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Vivo V30 Pro Review: Among the Best Affordable Phones for Photography

The Vivo V30 Pro may be a mid-range smartphone, but with Zeiss in the mix, the camera takes a decisive step forward compared to its predecessors. Until now, Vivo reserved its collaboration with Zeiss for its X Series, but no longer. The Zeiss tech makes the more affordable V Series more interesting to photographers.

Vivo has often tried funneling features from X Series models to the V side. While they’ve been coming out in succession too quickly for my taste, this allocation of resources bore more fruit in how well the cameras could manage without Zeiss’ support. Mid-range phones in North America also continue to get better, but the V30 Pro proves it can stand up to all of them.

A vivo smartphone with a reflective silver finish lies on a dark surface. it features a large, square camera module with multiple lenses and a blue zeiss logo.

Design and Build

Vivo tends to experiment with its V models independently of what it does on the X side. The previous V29 had an Aura Light that could change color temperature automatically or by your preference via a slider in the camera app. That light returns with a newer design and a brighter, more comprehensive, and softer output. The implication is that you would primarily use it for low-light shots in Portrait mode, though it’s so widely accessible that you can access it in the camera app in almost every mode available.

The 6.78-inch AMOLED screen (2,800 x 1,260 pixels) is basically the same as in the previousV29, and the glass retains the curved edges on top of that. Interestingly, though, the screen itself doesn’t appear curved making everything you do on the phone look like it’s on a flat screen when it actually isn’t.

Thin and lightweight, the V30 Pro feels nice in hand, but you give up a few things along the way. Unlike the V29’s IP68 protection, this phone is only at IP54, so it’s already more fragile out of the box. There is also no wireless charging, forcing you to plug in to charge when you need to.

A person's hand holding a smartphone, displaying a photograph of a dimly lit corridor with arches on its screen. the real corridor aligns with the image on the phone, creating a framed view.

Glass covers the back panel as well, so it’s excellent that Vivo includes a thin silicone case in the box, even if its level of protection is minimal for accidental falls.

On the inside, Vivo returns to MediaTek for its Dimensity 8200 chipset after using a Qualcomm Snapdragon chip in the V29. My review unit had 12GB of RAM and 512GB storage, whereas other variants have 8GB or 256GB. Vivo’s Extended RAM feature returns to double the memory with 8GB or 12GB of virtual memory from the phone’s idle storage.

It’s also a travel-friendly phone because it supports many bands working in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East. North American networks also work, save for limited 5G connectivity. A dual-SIM tray lets you have two cards simultaneously or run an eSIM in Europe.

Camera Features

With Zeiss on board, the cameras get a boost in a few areas. First, while Zeiss’ T* Coating isn’t here to cover the entire module, the lenses got a boost from the German brand. Second, Zeiss’ presence also means you can use its Natural photographic style over the default Vivid (or optional Texture) for a more authentic approach to your photos. And finally, software computation and processing are now a collaborative effort on the V30 Pro, not unlike how they roll with the X Series phones.

The 50-megapixel main wide camera (23mm equivalent) uses a Sony IMX920 Type 1/1.49-inch sensor with f/1.9 aperture and optical image stabilization. Vivo touts this as a “VCS True Color Main Camera,” a fancy way to say the sensor and software improve color accuracy. The company claims the main camera can produce 25% clearer images with noticeably better color reproduction compared to the V29. As always, pixel binning produces 12.5-megapixel images unless you shoot in High-Resolution mode. Pro mode won’t let you capture photos at full resolution, so it’s your only option.

A hand holding a smartphone capturing a photo of a bustling square in front of a grand gothic cathedral under a cloudy sky. the phone screen displays the cathedral image clearly.

The 50-megapixel telephoto is barely a “telephoto” and more of a prime in that it’s a 50mm equivalent using a Sony IMX816 Type 1/2.5-inch sensor with an f/1.8 aperture and phase detection autofocus. Unfortunately, this lens does not have OIS. Vivo also offers a 4x zoom option that is essentially just a crop factor of this sensor.

For the 50-megapixel ultra-wide (15mm equivalent), Vivo chose to go with the very familiar Samsung Isocell JN1 Type 1/2.76-inch sensor with an f/2.0 aperture. Incidentally, the 50-megapixel front camera uses the exact same sensor as well, which is also unchanged from the previous V29.

A narrow passage between classical stone arches, illuminated by hanging lanterns at dusk, leading to a vivid blue-lit archway in the distance. the path is deserted and creates a serene urban scene.

Software Features

It’s common for vendors to restrict or handicap their mid-ranger cameras, but that isn’t really on brand for Chinese brands these days. Many of the modes and settings available on Vivo’s X phones are here for the taking on the V30 Pro — especially now that Zeiss is involved. All its bokeh effects are in Portrait mode, while standard tools like a level, motion autofocus, and HDR are always just a tap away.

Snapshot mode is a newer addition coming straight from the Vivo X100 Pro to help freeze action, effectively replacing the previous Sports mode. Unfortunately, Vivo chose to remove Long Exposure, leaving you no easy avenue to pursue in taking those, though you still have Supermoon and Astro to work with for the skies.

Ancient ornate metal door knocker featuring a lion's head surrounded by decorative floral patterns on a weathered iron door.

