Vivo X51 5G Review
If camera performance tops the checklist for your next smartphone, then the Vivo X51 5G is well worth a look. Here we have a phone trying new things, being the first that we are aware of to have a gimbal mounted main camera.
This double-ball suspension mount enables the Vivo X51 5G to tackle photo and video scenarios that are simply not possible with other smartphones.
The gimbal is claimed to be 3x more effective than optical stabilisation, so you can be assured to have the best chance of sharp handheld pictures even at night, plus top-drawer video stabilisation performance.
This is about the most versatile camera that we have used in a phone, backed up with a wide array of shooting modes. And it all comes in a premium-feel, thin metal body with curved true edge-to-edge 6.56-inch AMOLED display.
Available now in 'Alpha Grey' and costing £749, the Vivo X51 5G is in-between that mid-tier and flagship price point, pitted against bigger names like the Google Pixel 5, OnePlus 8T and iPhone 12.
Its innards are par for the course of a mid-tier phone; Snapdragon 765G processor and 8GB RAM. Really, that extra £200-300 or so over mid-tier phones is getting you the cutting edge camera tech, and we think it's worth it. (Well we would, wouldn't we?)
Ease of Use
The Vivo X51 5G is a slim and sleek phone wrapped in an attractive metal 'Alpha Grey' shell.
It's thinner than most and the display truly maximises the phone dimensions - it's a gorgeous 6.56-inch AMOLED display that extends into the curved edges of the phone.
Featuring a 600,000:1 contrast ratio and FHD+ display (2376x1080) made from Schott glass, you get a crisp and clear view in the majority of scenarios, save for the brightest of outdoors lighting.
This is not quite the largest display size around, nor is the pixel density (and therefore detail quality) top drawer, but it's plenty big enough for us and should even satisfy moderate gaming use with a 90Hz refresh rate.
Crucially too, when factoring its thin profile, the Vivo X51 5G can be used single-handed quite comfortably, including the quick unlock via the in-screen fingerprint scanner.
A grippy clear case is supplied with the phone so you can keep enjoying that smart exterior with a firm hold, plus a protective film is applied to the screen. The film does pick up scratches, but at least it's doing the job.
Thin dimensions means no headphone jack. Where more and more mid-tier phones are bringing back the jack, we're getting into flagship territory here and you'll need a Bluetooth enabled headset instead.
A benefit of no jack is that it's easier to design the phone with an IP rating. Sadly, despite no jack, there's no water proofing or resistance here. Given the phone already has a metal body and tough display, an IP rating would have sealed the deal for us. Shame. Maybe next time, Vivo?
Battery life is decent - you get a 4,135mAh unit that in general use comfortably lasts a day and goes into the next. Of course, use the phone heavily or sparingly and your experience will differ.
A 33W USB-C charger is supplied with the phone and it's possible to get a 65% charge in as little as 30 minutes. This is the sort of performance we'd expect at this price point.
Inside is the increasingly common mid-tier Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G processor, backed up with a reasonable 8GB of RAM. Also, as its name suggest, the Vivo X51 5G is compatible with the 5G network.
Cheaper phones are available with the same processor, or in limited cases the even more powerful 865G processor. However, the phone feels perfectly supported by Snapdragon 765G. Programmes load instantly, everything flows. This processor feels top drawer.
The operating system is Funtouch OS 10 Global. Heard of that before? Well, anyway, you wouldn't know it, because on the surface you'd think that this Chinese-brand Android phone shared the same OS as a Google Pixel.
Storage is built-in only, though you get an ample 256GB. So, no memory card slot, no headphone jack, really this phone design is as paired back as they come.
The focus for this phone is clear, in fact it's spelled out on the top of the phone; 'professional photography'. Any area where cutbacks have been made - like not offering the top-end processor - are instead pumped into the camera tech.
As we have mentioned in the introduction, the gimbal mounted main camera is the star of the show, but there is so much more around it too.
