the deterioration that is easily correctable).

The difference Vivo’s Aura Light makes

Vivo V30 Pro's Aura Light brightening a man's face.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

The Vivo V30 Pro’s Aura Light may appear to be a simple fill light — yet another feature you need to spend time mastering. But spending time with it made me realize the importance of more light, especially in low-light scenarios, and why a smart yet intuitive fill light makes such a difference.

Contrary to my initial expectations, the Aura Light is not at all difficult to use, and while it works automatically, you can also take control in your hands and set the colors manually. For the sake of representing the majority of users, I took all of the photos with automatic settings.

Below are the biggest benefits of the Vivo V30 Pro’s Aura Light.

Visibly brighten images

The benefits of Vivo V30 Pro’s Aura Light are visible from the get-go. The two images below compare the same dimly lit scene with aggressive background lighting without (left) and with the fill light. The image on the right easily has much better details. Every bit of the image, from the contours of my face to my glasses and the seams and buttons on the shirt, is much more evident in the image on the right.

Comparison between pictures of a man taken in dim red light without and with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

The phone also automatically adjusts the warmth in the Aura Light’s white color according to the scene, resulting in an even and subtle fill effect instead of flooding the image entirely with white light.

Vivo’s primary camera uses the same underlying 50MP sensor as the more expensive X100, but that does not immediately warrant the same image quality. The X100 uses a much wider f/1.6 camera aperture compared to the V30 Pro’s f/1.9 aperture, which results in really bright images even in extremely dim ambiance. Additionally, it is backed by a flagship MediaTek Dimensity 9300 chip and an in-house V2 co-processor specifically to handle automatic processing when the image is clicked, and these features combine to make the X100 a marvel of a camera phone that captures images on par with some entry-level DSLR cameras.

While the Vivo V30 Pro lacks the same muscle power as the X100, it shows similar stamina when capturing low-light images using the Aura Light. The comparison below shows three images: the leftmost captured with the V30 Pro without the Aura Light, the middle one with the Aura Light, and the rightmost image clicked with the Vivo X100. The picture in the middle evidently is the sharpest and has the highest details among all three, and the Aura Light’s advantage — despite its middling innards — shines through.

Comparison between pictures of a man taken in dim red light without and with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash while a third one is captured with the Vivo X100.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

In scenes with a little more light, the Aura Light is handy for brightening the shadows. As you can see in the images below, the light only brightens otherwise dark parts of the image without disrupting the composition or even significantly impacting the mood of the picture. Understandably, some reflective bits, such as the container with the bamboo lid in the front, may get brighter than what is desirable. However, it is easier to selectively cut back on the lighting in an overexposed area without losing quality than trying to brighten up a dim image, as I will show with some examples below.

Comparison between pictures of a woman taken in dim indoor light without and with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Adjust colors intelligently

Besides filling images with more light, the Vivo V30 Pro is capable of smartly adjusting the light’s color between an extremely warm yellow and a cool white — beyond a range possible with earlier V series phones. The actual warmth or coolness of the light is determined by three factors: the subject’s position in the frame, their distance from the camera, and the dominant colors of the surroundings.

In the next set of images, I demonstrate how the distance and frame composition affect the colors of the Aura Light, starting with a couple of images taken with the 2x telephoto camera. The light flushes my face with a pinkish tone (by pushing the color to a deep orangish-yellow) in line with my shirt’s peach, but it does so without oversaturating the face. As also demonstrated in the previous comparisons, the image with Aura Light captures a lot more details without any artificial-looking enhancements.

Comparison between pictures of a man taken outdoors at night without and with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

When the same shot is captured using the 1x sensor, and from a longer distance, there is a noticeable difference in the Aura Light’s colors. Instead of a warmer and more intimate tone, the V30 Pro’s light fills the image with a more neutral and softer white.

Comparison between pictures of a man taken outdoors at night without and with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

I wouldn’t necessarily call the wider shot’s colors better than the previous set, but I am not disappointed by the results in the second set.

