At first look, the iBall mSLR Cobalt 4 seems to be an attempt of Best IT World to differentiate itself and get noticed in the highly crowded affordable smartphone segment in the country. But the question is, has it been able to achieve it? Priced at R8,499, the device comes with a novel concept of four detachable lenses: a zoom lens with 8x zoom, a fish-eye lens with a 175-180 degree viewing angle, a wide-angle lens with a 130-degree viewing angle and a macro lens with 10x magnification on object distance of 10 to 15 mm. To give users control over what exactly they capture, the company has provided a clip for the smaller lenses and a customised back cover with a camera ring to attach the lenses.
There has always been a demand for better and high resolution camera in smartphones and company officials say the mSLR Cobalt 4 is aimed at taking quality pictures and will “change the way photographs are captured on the smartphones.” However, for the past few weeks, I have been using the device, the in-built camera capabilities have been fairly decent, but using additional lenses, especially 8x zoom, have been difficult and challenging. When clipped over the inbuilt 8-megapixel rear shooter, it is difficult to control, outcomes are shaky, and inbuilt flash interferes with mounted lenses, ultimately defeating the entire purpose of using mSLR, for being creative and ability to play with focus, aperture, depth of field etc.
If you set aside the additional lens, the mSLR Cobalt 4 is a decent phone. It looks and feels great in the hand. It does not have the curved edges but the outer display and design are appealing. On the front, it has a large 5-inch IPS qHD display that offers 960 x 540 pixels resolution with 220 ppi pixel density, allowing a user to enjoy both videos and games with decent quality, and smoothly access emails and files. iBall has placed both volume rocker and lock buttons on the right side of the phone with left being completely free of any distractions.
Probing the innards, the phone runs on Android 4.4 KitKat OS and it is powered by Octa Core 1.4 GHz Cortex A7 advanced processor with 1 GB RAM. The phone is able to handle games, camera functions, videos and multitasking seamlessly.
On the software front, essential options such as call, message and camera are easily accessible with a single swipe in their direction from the middle of the screen. The phone comes with the pre-installed essential Apps. It has HotKnot feature, a MediaTek file transfer mechanism technology, which utilises the physics of a capacitive touch screen to transfer the data from phone to phone, when they are in close proximity of less than 1 cm. The company claims to support 15 Indian regional languages for reading and writing, however in the language setting option, it offers only two languages—English and Hindi.
In addition to major attraction of extra lenses, mSLR Cobalt 4 comes with an enhanced 8-megapixel auto-focus rear camera with LED flash and 3-megapixel front camera with soft flash.
During the two weeks that I spent with this phone, I found the design, interface and display quality to be interesting and appealing. But given the fact, the handling of additional lenses are so difficult that it defeats the basic purpose of bringing SLR features to a smartphone. Also, at this price tag of R8,499, the mSLR Cobalt 4 seems to be little over priced compared to its nearest rivals such as Micromax’s Yu Yuphoria, Redmi 2, Lenovo A7000, and Yureka.
It is true that the source of the most uploaded images on social media is not a DSLR or a point or shoot camera, but the phone camera. iBall’s mSLR experiment could have been a success, had it focused on quality of lenses and camera performance.
Display: 5 inch IPS qHD display
Processor: 1.4 GHz Octa core Cortex A7 CPU
Operating system: Android 4.4 Kitkat
Memory & storage: 1 GB RAM; 8 GB internal storage
Camera: 8 MP rear camera with LED Flash; 3.2 MP front camera
SIM type: Dual SIM
Battery: 2000mAh, replaceable
Estimated street price: Rs 8,499