The rear camera block packs four lenses. Yet, unlike on many other four-lens-camera-blocks, the Vivo X51 features four genuine lenses; 15mm f/2.2 (0.6x), 25mm f/1.6 (1.0x), 51mm f/2.5 (2x) and 128mm f/3.4 (5x), plus a digital zoom up to 60x.
The super wide and 5x telephoto lenses use 8MP, the mid-telephoto is 13MP while the main camera is 12MP, although a high-res 48MP is also available via a dedicated shooting mode. Switch to the selfie camera and it's a 25mm f/2.5 lens with 32MP resolution.
As standard, full-size pictures are 4:3 aspect ratio, although you can shoot in 1:1 or 16:9 aspect ratio. Speaking of 16:9, you get 4K videos up to 60fps when using the rear camera, but videos are capped to 1080p with the selfie camera.
In video mode there is a 3D sound recording, but again this is only available in 1080p at 30fps. Without comparison, we don't know if this feature is as effective as Nokia's 'Ozo' audio.
Shooting modes vary with each lens. The main camera also offers Bokeh (f/2.0) and Super macro, while the Portrait mode that blurs the background can be used with all lenses except the super wide one.
The 'More' option in the shooting modes bar opens up a plethora of additional modes, many of which we will explore in the Image Quality section. It includes 48MP, Pano, Slo-mo, Time-lapse, Pro, Astro Mode, Pro Sports and Supermoon.
Pro mode offers manual control over exposure and also the option to shooting RAW dng and JPEG format simultaneously. You can also display a real time Histogram - did you hear that, camera enthusiasts?
Before getting too carried away unpacking all of the modes, let's shift our focus to the gimbal and the impact that it has on the handling of the camera.
The double-ball suspension mount boasts a 3° rotation to compensate for camera shake. Vivo claims it's 3x more effective than optical stabilisation and the results are a revelation, especially for low light photography and video (for which there's additional electronic stabilisation too.)
A greater degree of shake compensation during photo capture means that the Vivo X51 can be used handheld at night, no problem. One example, using the Astro Mode we got sharp handheld shots with a shutter speed of 16 seconds. Certainly, typical exposure times of 2+ seconds in the Night mode are no problems at all.
The gimbal and image processing are mind-bogglingly effective. Why's this important? Maximising light intake through long exposure time increases image quality. It's what photographers with proper cameras do, although a tripod would be needed!
Sure, most £300+ phones offer a Night mode of some kind. But such phones are usually combining multiple pictures to create a brighter overall picture. The pictures may be bright, but the image quality is not as good.
With it's superior low light image quality and plethora of dedicated night shooting modes, we can't think of a better smartphone for low light photography than the Vivo X51 5G.
Really, stabilisation comes in handy in even in cloudy weather, not just low light. When a smartphone lacks stabilisation altogether, you're always mindful of holding the camera steady in order to avoid blur. There's no worries here.
Video stabilisation is pretty good too, but comes into its own when Super Anti-Shake is employed. You can't shoot in 4K, but these 1080p videos are super smooth. It's a class-leading performance.
A handy on-screen stabilisation tool displays a real-time floating dot inside two circles. Keep the dot inside the inner circle for effective stabilisation. This tool helps you know just what degree of movement you can get away with before scenes become shaky and blurred.
Where stabilisation is effective, perhaps the biggest handling let down is focusing. Autofocus is fine, but not the best around and the most likely cause for any soft images made by the Vivo X51 5G.
You can increase your chances of responsive AF by rooting in the menu and making sure that the focusing mode is appropriate to the scenario. Motion AF offers Eye AF (Auto, left and right), body autofocus and object autofocus. All three can be active at the same time.
After some use, we landed on utilising Object autofocus, through which a simple tap on your desired subject locks in focus even when the scene is recomposed. It's not available in all shooting modes but crucially it is in the main photo mode.
