Tecno's Phantom X2 Pro phone has a pop-out portrait lens for 'pure' bokeh

A 'world-first' feature from a brand that's better known in emerging markets.

Richard Lai/Engadget

Many smartphones these days offer artificial bokeh in their portrait photography modes, but with the help of a retractable camera, you can achieve true optical bokeh without missing any edges. Chinese brand Tecno is now bringing such a feature to its latest flagship device, the Phantom X2 Pro 5G, which packs a "world-first" pop-out portrait lens. This is just a little over two years after Xiaomi showed off a retractable 120mm-equivalent wide aperture lens, but it never left the prototype stage.

Tecno's intriguing portrait camera has a 50-megapixel resolution with a relatively large 1/2.7-inch sensor and 1.28um pixel size. Optically, this 2.5x zoom lens offers an f/1.49 aperture, 65mm focal length and 18.9cm depth of field. When you switch to portrait mode in the camera app, you can see (and hear) the portrait lens physically pop out on the back of the phone. This is complemented with Tecno's "self-developed" beautification mode with upgraded make-up settings — up to three faces are supported in each image.

I had a chance to shoot some portraits with my Phantom X2 Pro 5G earlier today, and with the exception of the aggressive skin smoothing, my subjects were quite pleased with the natural bokeh, optimized brightness and virtually non-existent distortion.

Tecno Phantom X2 Pro 5G
Richard Lai/Engadget

There's more on this amusingly large camera island. The 50-megapixel main shooter uses Samsung's 1/1.3-inch GNV ISOCELL 3.0 sensor, which offers 1.2um pixel size and is supported with an f/1.85 aperture. You'll also find a 13-megapixel ultra-wide angle camera nearby, as well as a 32-megapixel front camera on the other side of the phone — in the form of a punch-hole near the top of the curved 6.8-inch AMOLED screen (2,400 x 1,080 resolution, 120Hz refresh rate; Gorilla Glass Victus).

The Phantom X2 Pro 5G is powered by a MediaTek Dimensity 9000, which is a 4nm octa-core processor — similar to the faster Dimensity 9000+ found in ASUS' ROG Phone 6D series. It also packs 12GB of LPDDR5X RAM and 256GB of UFS 3.1 storage, along with a generous 5,160mAh battery with 45W fast charging support. While this phone lacks an IP rating, a company rep claimed that the retractable portrait lens is waterproof and dustproof — the interior of the lens is apparently sealed, and likewise with the connection between the lens and the body. Still, it's probably best to avoid the water when you're carrying this device.

Tecno's new phone runs on a customized Android 12 system dubbed HiOS 12, which features an AI gallery with face recognition and editing functions, along with some productivity tools (built-in translator, file scanner with text and PDF conversion etc.) and a connection speed optimization engine. Tecno added that its device passed TÜV Rheinland's fluency test over a 36-month simulation, meaning its storage memory performance shouldn't deteriorate much (read: fragmentation) during the same period in real life; but we'll take this claim with a pinch of salt for now.

Tecno will initially be launching the Phantom X2 Pro 5G in markets including India, Nigeria, Kenya, Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Turkey, and the Philippines from the end of December, and it'll reach over 60 markets globally later (we're waiting for specific details on Western markets). The device will be available in "Stardust Grey" and "Mars Orange," with the latter featuring an eco-friendly back cover composed of plastics recovered from the shores around the Indian Ocean. Tecno claims that this "Eco-Friendly Edition" reduces carbon emissions by approximately 38 percent when compared to virgin plastics, "with each individual cover producing an estimated 2.4g fewer emissions on average."

If you manage to come across a Phantom X2 Pro, the asking price is around $930 (based on the 3,499 Riyal price tag in Saudi Arabia), which is probably difficult to justify for just some natural bokeh. There's also the Phantom X2 which is around $215 cheaper and looks very similar, but it only has 8GB of RAM and lacks a retractable portrait camera; you'll instead get a 64-megapixel main camera and a 2-megapixel depth camera, along with the same 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera and 32-megapixel front camera as the Pro model. The orange option is also replaced by a "Moonlight White" design.