The 13MP camera in the Xiaomi Mi note was advertised to be amazing, but we know a camera’s real quality doesn’t show until we put it through the paces. How good is it, really? We have extensively tested it on a short trip to Hong Kong and are ready to tell you all about it.
I spent three days in Hong Kong on my was back from Shenzen, where I bought the Xiaomi Mi Note. The short stay provided ample time to test the camera and explore the city. I took off as soon as we got there and went out and about, which allowed us to test the shooter in a wide variety of conditions.
The Xiaomi Mi Note camera
Let’s take a quick look at the Xiaomi Mi Note’s camera specifications before we start our journey. The camera has a resolution of 13 MP and comes packed with OIS (optical image stabilization), which is especially good for dark environments and videos. The Sony IMX214 sensor measuresin at 1/3.06 inches. This is paired with a lens that offers an aperture of f/2.0.
The camera also offers an HDR video option at 720p, 1080p and even 4K resolution! In addition, you will find a dual-tone flash on the back, which offers beautiful and natural skin tones. The front has a 4 MP camera with UltraPixel technology, which became popular when it was introduced with the HTC One M7 and M8 handsets. Overall, these cameras should make for great shots.
For geeks: Apliu street and Golden Computer Plaza
After completing four days and over 50 km in the Shenzhen electronics markets (report to follow), I was looking for something distracting. Like a total geek, I went to an electronics market. The Sham Shui Po electronics market is located in the Apliu Street, where there are many small stalls in the middle of the street and shops in the margins. These stores offered a range of used cameras, lenses, smartphones, cables, cases, security cameras and LED lighting.
What I loved about it, compared to Shenzhen, is that the stores are made for ordinary customers, not wholesalers. The disadvantage is that the prices are at least twice as high, and some accessories are often 4-5 times more expensive. The Golden Computer Plaza, which extends over two floors, is a good place for PC games, motherboards, tablets and routers. Prices for popular devices from Samsung, HTC and Apple are often higher than in Europe, which makes is less enticing to come here shopping.
The different light conditions in the markets give us a first feeling for the camera on the Xiaomi Mi Note. First, the camera can be launched in different ways: you can swipe the lockscreen to the right, press & hold the back button on the lockscreen or simply start the camera app.
What’s nice is that the camera starts up pretty fast. It’s actually right in line with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Quick on-the-moment snaps are also a possibility, but these are not always successful. This is mainly due to the fact that the auto-focus can sometimes be a bit slow. On the other hand, images are as sharp 9 out of 10 times, but that one time the auto-focus fails is still significant; the iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy Note 4 and Huawei Ascend Mate 7 are more accurate.
Picture quality is most noticeable in scenes with strong shadows and contrasting light (take a look at the LED lighting shop – that’s not HDR). The bright areas are well exposed and shadowed sections still show good detail.
This is further improved by the Auto HDR mode, which the Xiaomi Mi Note is automatically set to. You can choose between Auto, Normal, Live and Off. Auto mode, however, is very easy to use and powerful enough, so I always left it on.
The intuitive tap-to-focus function is also pretty fun. You tap on an area of the screen so that it is focused, then tap in the same spot to take the shot. This is especially useful when shooting with one hand, as fingers are often not long enough to easily navigate through this large device.
In addition, it’s super easy to change exposure compensation after having focused. All you have to do is drag your finger in a circle: turn clockwise and the image becomes brighter, turn the other direction and the image becomes darker.
Laser show & Hollywood walk
That evening we went to a famous laser show in Hong Kong – the Symphony of Lights. Every night at around 8 PM, laser lights fill the sky on the high-rise skyline. This is accompanied by music. The perfect opportunity to give the camera a low-light test and shoot a video.
Honestly, I was surprised at how well the Xiaomi Mi Note performed. The image wes sharp for the most part, and the exposure was great. Manual mode was also fun. One could adjust white balance, focus, shutter speed and ISO. With a steady hand or a tripod you can shoot significantly less noisy images.
Overall, the Xiaomi Mi Note is surprisingly close to the image quality the iPhone 6 Plus features – a remarkable achievement. Videos in 1080p and 4K can certainly show image stabilization works much better with the iPhone 6 Plus.
After the laser show, we took a short walk in the Chinese Hollywood Walk of Fame. Although the focus is not completely right, this picture of Bruce Lee happens to be one of my favorite photos from Hong Kong.
The next day we took the tram to Victoria Peak, the highest mountain in Hong Kong. From the observation deck you can enjoy a beautiful view of the city. So you stand there… looking into the distance, thinking: Super, that’s the smog I breathe all the time. After reaching the top, we drove around the mountain, where there are great places for pictures, panoramas, videos and… Selfies!
If you use the 4 MP front camera, one is immediately shown a facial image, along with a box that serves as an age reminder. Why? We can guess in the comments. I guess so you can position the picture to make you look younger, or so that you know how old grandma is when you take a picture with her (my grandma is not close by, so I can’t verify), or so we are reminded daily of how long we have been bored on this earth.
Surprisingly, the Age estimation is astonishingly accurate, even if it varies now and then. In addition to a beauty filter that makes your skin look like a baby’s butt, the phone features various other filters.
Let’s talk about videos for a bit. The rear camera is good during the day. HDR mode allows for videos that look a bit pale, but offer more flexibility in post-production. The sound is okay, but does not come close to the quality of the Lumia 930 or 1020. In pans, you will also notice image stabilization is significantly better in the iPhone 6 Plus.
Mid-Level Escalator & more impressions
The next day we went to the Mid-Level Escalator in the Central/Western district, where I got a last 13 € Doner (God, I’ve missed the Taiwan!). The Mid-Level Escalator is 800 meters, the longest open escalator system in the world, and brings commuters from their homes in mid-levels within the business districts in the Central District, and vice-versa. The escalator always flows in one direction only, and is reversed every day just after ten.
The camera in the Xiaomi Mi Note was a stunning performer in Hong Kong and comes surprisingly close to the iPhone 6 plus. The camera app is simple and intuitive to set up, so you quickly get to good results. If that’s not enough, you can turn to expert mode. Both in low-light and lit/shadow compositions, details remain intact, so images are very suitable for editing with Snapseed and other apps. Overall, the Xiaomi Mi Note has one of the best cameras on the market. These three days in Hong Kong were very fun, and I can partly thank the Xiaomi Mi Note’s camera for that.
This Xiaomi Mi Note camera review was translated to from our German website. It was originally written by Daniil Matzkuhn.