Continuous shooting is employed when you hold down the shutter button when using the regular photo mode. A burst of up to 20-shots is captured over what appears to be around 2 seconds.
By default the phone uses AI to detect the scene and will suggest an appropriate shooting mode. For example, turning the camera to this computer screen right now and the 'Doc' mode is offered. All in all, the phone makes suitable suggestions.
One gripe about the handling of the camera app is that the return/ back arrow from the main menu is located in the very top left by the front camera and often requires a few thumb taps to respond.
Overall, the Vivo X51 is up there as one of the most versatile smartphone cameras that we've used. It's smooth, packs four lenses, offers pro tools and a plethora of easy-to-use shooting modes.
We've established that the Vivo X51 5G's camera is about as versatile as they come and the positive impact the handling has on image quality. You will be able to get shots in scenarios that simply aren't possible with other phones.
But what of outright image quality from the 48MP Sony IMX689 sensor?
Well, predictably the main 25mm f/1.6 rear lens is the sharpest of the bunch, with the 50mm f/2.5 mid-telephoto lens not far behind. For detail quality across the entire image area, we'd happily use either of these lenses in a variety of scenarios.
The super-wide 15mm f/2.2 lens is really handy in tight spaces and of course to fit in more to your pictures - we've used this lens a lot. However, it is a softer lens, especially in the corners where it is also way more prone to chromatic aberrations. When stacked up against the main lens, we're disappointed.
As for the 128mm f/3.4 telephoto lens - it's produces surprisingly decent images in good light, though it is less versatile in low light.
In the bokeh shooting mode, the quality of detail within the sharp-in-focus areas is adversely affected - we can see it by comparing the same picture from the mid-telephoto lens with and without bokeh applied.
Like many other 'quad-camera' phones, the Vivo X51 5G is susceptible to lens flare. You'll need to be careful when pointing the camera towards the sun because at time the effect can be quite strong, more so with the super-wide angle lens.
By default the main camera records 12MP JPEG images, although you can pimp up the resolution with the 48MP mode (8000x6000 pixels). The latter is great for landscape images where you entertain the thought of printing big.
You can also shoot in RAW dng format in the Pro mode. Honestly, we wouldn't necessarily bother - unless the phone is likely to miss the mark completely with exposure setting like white balance.
RAW's look flat and noisy when lined up alongside a well-exposed identical JPEG image, even at ISO 50. We tried to recreate the JPEG processing in Adobe Camera Raw and struggled to obtain the same degree of sharpness and contrast that the JPEG demonstrated.
Simply put, we'd trust the phone's processing to get the most out of the image sensor's capability.
In daylight conditions, pictures look fine. Colours are natural without being overly garish, while auto HDR is applied subtly. If all conditions are favourable, the Vivo X51 5G produces decent images although they don't necessarily stand out compared to the best mid-tier phones.
It really is in low light where the Vivo X51 5G shines. Where other smartphones rely on intelligent processing and multi-picture composites to make a bright night image, the Vivo X51 5G can take the 'traditional' long exposure route to make bright night images, thanks to its incredible gimbal.
By increasing light intake, noise is reduced. For example, an astro picture at ISO 2500 looks a whole lot cleaner compared to a night mode of competing phones. Sure, noise is still there, but it's well managed.
Overall, make use of those night modes and we can't think of a better low light smartphone performer.
There's two routes to blur the background and make your subject stand out when using the rear camera; the portrait mode or the bokeh 'lens', and both can be used with all lenses except the super-wide.
For both options there is a bokeh 'slider' to select the strength of the blur effect, with a range from f/0.95 to f/16. However, the portrait mode has its own additional menus where bokeh shaping, picture styles and beauty mode can be applied.
Bokeh shaping includes heart, star and pentagon in addition to the standard circle shape. There are nine picture styles and some of them look great, while beauty mode applies effects such as skin smoothing.
When using the selfie camera a bokeh effect is also possible, although there is no manual control over the bokeh effect strength.
