The camera app is quite feature-packed but fortunately those extras usually don’t get in your way. You can have a very simple and self-explanatory interface. The HDR toggle is right on the viewfinder. There are filters and different modes a swipe away. There is a manual mode, but its existence is actually a bad joke since you can only change ISO and color temperature. The hand-held twilight is supposed to provide a better shot during night time.
One thing I like about the camera is that you can tap on any area to focus it and a ring will appear on it. You can rotate the ring to change the level of exposure. The phone will vibrate subtly to indicate the change of every step. You can tap on the camera button inside the ring to take the photo immediately. This is really convenient.
Xiaomi has placed in a 16MP with phase detection autofocus sensor along with f/2.0 lens and dual-LED flash on the back camera. On paper this should work quite well. In day time when the light is sufficient, you don’t need to be a pro to snap good photos. Xiaomi’s approach on the image processing is quite simple. By getting enough exposure and turning on the saturation, chances are you will get very eye-pleasing photos, although the colors might not as accurate. This works really well when you have rich colors in the frame.
With the relatively wide lens, you can also get some shallow depth of field photos during macro shots. The phase autofocus system is not extremely fast and sometimes it does not lock the focus correctly, but it is quite reliable most of the time.
What about shooting in the dark? At first glance the photos look quite bright, but once you zoom in just by a little you will see something is not right. As I mentioned earlier, Xiaomi will tend to get longer exposure so that the photos will be brighter. With the limited ISO, what the camera can do is to increase the exposure time. But since the phone has no optical image stabilization, I got a lot of blurry photos while shooting in the dark. The level of noise is quite obvious too. Using a tripod will certainly help, but who’s going to have one all the time?
The front facing camera is a 5MP, f/2.0 shooter. While I like the fact that Xiaomi does not overdo the beautification feature as compared to other Chinese manufacturers, the field of view of the camera is quite narrow by today’s standard. I do wish I could fit in more people during selfies.
Camera is always one of the areas where you can see the gap between flagship devices and lower-end devices. It is clear that Xiaomi has put in some effort on the Redmi Note 3 to close the gap. However, the advancement in mobile photography never slows down so it seems like the gap is still obvious, especially in low light situation. Nevertheless, this camera is not disappointing at all. It delivers exactly what you expected from a mid range device.
Here’s some sample photos taken from the Redmi Note 3. Click on them to view them at larger size.