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We've experienced a notable rise in budget smartphone camera quality in recent times, and the EE Harrier Mini would appear to confirm that. It's an 8-megapixel unit, which is much higher than the 5-megapixel standard we've grown used to.
By default, however, you'll find that it's set to take 6-megapixel snaps in a 16:9 aspect ratio. Bump it up to full 8MP and you'll be forced into a squarer 4:3 view, with thick black borders appearing in the app accordingly.
Regardless of aspect ratio, though, you can capture some reasonable images in ideal conditions. It's certainly capable of far more than we used to expect from sub-£100 smartphones – at least when it comes to evenly lit close-to-medium distance shots.
As soon as you switch to taking anything more challenging, such as a landscape shot with any kind of variance in dynamic range, the Harrier Mini struggles. There's an HDR mode here, but it doesn't kick in automatically. This turns out to be a good thing, because it's not very good at all.
Hit the HDR toggle and you're in for some weird, unreal shots filled with fuzzy edges and over-exposed mid-ground elements. You're better off leaving the HDR toggle off most if not all of the time.
The camera app, too, is a bit of a misstep. It appears to be a custom job from EE, and while the controls are intuitive and well laid out, there are a couple of issues.
It can very slow to boot up for one thing – though inconsistently so. Sometimes it was there as soon as I pressed the camera app icon, while sometimes it seemed to take seconds to appear.
Another thing I found irritating was the Motorola-like touch-to-shoot system that EE has employed as its default setting. While you touch the screen to focus, like on any other smartphone, here you'll also automatically take a snap whenever you do.
That would be tolerable if the focusing system was more reliable. As it is, you'll often find yourself taking lots of out-of-focus snaps of the same thing, when all you wanted to do was find the right level of focus and then use the shutter button (which still exists here) to take a single accurate shot.
Fortunately you can toggle this off, but how many EE Harrier Mini buyers will even think to fiddle with the menus in this way, I wonder?
Talking of the menu toggles, I also found that the Harrier Mini would take these touch-to-shoot snaps when I was in fact touching the edge area where the settings commands live.
Again, all of these criticisms should be tempered by the fact that this is a budget smartphone. You're still getting a fair performance for your £100, and you'll certainly take the odd snap that will surprise you with its quality. Regardless of budget, however, the Harrier Mini's camera simply isn't consistent or reliable enough.
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