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Xiaomi Mi 10 5G Camera Review: Is 108MP Quad-Lens Camera Worth The Hype?
Xiaomi Mi 10 5G proved to be an excellent flagship smartphone in our performance review. The smartphone delivers solid computing, multitasking and gaming performance, thanks to the underlying Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 chipset, plenty of RAM and a vibrant 90Hz Super AMOLED display. The software experience still need some fine tuning as it fails to match flagship standards.
- 108MP Sensor Captures Crisp Shots With Impressive Details
- Excellent Dynamic Range, Spot-on Contrast, Accurate Colors
- Good Video Recording Performance
- Plenty Of Modes And Features To Explore
- Video Stabilization Works Well
- Average Low-Light Camera
- Night Mode Only Reserved For Primary Sensor
- AI Mode Is Pretty Harsh
- 2MP Depth-Sensor Is Inconsistent
- Not A Weather-Sealed Camera Device
What we are testing today is the quad-lens rear camera of the handset, which is also a highlight feature of the Xiaomi's flagship device. Before we talk about the image and video quality, let's have a look at the four-lens camera setup's specifications.
Xiaomi Mi 10 5G Camera Hardware And Software Specifications
Starting from the top, the first lens is a 2MP depth sensor with an f/2.4 aperture. A 2MP depth sensor on a phone priced at 50K sounds disappointing but let's not jump onto conclusions already as the real-life tests hold more importance.
The second lens in the configuration is the 108MP Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor with 1/1.33" sensor size and 0.8um pixel size. The massive camera sensor features an OIS-enabled 7P lens with an f/1.69 aperture. It also supports PDAF. However, unlike the 108MP sensor on the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra that combines nine pixels to form one bigger pixel, the one on the Mi 10 5G uses more traditional approach by combining four pixels to form one bigger one, i.e. 4-in-1 pixel binning.
The Nanocell pixel-binning (or Nona Binning as Samsung calls it) used by the Galaxy S20 Ultra has 3 x 3-pixel structure and can simply be referred to as enhanced pixel-binning. It yields brighter and sharper pictures with images having a pixel size of 2.4um.
Next in line is another 2MP sensor, which is essentially a macro lens with an f/2.4 aperture and 2 cm minimum focus distance. The fourth and last lens in the camera array is a 13MP ultra-wide angle lens with 123-degree wide field-of-view.
8K @ 30fps, 4K @ 60/30fps, 1080 @ 60/30fps, Slow-Motion, Pro Video And More
The Mi 10 5G can record 8K videos (7680 x 43220) at 30fps, 4K videos (3840 x 2160) and Full HD videos at both 60fps and 30fps. The smartphone also supports slow-motion videos- 1080p @ 120fps and 720p @ 120fps, time-lapse videos, Portrait videos and even features a Pro (manual) video mode. There's a dedicated Shootsteady mode to record shake-free videos. The Mi 10 5G's camera setup cannot record 960fps super-slow-motion videos.
On the software side, the camera uses AI 2.0 for basic optimizations such as exposure correction, noise reduction, brightness tuning, color and adjustment, and HDR fixing. The Pro mode offers Focus peaking, Exposure verification, HEIF support, LOG mode, RAW mode and Histogram for video.
In all, the Mi 10 5G goes extreme with its choice of lenses. It is a flagship smartphone with a massive 108MP sensor which is paired with a 2MP macro lens and a 2MP depth sensor.
108MP Camera Samples
As expected, the 108MP high-resolution sensor captures plenty of details. The images are significantly sharper and have slightly better contrast than the 25MP pixel-binned shots. The level of detailing can be experienced once you start zooming in, which is the biggest advantage of such high-resolution sensors.
They allow you to zoom-in to a much greater depth to see details which cannot be captured on conventional sensors. Moreover, the cropped 108MP images come across as a better alternative to 10x digital zoom images on the Mi 10 5G.
108MP Vs Default 25MP Camera Sample
But what if you don't zoom in? You won't find any major difference in pixel-binned images and 108MP high-res pictures. The images have an excellent dynamic range and natural colors, both in default and in native 108MP high-resolution mode. The 25MP images will suffice for most of your requirements and will also help you save a lot of storage as one 108MP image takes up to 32MB space.