The Vivo X51 5G creates a reasonable looking blur effect. Certainly, when viewed on a small display like that of the phone itself, we're happy.
Like any smartphone, the portrait mode works better when your subject and background is clearly defined. In such a case, there's even a decent attempt at prolonging individual stray hairs rather than simply blurring them out.
However, compared to, say, the intelligent processing of the Google Pixel 4a, the portrait mode misses the mark more often. Zoom in for a closer look and there are at times 'artefacts' - background areas missed out from the blur effect.
There's no option to add the bokeh effect in after capture, although there is a general blur tool like what you find in Instagram.
Portrait Mode Off
Portrait Mode On
Portrait Mode Off
Portrait Mode On
The Vivo X51 has four genuine lenses - there's no fluff here in the camera block. You have a super wide 15mm f/2.2 (full-frame equivalent), a 25mm f/1.6 main camera, a medium telephoto 50mm f/2.5 lens (2x optical) and finally the telephoto 128mm f/3.4 optic (5x optical).
Each lens is genuinely useful, plus a digital zoom up to 60x can be employed, though at the cost of a negative impact on image quality. This is one versatile phone.
In the standard Photo mode there is an option to select a 'Super macro' setting that is actually rather good.
As standard the pictures are 8MP (3264x2448) and there is minimal distortion and super close autofocusing with a minimum 2.5cm focusing distance. In low light the camera's autofocus does hunt a little, but for getting extra close this mode is a legitimate option.
HDR takes pride place in the centre of the tool bar where you can choose to turn the effect on or off. The HDR effect is never over the top, so in general we've opted to leave it on.
Usually RAW format increases the amount of detail that can be recovered from highlights and shadows, but we feel the JPEG processing in the Vivo X51 5G already makes the most out of the sensor's capability.
With the most versatile gimbal we've ever used in a smartphone, the Vivo X51 5G is well equipped for handheld night photography.
There's a dedicated night mode that can be used with a steady hand for sharp shots. When compared to the regular shooting mode, night mode adds a little brightness into shadow areas while lit areas appear similar. The end results are a pleasantly subtle HDR effect.
You've also got an Astro Mode in order to capture clear night skies. In this mode the phone advises you to use a tripod, though it is possible to get sharp shots handheld.
In the example astro photos the phone is propped up against a window with no tripod and the exposure time is 16 seconds. That gimbal really is something, as is this shooting mode.
A further alternative is to use the Pro mode where there is manual control over exposure, including shutter speed times up to 32 seconds, though you definitely need a tripod for that!
The 'Supermoon' mode opens up quick access to the digital zoom, where you can zoom in up to 60x with an on screen guide to line up the moon.
Overall, this is the most versatile smartphone for low light photography.
Night Mode Off
Night Mode On
This is a selection of sample images from the Vivo X51 5G camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
f/1.6 · ISO 89
f/2.5 · ISO 50
f/1.6 · ISO 130
f/2.2 · ISO 55
f/2.5 · ISO 50
f/3.4 · ISO 50
f/1.6 · ISO 1812
f/1.6 · ISO 1334
f/1.6 · ISO 1244
f/1.6 · ISO 177
f/2.5 · ISO 360
f/2.5 · ISO 50
f/2.2 · ISO 56
1/640s · f/1.6 · ISO 56
1/590s · f/1.6 · ISO 57
f/1.6 · ISO 107
f/1.6 · ISO 127
1/65s · f/1.6 · ISO 200
f/1.6 · ISO 200
f/1.6 · ISO 531
f/1.6 · ISO 164
1/100s · f/3.4 · ISO 81
f/3.4 · ISO 82
1/640s · f/1.6 · ISO 57
1/640s · f/1.6 · ISO 57
Sample RAW Images
The Vivo X51 5G enables users to capture RAW and JPEG format files. We've provided some Vivo RAW (DNG) samples for you to download (thumbnail images shown below are not 100% representative)."
