The human pursuit to unravel what cannot be seen has been the driving force behind almost every great invention that improves our lives today. This inclination to be curious also led to the invention of the microscope, an indispensable tool in humanity’s efforts at exploring the microscopic realms.
While the microscope itself has made significant advances since its invention more than 300 years ago, crude forms of the instrument are now much more accessible, especially thanks to our smartphones. You can that turn any smartphone’s camera into a microscope, but for better results, you might want to rely on a phone such as the Realme GT 2 Pro that comes with a dedicated microscope camera.
The GT 2 Pro is Realme’s first true flagship that competes against the likes of the OnePlus 10 Pro, the Samsung Galaxy S22, and the Apple iPhone 13. It benefits from Realme’s association with other brands under the BBK Corporation umbrella, including Oppo and OnePlus, and offers similar flagship-level features at a much more reasonable price. The dedicated microscope camera is one such feature that will not only enable you to click incredible images at high magnification, but also witness the micro world in a way you might have never experienced before.
The microscope camera first appeared on the Oppo Find X3 Pro last year, and Digital Trends senior writer Andy Boxall deemed it the most enjoyable gimmick on a smartphone. Since then, Andy tells me, the technology has become more refined, and it might be a good reason to try it out and explore the wonders of the invisible domains surrounding us.
The microscope camera is quite an improvement over the unappealing macro cameras that smartphone manufacturers add to their cheap smartphones. The GT 2 Pro’s — and the Find X3 Pro’s — price, however, shows that this technology may not be very cheap and thus might not be available on midrange smartphones anytime soon.
The Realme GT 2 Pro still uses a 1.9MP camera with what is likely to be a lens array that gives it the ability to work like a microscope. This is a fixed-focus camera that can take pictures at 40x magnification. To get the images right, you will need to place the camera close (a few millimeters) to the object while keeping the smartphone slightly tilted to get the lens to focus.
Mind you, since this lens has a fixed focus, you will have to adjust the distance manually, which can take some practice to perfect. You would also need a very steady hand because even the tiniest movement can result in the object going out of focus or even moving out of the frame. But the Realme GT Pro can capture some fascinating microscopic shots.
The fact that you don’t need any extra apparatus to achieve these results makes it even more exciting — at least assuming its novelty doesn’t fade. I don’t know when it will, but I have had the phone for a month, and whenever I’m bored, I tend to capture different things around my house. A lot of those might be too distasteful to include in this review, so I have carefully chosen to show you the most fitting and compelling shots.
Being a foodie, the kitchen is one of my favorite places to be in my house, and looking down to explore what adds scintillating flavors to home-cooked food is something I like exploring. The following image is what one of the key ingredients of Indian cuisine looks like under the microscope camera. Guess before you scroll the carousel to find a zoomed-out shot!
I’d give you the benefit of the doubt if you guessed jalapeno or bell pepper instead of regular chili. Don’t the oozing-out juices set off a tingling sensation on your tongue? They certainly do on mine.
The next shot here is another ingredient I love using whenever I need to make a splashy impression about my (actually mediocre) cooking skills. Let me give you a hint, besides Indian curries, this spice is also used in lattes and teas.
Honestly, if someone showed me the first image exclusively, I might have never guessed it’s a cinnamon stick. How closely the Realme GT 2 Pro captures the powdery texture of the cinnamon is quite striking.
The next one will be relatively easier to judge.
If you guessed this was ice, you are correct. It is a close-up of an inverted icicle frozen inside a food container’s lid. The Realme GT 2 Pro has encouraged me to be willing to investigate anything that can be remotely interesting under the microscope. The magnification abilities of the phone leave me quite surprised.
My next quest was to step out of the kitchen and look at objects I often see, but with a fresh perspective. You can scroll the following carousel to see some results.
The camera captures the phosphor bronze E-string of my acoustic guitar. The string measures only 1.35mm (0.053-inches) in diameter, yet the Realme GT 2 Pro’s microscope camera captures the wound string with great detail while also retaining finer dust particles (or pet dander).
In the second set, the oxidation on my wife’s earrings can be easily seen taking over the German silver surface.
Besides decay in metallic artifacts, the camera also does a respectable job of encapsulating the decomposition of natural objects. Such a transition from life to death is captured in the images below.
Besides leaves, the Realme GT 2 Pro also effortlessly zooms into the mite-infested bark of a tree, slowly being gutted to death.
Despite the last few sets of images suggesting my favoritism toward bleakness, the Realme GT 2 Pro can also aptly capture the liveliness of flourishing plants.
As apparent from the shots below, the phone does not deteriorate the colors in the scenes. That is critical while exploring the minuscule world. The flowers you see below have similar color saturation in the images taken with the microscope camera versus the primary 50MP camera with Sony IMX766. Unfortunately, Realme does not reveal the make of this microscope camera. We can’t be sure if the final shots result from an able sensor (which seems unlikely given the low resolution) or image processing at the software level. Nonetheless, the final outcome is commendable.
Gripes some of you may have with this microscope camera may be its petite focal range and narrow depth of field. As a result, focusing on the suitable object can be tedious, while things bigger than a particular size will be blurred out unintentionally. Whether it is something that pleases you or puts you off will be a subjective choice.
Another example of this shallow depth of field is visible in the image below, where one of the ants on the flower is in focus while the other ant and the flower’s pollen tube are out of focus.
Despite the flaws, I would still rate this outcome below as impressive. That is because it can ensure the tiny (about 2mm in size) red ant is in focus despite moving quickly (relative to the camera’s frame).
You might also want to use a magnifying glass to spot the ant in the image taken with the primary camera.
Another marvel from the insect world that amazed me was the highly intricate design on this wasp — which I did not kill but found dead. Notably, this is one of the five eyes of a wasp — two ommatidia or compound eyes on the sides and three ocelli or simpler eyes on the crown. Before looking at this image, I had no idea that wasps — among many other insects — have compound eyes with countless tiny lenses. The combined image from these lenses converges at one point, giving insects a low-resolution but a wide-angle view of their surroundings. RIP, nature’s little wonder!
Aside from these gems of nature, what stoked my curiosity were masks, which have enveloped our lives in both good and bad ways. In the following images of a surgical mask, what appears to be a uniform piece of fabric on the outside is a grid of threads running haywire without any sensible pattern.
Several tiny particles stuck to these grids demonstrate the mask has been used — and that the mask is capable of stopping most of those. As per the packaging, there is another layer of microfiber polyester underneath. Assuming these tiny dots are dust particles (because I don’t have COVID), I would definitely not bet my health on just one mask.
If that grosses you out, you might want to skip the next image altogether. These are close-up images of my palm after and before washing and scrubbing with soap. After seeing this, I am pretty uncomfortable stepping aside from the washbasin.
My experience with the Realme GT 2 Pro’s microscope camera has helped me see the world around me with an atypical approach — and not just figuratively. As I said at the beginning of the article, I cannot be sure if I will continue to use the feature as extensively as I have so far, but I’m sure I will always have something to turn to whenever I am searching for inspiration.