Fine Details In 108MP Shots
While the 25MP pixel-binned images will be enough to meet most of your requirements, you can always enable 108MP mode to capture fine details. Especially in situations when you cannot go closer to the subject. The squirrels are generally shy and 108MP made it possible to capture a decent frame from a good distance.
108MP Creates Natural Bokeh Comparable To Dedicated 2MP Depth-Sensor
Another advantage of a bigger sensor and brighter aperture is natural bokeh. The massive sensor (24mm focal length) has a shallower depth of field that creates a very realistic blur effect when subjects are placed closer. For instance, the bokeh became so prominent in the above samples that it is virtually impossible to differentiate between a 108MP camera sensor image and the sample shot by using the meager 2MP depth-sensor on the Mi 10 5G.
Now when you have failed to differentiate the two images, let me tell you that the left image is shot on 108MP sensor and the right one is captured by using the 2MP depth-sensor. The 108MP images have better contrast and sharpness in the centre but tend to go softer on the edges. This usually happens with such massive sensors; however, the Mi 10 5G has slightly higher tendency of losing the sharpness and details at the edges.
Far-Field Zoom Not Possible At This Price With Massive Sensors
It is worth mentioning that the Mi 10 5G cannot zoom in to insane lengths like the Galaxy S20 Ultra. The 108MP sensor on the Galaxy S20 Ultra works in tandem with a periscope module to feed more data to the camera setup to allow for insane zoom capabilities. The sophisticated periscope module is not feasible at 50K price-point with such bigger sensor size.
Some devices like the Oppo Reno 10X Zoom feature periscope camera module to offer far-field zoom but with smaller sensor sizes. In my opinion, a 64MP primary sensor with 30x zoom would have been a better hardware than a 108MP primary sensor with just 2x zoom.
2MP Macro Lens Performance
Moving on, the 2MP macro lens will manage to please photography enthusiasts who spend good time in capturing small details. The 2cm focus distance let you get very close to subjects, like flowers, insects, leaves and everyday objects to capture intrinsic details and patterns. The macro sensor captures natural colors and also handles details quite well even though it has just 2MP resolution.
Is 2MP Depth-Sensor Any Good?
The 2MP depth-sensor delivers mixed results. The edge detection is often inconsistent but the overall result looks pleasing because of two reasons- the gorgeous Super AMOLED panel which makes everything look good and the fact that the camera sensors get other things right like the color balance, contrast and exposure values. This is a fine trick to make pictures look appealing. ‘Throw a flagship display and ace the color science, if you cannot get the bokeh right'.
That said, the portraits shot on the Mi 10 5G will please seasonal photographers but might fail to impress the true shutterbugs. The aperture is set to F/3.2 by default but you can change it after taking a shot. I got the best results (in terms of bokeh) at F/3.5 value. Check out the high-resolution images here.
Wide-Angle Lens Camera Performance
The 13MP ultra-wide angle lens does a good job if shooting conditions are favorable. The 123-degree wide field-of-view offers a lot of real-estate in one frame, which makes the Mi 10 5G a good device for landscape and street photography. The distortion is very well controlled but the dynamic range drops significantly and the wide-angle sensor also has exposure metering issues. Images captured with 13MP ultra-wide angle lens during outdoor photography on bright sunny days look too bright and colors look washed out. The low-light shots also lack sharpness and color depth. An autofocus-enabled wide-angle lens would have made a huge difference here.
Enable AI To Boost Colors
The solution to the problem is ‘AI Mode' as tweaking the aperture size and shutter speed is not possible while shooting with wide-angle lens. This is due to the fact that like any other smartphone and how the mobile camera systems are built, the Pro mode is reserved to the Mi 10 5G's primary sensor and that too for 25MP pixel-binned shots. You cannot capture 108MP high-resolution shots with the RAW format, which makes sense as the 108MP images already pack so much of data to play around with in post-processing.
What's important to understand here is that in the absence of RAW format for other lenses, you are left with very little to experiment with 13MP wide-angle shots, portraits and 2MP macro shots in the post-processing. You can only perform basic editing on images that would not add much value to the overall photography experience if you are using the Mi 10 5G as your primary camera device.