Make image editing easier

Having more light in the images, thanks to the Vivo V30 Pro’s Aura Light, has another advantage: It leaves more leeway to edit pictures to produce desirable results. Some other times, editing may be necessary to bring back some of the picture’s charm lost as a result of extra light, such as in the case below.

Comparison between pictures of a man taken in dim indoor lighting without and with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

In the set of images above, while the Aura Light improves the amount of details, it also takes away from the mood of the picture with the light on the side only partially lighting up my face. As a remedy, I followed an elementary tutorial by Photo Feaver on YouTube to add a faux shadow across my face and some lower parts of the image. I also adjusted the hues for a slight cinematic effect.

Comparison between pictures of a man taken in dim indoor lighting with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Although the fake shadows and the manipulated colors help create a mood quite distant from what the phone had originally captured, it looks significantly more appealing than the less-spirited version in the image captured with the Aura Light.

To strengthen the case for editing, I applied the same Adobe Lightroom filters over the following sets of images, comprising one photo without and another with Vivo V30 Pro’s Aura Light.

Comparison between pictures of a man taken in dim indoor lighting without and with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

These two sets are the appropriate culmination of my thoughts from above. Firstly, the illumination from the Aura Light already makes a significant difference to the lighting of the images, making my face the central element of the image.

In this particular scenario above, I have tried to recreate two different party lighting effects. The string lighting from the lamp behind forces the camera to reduce the overall brightness of the image, but the Aura Light helps recover much of the area covered in shadows.

Comparison between pictures of a man taken in dim indoor lighting without and with Vivo 30 Pro's Aura fill light flash.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

Secondly, better lighting allows for a wider visual range to fiddle with and more room to add vibrant and dramatic effects to the images. Despite the dynamic effects, the details on my face are more apparent, even with the fake shadow across the face.

As someone with limited experience with Photoshop and Lightroom, I feel proud of the results I was able to create with some help from YouTube tutorials and mostly intuition. Someone with better photo editing skills than me should be able to create more compelling results, even with the tools of their choice.

The V30 Pro sets an example for other brands

Gray Vivo V30 Pro with T* Zeiss lens coating held against a printed cloth.
Tushar Mehta / Digital Trends

The above images are enough evidence that a simple fill light solution improves images to a significant degree. It’s not as simple to implement, though. According to Vivo, there’s significant data passing through the camera pipeline to ensure that the Aura Light pitches precisely colored rays despite the volume and the lack of any dedicated photography-centric co-processors, as seen on Vivo’s flagship devices.

If that got you wondering what is stopping Vivo from putting the Aura Light on more expensive phones with capable cameras, that shouldn’t be a mystery. As visible from some of the images above, the Aura Light can take away from the character of the image in certain cases and might make it more difficult for Vivo phones to capture the same dreamy Zeiss-inspired shots. However, for a midrange phone such as the V30 Pro without the extensive algorithms chasing DSLR-like imagery, the Aura Light makes perfect sense.

In fact, more phones — at least midrangers — should be equipped with such fill lights, even if brands cannot go to lengths to ensure they provide perfect color calibrations. It’s good to see brands such as Nothing already allowing users to use glyph lights to fill dark scenarios. While Nothing may not necessarily be inspired by Vivo, I hope more brands see this as a valuable feature and work toward a common standard to improve low-light photography in general.

Now, here’s the disappointing bit: If you live in the U.S., you can’t buy the Vivo V30 Pro. Even if you manage to, it is basically useless and would not support the majority of U.S. carriers. The Vivo V30 Pro is currently available only in part of Asia for an equivalent of roughly $550, and while it is rumored to also launch in Europe, only the non-Pro variant with an inferior camera can be bought in select parts of Eastern Europe.

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Tushar Mehta
Tushar has a passion for consumer tech and likes to tinker with smartphones, laptops, wearables, smart home devices, and…
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