The Aura Light plays a unique role because it’s adjustable and can also be clutch in helping light a scene for someone else’s phone when they take photos. LED flashes are generally harsh with limited range, whereas the Aura Light is noticeably stronger and softer. It also covers warm and cool tones with the onscreen slider, including the option to leave it automated so that it adjusts color temperature on its own based on ambient light. Ideally, it would be great if you could also control brightness. There were times when I could see a soft, warm glow work in composing a photo of a person or object up close, but I couldn’t find the right level because I had no way of setting the brightness.

Image Quality

Main Camera

A more significant change in overall output is in the way the V30 Pro handles light sources, managing not to blow out or clip exposed bulbs or harsh reflections. It’s not going to match the superb output of the X100 Pro, but it’s still impressive for a mid-range camera. Dynamic range is solid throughout to help output excellent photos in a variety of conditions. The Zeiss Natural style adds a more authentic side to the array compared to the generally vivid approach previous V phones took by default.

With all that in tow, it’s not a stretch to suggest the V30 Pro is a noticeable improvement over the V29, especially under more varied circumstances. Low-light shots are better, as are the details coming out of all images amounting to a dependable shooter that feels like it punches above its mid-range weight. Noise reduction is another one of those things that helps the cause in making a bigger difference in overall image quality this time as well.

A gothic-style church with a tall spire stands prominently among modern skyscrapers under a clear blue sky.

I have to pick on the Aura Light a little because it’s just ripe for manual dimming. As with the V29, I had to always consider distance when using it up close because I couldn’t control the light’s intensity myself. It may be soft by design, but that really only applies when the subject is a sufficient distance away as to not cause strong shadows — something the phone’s software interprets without user input. It’s less of a problem for portraits of people from the chest up, and more a challenge for anything closer than that, including for pets or babies. If it’s practical, one workaround is to use a tissue, napkin, or regular paper as a diffuser to soften and weaken the intensity further.

Close-up image of sushi rolls with avocado and cucumber on a black plate, garnished with red threads on the side.
I used the Aura Light for this macro photo

Telephoto and Ultra-wide

At a 50mm equivalent, the telephoto lens won’t take you very far optically. It’s great as a prime for portraits and certain subjects, only you’re stuck with the 4x crop if you want to zoom in further, which opens the door to detail loss. The ultra-wide needs a steadier hand in many cases because it can lead to softer details, though I found it very capable under the right conditions. It struggles a little in low light and doesn’t handle exposed light sources as well as the other lenses do, so you run into some limitations based on what you’re snapping.

Interior of a gothic cathedral with soaring vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and a detailed altar bathed in soft light. the structural columns and ornate lamps add to the historical ambiance.

Pro and High Resolution

As I noted earlier, you can’t shoot in RAW at full resolution, leaving you stuck with pixel-binned images in Pro mode. I still like it as one of the go-to modes for Vivo’s phones, and the V30 Pro was the same in that regard. However, High Resolution was a great alternative to get full resolution and images that were good enough to edit in Lightroom. It’s not always the best option in low light, but it is better than it was before, making it possible to get good shots in spite of the smaller pixels. Vivo also now lets you use Aura Light in both modes, correcting a limitation it imposed on the V29, so good news if you want both the extra detail and soft light.

A motion-blurred subway train passing behind a platform sign with warnings "mind the gap" and "no smoking" at a station. yellow safety line visible on platform edge.

Video Features

Improvements on the still photo side translate over to video as well, with the V30 Pro outdoing its predecessor in terms of both quality and options. The Aura Light is now an option on the various video modes, filling another omission from the V29 that only enabled the regular LED in the same situation. You can record in 4K at 30 or 60 frames per second in all lenses and modes except for the telephoto, which is limited to 30fps. You can unlock 24fps if you switch to the Zeiss Cinematic style in the standard Video mode, though you’re limited to 1080p when doing so.

Micro Movie is a unique mode focused on social media that prioritizes video capture in shorter snippets and in upright portrait orientation. It gives you less manual control over settings yet provides a select number of styles and categories to choose from before capturing a scene. Dual View is neat because it lets you decide which two cameras you want to record with simultaneously. It’s a terrific way to capture a scene relatively close with the main wide lens while getting a broader look with the ultra-wide. Unfortunately, there’s no way to use the telephoto this way.

Interior of a gothic chapel with vaulted ceilings, wooden pews, and an ornate altar featuring a statue of a figure in a blue robe. decorative stonework and a chandelier enhance the historical ambiance.

Are There Alternatives?

The V30 Pro is top-class as a mid-range phone and has competitors who can give it a good run. The Xiaomi 13T Pro is a good example with its array of settings and features, though it can’t match Vivo’s phone in handling light as it’s more susceptible to lens flare. The OnePlus 12R doesn’t involve Hasselblad yet it is an improvement for OnePlus in several ways. Plus, the company offers some of the most generous trade-in incentives on the market.

The Google Pixel 7a is similar to the V30 Pro in that it has many of the features and image quality benefits that its flagship brethren offer. If you’re inclined, you may want to wait for an anticipated Pixel 8a, which may take that up a notch. For iOS users, the iPhone 15 is the most mid-range you’ll find in Apple’s lineup that is in the same generation.

A commuter train seen through a chain-link fence, traveling on multiple tracks, captured from an overhead perspective. the train, predominantly white, moves away from the viewer.

Should You Buy It?

Yes, if you’re looking for real bang for the buck in mid-range mobile photography. Even more so if you find the Aura Light particularly interesting or useful. At roughly $550 USD, the V30 Pro is a great deal wherever you can find it online.

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