Low-Light Camera Results
Before we talk about the Mi 10 5G's low-light camera performance, you must understand that the mobile camera sensors require some degree of light to create images. Not every smartphone uses Google Pixel devices' computational photography algorithms to capture brilliant results in challenging environment. That said, the Mi 10 5G can only deliver good low-light shots if the camera sensors are subjected to a decent amount of lighting. I tested the Mi 10 5G in poorly lit low-light situations and the results were pretty average. You throw in some light and the camera manages to show some good results.
Mi 10 5G Keeps Noise In Check During Low-Light Photography
The AI mode is quick to detect low-light scenarios and noise is generally controlled very well. The dedicated night mode tends to bring in extra light to images and also makes colors more vibrant. Sadly, these things are only valid when the primary sensor is in action as the dedicated night mode doesn't work with other lenses. The low-light wide-angle shots are simply disappointing.
AI Mode On Vs AI Mode Off
The use of machine learning to optimize camera settings and largely to boost colors and contrast is not a new thing. Xiaomi has been doing it from a while now and is mostly good at it. The Mi 10 5G also uses an AI mode but it seems Xiaomi has gone slightly overboard with it on the flagship handset. While the AI is one of the fastest and most accurate in detecting shooting conditions, it boosts colors and contrast a bit too much to our liking thus creating highly saturated and unrealistic results.
For instance, check the above image. You could clearly identify the difference in color vibrancy and contrast. The AI algorithms are mostly boosting up the contrast and enhancing dynamic range to make colors look extra punchy. The AI mode doesn't work with 108MP mode. Why Xiaomi? Overall, the AI mode could use some refinements in the Mi 10 5G.
Mi 10 5G As A Video Recording Device
The Mi 10 5G performed really well as a video recording device. I recorded in default h.264 for maximum compatibility and the video output turned out super crisp. Like still images, the video footage also shows impressive dynamic range, excellent contrast and punchy colors irrespective of the resolution you are shooting at.
The Mi 10 5G can record in 8K @ 30fps, 4K @ 60fps/30fps and in 1080p at 60fps/30fps. The 8K footage with 7680x4320px resolution definitely adds value to the overall package but 4K videos and even the 1080p 60fps are good enough to meet all your requirements.
Powerful Tools For Content Creation
The Mi 10 5G also offers a suite of professional video recording tools. These include a promising video stabilization mode, Video Portrait, Pro Video and VLOG mode. The stabilization works really well on the Mi 10 5G and lets you record stable videos even when you are walking at pace without a gimbal. The Video Portrait mode delivers pleasing results when the bokeh kicks in. The VLOG mode is a great addition to the list but nothing beats the Pro Video mode. The manual mode allows you to tweak important camera settings to achieve a desired output.
I am glad that smartphone brands are finally adding the much required mode to their flagship products. Summing up all, the Mi 10 5G is a good device for videographers and it can help you create rich video content for social media platforms.
Not A Weather Sealed Camera
The Mi 10 5G lacks an official IP Rating, which means you cannot use the smartphone to capture those occasional yet interesting pool shots. It's a big miss for photography enthusiasts and avid travelers who don't mind taking a stroll in rainy weather to capture some beautiful artistic images and slow-motion videos of rain drops falling on hard surfaces. The newly launched OnePlus 8 Pro can do that, and of course the premium Samsung Galaxy flagships have been doing it from a very long time. I am sure the next Xiaomi flagship device will definitely be an IP-rated handset.
The Mi 10 5G is a good camera smartphone but it's certainly not the best-in-class performer. The camera setup relies on detailing and good color science which works well in most scenarios. As the primary sensor is of 24mm focal length, the Mi 10 5G makes for a good camera device for street photography, landscape photography (with primary lens) and even for capturing close-up shots, although the handset lacks a telephoto sensor. The smartphone's video recording capabilities are more impressive than the still camera performance, and the camera app offers plenty of modes and features to play around.
The list of things that not click is also quite long. The quad-lens camera struggles to deliver good wide-angle shots, and the low-light mode doesn't work with the 13MP wide-angle lens. The 2MP depth-sensor is inconsistent and often delivers average looking portraits. A 5MP depth-sensor would have made more sense for a device that promises to elevate the smartphone camera experience. Last but not the least, the AI mode is also pretty harsh and could use refinements.
We also want to compare the Mi 10 5G with the OnePlus 8 Pro to find out which smartphone wins the camera fight. We will compare the two flagships once we get our hands on the OnePlus device.