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Xiaomi has finally announced the successor of the critically acclaimed Mi A1 budget smartphone in the Indian market. The new Mi A2 easily tops the list of the most anticipated budget smartphone of the year 2018. It runs near 100 percent stock Android, which is its USP, and brings a number of improvements over the last year's Mi A1 handset.
The new budget smartphone flaunts a bigger display, improved camera setups, India exclusive Quick Charge 4.0 fast charging technology and better CPU-RAM combination. While all of these features are noteworthy and will make a big difference in everyday usage, the new cameras are easily my favorite feature of the Mi A2. Xiaomi has offered a new dual-lens camera setup at rear panel and a massive front-facing sensor for self-portraits. I have spent some time with Mi A2 and tried out the new cameras in different situations. Here's what I have to say about the camera performance of Xiaomi Mi A2. But first, let's take a look at the camera specifications of the smartphone.
MI A2 Camera Specifications
The new Mi A2 sports a 12MP+20MP rear camera setup. The 12MP primary lens uses Sony IMX486 sensor and the 20MP secondary lens uses Sony IMX376 sensor. Both the lenses work on brighter F/1.75 aperture values. Importantly, Xiaomi has removed the telephoto lens for better low-light results. The 20MP secondary shooter has been added to capture portrait shots by analyzing depth of field information, and is also said to produce better low-light photos by applying ‘Pixel-binning' technology. How is it done? I will explain it with the camera samples.
For the front, Xiaomi Mi A2 also uses a 20MP selfie camera with the same Sony IMX376 sensor, but it works on a slightly darker f/2.2 aperture. The selfie camera comes with HDR mode and uses 2.0µm super pixels for low-light enhancement.
Daylight camera performance
Xiaomi Mi A2's camera is quite remarkable for the price-point. The pictures shot by rear camera show impressive detailing and punchy colors. The image processing algorithms on Mi A2 produces rich contrast levels and brings out good information in the overall scene. The camera sensors also handle challenging light conditions very well and the results are even comparable to smartphones priced much higher. The camera software could use some color correction as the overall output is slightly oversaturated sometimes. Besides, the images show lack of sharpness, but only at maximum zoom levels which is quite acceptable.
The videos output in 4K looks crisp but make sure you use a tripod or keep your hands steady as image stabilization is not supported at max resolution. Switch to 1080p and you will instantly notice the difference. The software level image stabilization kicks in at 1080p recording and does a good job in offering a smooth output. The slow motion camera performance is also better than other smartphones in respective price-point.
Dim-light camera performance
I am quite pleased by the Mi A2's camera performance in situations when there's very dim natural light available. Just take a look at the sky in the above image. This is entirely an unedited image and shows vibrant colors and pleasing overall results. The pixilation is also under control even at maximum zoom levels.
Extreme Low-light camera performance
Xiaomi has played quite smartly here. The camera setup on Mi A2 allows you to switch to the secondary lens for low-light photos. The 20MP secondary camera applies Pixel-binning technology to bring out more information in low-light situations. Pixel-binning is basically a process of combining four smaller pixels to produce one bigger 2.0µm pixel for brighter and sharper image output. But there's a downside here. The brighter image output also brings along higher noise levels. If you look at the above camera samples, you will find that the image on the left looks softer as compared to the image on the right. It is shot by the 12MP primary camera and details are slightly better maintained. The noise levels are controlled, but then the image also show less information in areas which are too dark.
The left image is shot by the secondary 20MP camera and show slightly more information in darker areas, which cannot be seen in the first image. For instance, two cars can be spotted on the right side of the road in the second image, whereas only one can be seen in the first picture. However, in order to bring out this extra image information in darker areas, the image processing also adds the unwanted noise. The noise levels are clearly visible when you look at sky. Now it totally depends on your preference of how you want to compose your image. If you can compromise with the overall details for a brighter image output and can resolve the noise level with third-party softwares in post processing, go for the 20MP secondary camera. Otherwise, the 12MP primary camera is always there for you to capture low-light shots, which will be mostly noise free but at same time will also show less sharpness and brightness levels.
Portrait shots Samples
Budget smartphones are not very well-known for bokeh shots. The image output is often too artificial or mostly a hit and miss affair. With the last year's Mi A1, Xiaomi managed to show some notable improvements in the portrait photography. For its price-point, the handset did manage to deliver on the critical camera feature, which has now become a standard tech even in budget and mid-range smartphones. Fast forward to 2018, Xiaomi Mi A2 seems like a winner in the portrait photography in its respective price-point.
The smartphone uses the same 20MP secondary camera for bokeh shots and mostly offers pleasing results. The camera manages to create a respectable bokeh effect around the subject you keep in focus. The sensor is a bit harsh on the background colors and details, but the overall output will not disappoint you. Honestly, I have never captured such good looking portrait shots from a smartphone priced this low.
Selfie camera samples
The 20MP selfie camera on Xiaomi Mi A2 is an impressive performer and is probably the best in sub Rs. 18k price-point. The pictures show very good detailing, even better than the pictures clicked by the rear camera in many situations, despite the fact that it does not come equipped with autofocus. Mi A2's front-facing camera can offer software driven bokeh effect. Interestingly, the portrait shots captured from Mi A2's single shooter look better than the images captured by Honor's dual-lens selfie camera setups.
The front camera's portrait mode also support beautification which as per Xiaomi uses machine learning algorithms to detect your face features in order to enhance the image output. To me it seemed like a standard selfie camera with just some customized beautification levels; however the overall output will definitely please selfie lovers.
Camera app and Filters/modes/Extra features
Now when you know about the camera output of the Xiaomi Mi A2, let's take a look onto the camera app and the extra set of features it offers to experiment with photography. Mi A2 comes with a straightforward camera app that offers all the required modes and features on the main screen. You can enable HDR, flashlight and different filters, 13 in total from the top of the camera screen. Swiping left and right will change the camera modes-Photo, Portrait, Square, Manual, Video and Short video. The video mode gives you two options- Time lapse and Slow-motion and the settings menu.
You can also tap on the three horizontal lines at the top right corner of the camera app to check out additional modes such as Group selfie, Timer, Tilt-shift, Straighten, Beautify mode, etc. Besides, the settings menu can also be accessed within this section.
Xiaomi Mi A2 offers an impressive camera performance for the price-point. The camera is feature-rich and captures good quality pictures in varied light situations. The cameras also uses AI, as Xiaomi says; however how it actually uses machine algorithms is not very clear. The OIS is missed but please note that you are paying a sum of Rs. 16,999 for this handset and the feature is largely reserved for premium smartphones. Xiaomi offers Software image stabilization that does a good job while recording 1080p videos. The rear camera captures impressive portrait shots and allows you to change the lens in manual mode, which is a pretty neat trick. Besides, the 20MP front-facing camera will definitely please selfie lovers in the Indian market.