1/640s · f/1.6 · ISO 56
1/590s · f/1.6 · ISO 57
1/60s · f/1.6 · ISO 200
1/100s · f/3.4 · ISO 81
1/640s · f/1.6 · ISO 57
1/640s · f/1.6 · ISO 57
1/640s · f/1.6 · ISO 56
Sample Movies & Video
This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 28 second movie is 142Mb in size.
This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 24 second movie is 123Mb in size.
This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 23 second movie is 117Mb in size.
This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 3840x2160 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 12 second movie is 64.4Mb in size.
This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 60 frames per second. Please note that this 39 second movie is 82.9Mb in size.
This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 12 second movie is 26.2Mb in size.
This is a sample slow-motion movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 50 second movie is 84.7Mb in size.
This is a sample slow-motion movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 93 second movie is 156Mb in size.
This is a sample time-lapse movie at the quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 37.5Mb in size.
The Vivo X51 5G is the most versatile snapper that we've tested, and it's only £749. From its four genuine lenses to plethora of shooting modes, many of which are supported by the excellent gimbal, there are few circumstances that the Vivo X51 5G cannot handle.
Portraits with decent bokeh effect, an optical zoom up to 5x (rare at this price), an astro mode that can get sharp handheld shots, a 48MP high-res mode, the super-wide angle optic - this is the most accommodating smartphone camera we can think of so far.
The gimbal employed in the main camera is the star of the show. You'll get sharp and clean long exposure handheld shots at night, when other similar smartphone cameras are, comparatively, a mess.
We've even used the astro mode handheld, achieving sharp shots with a shutter speed time of 16 seconds. The Vivo X51 5G is redefining low light photography for smartphones.
Video shooting is comprehensive too; 4k up to 60fps, slow motion and time-lapse modes, plus that Super-anti-shake mode that pimps the gimbal to give you the kind of stabilisation you won't find in another smartphone.
The more you dig in the camera app the more you find.
The phone unit itself ain't half bad either. We rate the slim and sleek grey metal shell and curved 6.56-inch AMOLED display (though it's a real shame there's no IP rating).
You don't get a top drawer processor, but Snapdragon 765G works a treat. Some cheaper phones also offer better outright image processing quality in good light and for portrait blur, but none can touch the Vivo X51's overall camera prowess.
If image making is one of your primary concerns with a smartphone, the Vivo X51 5G comes with our highest recommendation.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4|
Listed below are some of the rivals of the Vivo X51 5G.
Apple iPhone 12 Pro
The Apple iPhone 12 Pro is one of four new iPhones released for 2020, joining the Mini, Pro Max, and the standard model. With prices starting at around £$999, is this the best iPhone for photographers? Read our in-depth iPhone 12 Pro review now, complete with full-size sample photos and videos...
Google Pixel 4a
The Pixel 4a is a new entry-level smartphone from Google which offers the company's single-camera point-and-shoot photography in an affordable, reasonably sized handset. Read our Google Pixel 4a review, complete with full-size sample photos and videos, to find out if this is all the smartphone that you actually need...
Huawei P40 Pro
The P40 Pro is Huawei's new flagship smartphone for 2020. Featuring a 6.58-inch screen, 50 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom lens and 4K video recording, can it overcome its much-publicized lack of Google App support? Find out now by reading our in-depth Huawei P40 Pro review, complete with full-size sample images and videos...
Nokia 8.3 5G
The Nokia 8.3 is a new 5G smartphone with a large screen that won't break the bank. For photographers, it offers a 'quad camera' with wide (primary), ultra-wide and macro lenses, plus a depth sensing lens, up to 64 megapixel images, 4K video with H-Log profile and DNG RAW capture. Find out if the Nokia 8.3 5G is worth considering in our latest in-depth review...
