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Today we will collide in a photo battle 3 main (real, not virtual) contenders for the title of “People’s Photo Flagship”.

To the point: how Xiaomi was able to create a smartphone that shoots better than the iPhone X

All test participants are equipped with a dual camera and belong to the mass segment. Members:

  • iPhone 7 Plus — from 45 000 rubles
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 3 — from 22,000 rubles ($410)
  • Xiaomi A1 — from 18,000 rubles ($200)

The price difference is serious, but Apple is not Xiaomi. According to DxO, the Xiaomi Mi Note 3 smartphone (our review) recently overtook the iPhone 8 Plus in photo quality.

Let’s try to check if this is the case. And at the same time, let’s find out if the budget two-camera A1 on bare Android can get closer to the results of the giants (our review).

Camera hardware design

In fact, this is not only a hardware battle, but also a battle of ecosystems: Apple, Xiaomi and Google (if anyone does not remember, A1 is running “pure” Android).
What is known about the hardware properties of the test participants’ cameras? Almost everything. So, the iPhone 7 Plus is equipped with a module of two 12-megapixel matrices (f / 1.8): “telephoto” and “wide” produced by LG with optical stabilization.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 boasts a more complex design: the main module is top Sony IMX386 (f/1.8), optional telephoto lens — Samsung S5K3M3 (f/2.6). Both are 12 megapixels each, optical and electronic stabilization are present.

Xiaomi A1 loses to competitors in all respects. The strength of its dual camera is represented by a similar pair (regular and telephoto) of 12-megapixel modules from an unknown manufacturer. There is no optical stabilization, only electronic.

The main part of the PV market is occupied by Sony. Samsung matrices are much rarer, but their quality is known to all Android users as outstanding. LG on their background looks uncertain. But is everything really so unambiguous, even for smartphones of different generations?

The original photos are available at the link (Google Drive).

Test: standard mode, day

Let’s look at the pictures taken in good light on the cameras

iPhone 7 Plus and Xiaomi Mi Note 3…




…Xiaomi A1

The results are disappointing from the first frames. The color balance is seriously affected, and the most unpleasant thing is that it is unstable. It is impossible to predict the behavior of the camera in order to make a mass correction. Shots from the A1 are grainy at long distances, close-ups are good, but the loss is noticeable.

The main disadvantage: Xiaomi’s loss of detail at the edges of the frame, insufficiently developed details, not always natural colors.

On the other hand, a number of frames from MI Note look much more believable than analogs from the iPhone.

A1 behaves similarly, but its results are overshadowed by defects that appear in areas of too different color. The optics of this smartphone is too demanding on lighting.

Test: whose zoom is better?

So, again, consider each row separately. Let’s start with photos

…iPhone 7 Plus and Xiaomi Mi Note 3,


…and finish on Xiaomi A1

Shooting with a telephoto lens is beyond the power of Xiaomi. Of course, with the help of Mi Note 3 you can get a good shot in good lighting. But the pictures are noticeably grainy, the focus suffers.

A1 does take photos like a “rootless Chinese”, in most cases this smartphone needs zoom either for close-up photos (macro would be great), or for show. For social networks it will do, but the iPhone shoots so that you can print!

However, on crops, the difference is noticeable only in the colors of the picture. Originals with Xiaomi can still be distinguished by grainy inscriptions and insufficiently developed sky (cannot cope with the gradation of colors, there is not enough aperture).

Test: selfie

Prepared the most difficult scenario for optical devices – night, complex street lighting. Not surprisingly, everyone failed the test. Looking at the results

iPhone 7 Plus and Xiaomi Mi Note 3,

…Xiaomi A1

Selfie cameras show similar results to others: there is a pattern, it cannot but be. Focusing is difficult for Xiaomi, difficult lighting conditions turn the frames into a noisy something. MI Note logically does better thanks to optical stabilization.

It also saves the iPhone, but its processing is also more organic: the frame is frankly bad, but the colors and details are done as well as possible.

Xiaomi A1 again gives too much noise, because the optics can not cope.

Test: Portrait mode work

With portrait mode, everything is quite simple: for Xiaomi A1, it works so-so, and cannot stand direct comparison with the iPhone. But Mi Note 3 shows good results, comparable to the previous Apple flagship.

The bokeh effect is almost natural. There are general complaints about the frame with Mi Note 3, but is it worth it? In addition, the colors are closer to reality with him, although the frame from the iPhone is more similar to that from the “DSLR”.

Test: standard mode, night

In the dark, smartphones learned to shoot a little later than the “seven” appeared. Does this mean that the later “xiaomi” will cope? Of course not. See for yourself, let’s start with

iPhone 7 Plus vs Xiaomi Mi Note 3


Xiaomi A1

The unequivocal leader again becomes the iPhone. Strangely, the A1 turned out to be even better than the more expensive MI Note – the pink frame shows the latter’s complete intolerance for complex lighting combined with flash light.

Test: all the same, HDR

Seen enough? Let’s give Xiaomi one more chance and see the photos of all categories, but taken with the HDR (High Dynamic Range) mode turned on, when the smartphone glues several sequentially taken frames.

iPhone 7 Plus

Xiaomi Mi Note 3

Xiaomi A1

And here the results change dramatically. The software has stepped far forward, and Xiaomi, primarily engaged in the development of software, could not help but take advantage of this. The shots on the MI Note 3 are excellent, comparable to the HDR footage of the iPhone module.

Somewhat worse detail is justified by the excellent color balance and overall beauty of the composition. The pictures are balanced and pleasant, as close to reality as possible.

Surprisingly, HDR also saves the Xiaomi A1. A cheap Chinese smartphone still cannot compete with a product from Cupertino on an equal footing, but it makes it possible to correctly convey reality. And the crops are very similar at all, if there is enough lighting for the camera.

Who is who really? Instead of conclusions

Of course, the outdated Apple smartphone categorically left Xiaomi in all scenarios. But! In addition to the huge price difference, there are other important details.

All pictures were taken without adjustments, software changes, third-party applications or other attempts to improve the image. When using third-party software, the results of MI Note are closer to the iPhone, and the budget A1 loses the “grain” for bright shots. Shooting in RAW also improves the quality of Xiaomi shots. Much more noticeable than the iPhone.

The test showed complete failure Xiaomi A1. His cameras are frankly weak, and the difference in price with the older model is not so great. This smartphone at current prices can only be interesting thanks to the operating system. But its camera capabilities are enough to post on social networks, and then the A1 will crush the iPhone with the price difference.

And here is the pre-top one Xiaomi Mi Note 3 almost approaches the iPhone, although it costs exactly 2 times cheaper. And it works for 2 days with active use, which is unattainable for Apple technology.

Xiaomi Mi Note 3 – the most interesting and balanced acquisition if you are not dependent on the Cupertino ecosystem. And if there is no craving for the best.

Because the best cameras and software for them, as the test showed, are still being designed in the USA.





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