OnePlus 8 Pro
The OnePlus 8 Pro is the latest flagship smartphone for 2020 from OnePlus. It features a 48-megapixel quad-camera setup with an upgraded ultra-wide camera, 4K/60p video recording, Pro shooting mode and the ability to shoot in Raw. Find out if this is the best smartphone for photographers by reading our in-depth OnePlus 8 Pro review with full-size sample photos and videos.
Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra
The Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is Samsung's latest flagship smartphone, boasting a 6.9-inch screen, 108 megapixel standard camera, 5x optical zoom, 8K video, super slow motion video, Pro shooting mode and Raw capture. Take a look at our in-depth Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review to find out if this is the best smartphone camera for keen photographers...
Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra
The Galaxy S20 Ultra is Samsung's new flagship smartphone for 2020. Featuring a 6.9-inch screen, 108 megapixel sensor and 100x zoom lens, it's certainly big in size, megapixel count and zoom range, but is it also big in performance? Find out now by reading our expert Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra review, complete with full-size sample images and videos...
Sony Xperia 1 II
The Sony Xperia 1 II is a new flagship smartphone offering a range of pro image and video features aimed at keen camera enthusiasts. These include 20fps with continuous autofocus focus and autoexposure and real time eye AF for humans and animals, utilising technologies borrowed from the Alpha A9 full-frame mirrorless camera. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia 1 II review, complete with full-size sample images and videos, to find out if this new smartphone hits the mark for serious photography...
Sony Xperia 5 II
The Sony Xperia 5 II is a new mid-range smartphone that inherits a lot of the core features from the flagship Xperia 1 II model, in a smaller and more affordable form factor. Read our in-depth Sony Xperia 5 II review, complete with full-size sample images and videos, to find out if this new smartphone can satisfy the serious photographer...
Reviews of the Vivo X51 5G from around the web.
Vivo loves to push advanced features out there before the competition. The Vivo X51 5G is a vehicle for its ‘gimbal’ camera, which offers superb low-light performance and super-stable video. It’s a great advancement, but the price may seem a little high for a phone with a mid-tier CPU, even if it is a great one.
Read the full review »
The Vivo X51 5G is one of the most exciting phones around from a camera point of view. It covers the holy trinity of camera focal lengths (and then some), and it’s got a nifty USP - that gimbal system. That isn’t to say its camera is the best around, and at £749, we wouldn’t expect it to be. Nevertheless, with midrange power inside, Vivo’s opted for some punchy pricing. Irrespective, with 5G, beautiful design, and a fine looking screen, not to mention ample storage, unless you’re a serious gamer, the X51 will check most of your boxes.
Read the full review »
Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 765G
Funtouch OS 10 Global
vivo FlashCharge 2.0 (33W)
2376 × 1080 (FHD+)
4G FDD LTE
4G TDD LTE
For 4G SIM: Dual SIM and Dual Standby
For 5G SIM: Single SIM and Single Standby (OTA upgrade required for dual standby mode)
Front 32MP / Rear 48MP + 13MP + 8MP + 8MP
Front f/2.45 (32MP), Rear f/1.6 (48MP) + f/2.46 (13MP) + f/2.2 (8MP) + f/3.4 (8MP)
Rear flash, Selfie lighting
Super Night Mode, Astro Mode, Pro Sports Mode, Portrait (Art Portrait, AI Makeup, Filters, etc.), AR Stickers, Slow Motion, Live Photo, Time-Lapse, Video, Supermoon Mode, DOC, Panorama, Pro Mode, etc.
WAV, MP3, MP2, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, MIDI, Vorbis, APE, FLAC
MP4, 3GP, AVI, MKV, TS
2.4G + 5G Wi-Fi MIMO
GPS, BeiDou, GLONASS, Galileo
Color Temperature Sensor
Ambient Light Sensor
Laser detection auto-focus
In the box
XE710 (3.5mm jack) + Type-C adapter
Type-C to USB Cable
USB Power Adapter
Protective Film (applied)