Shomik Sen BhattacharjeeMar 18, 2019 17:56:24 IST
In the span of a year, cameras on budget smartphones have come a long long way. In fact, we’ve arrived at a stage where the competition is so stiff between brands that we’ve often questioned the need for splashing the cash on premium flagships when decent budget smartphones mostly get the job done just fine. A more trained eye will definitely be able to see a massive difference in quality but for regular social media updates, budget smartphones do a pretty good job overall.
While 48 MP cameras have become a thing in 2019, Xiaomi recently became the first brand to introduce a 48 MP camera sensor in a budget phone. While the images shot using the phone do turn out impressive under most conditions, we needed to dig deeper into whether the extra megapixels here really make a difference. The Redmi Note 7 Pro also happens to feature Sony’s IMX 586 48 MP sensor, which should theoretically give it an edge over the competition, but then again, we won’t know unless we compare images side-by-side.
We picked up the budget ‘Pros’ — Redmi Note 7 Pro, Redmi Note 6 Pro, Realme 2 Pro and the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2 — and set out to see which camera performs the best and how. All the phones here have a dual camera setup with a primary sensor aided by a secondary depth sensor. They’re also all priced below Rs 15,000 and feature single front-facing cameras, which makes for quite a fair comparison on paper.
The Note 7 Pro does return the most balanced images with the most natural-looking colours overall, but I was definitely surprised by how well the older Redmi Note 6 Pro fares when it comes to low light shots. The Realme 2 Pro also does a very good job under most conditions with excellent reproduction of detail in landscape shots and natural-looking background separation in portrait shots.
The only phone which does seem to bite the dust throughout is the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M2, which was a bit of a surprise since images shot through the phone look quite good at first glance.
The Portrait shots revealed how differently each of the phones process the images. While the Redmi Note 7 Pro and Note 6 Pro do a comparable job, the difference in colours and exposure levels are definitely stark when you look at the samples shot with the Zenfone Max Pro M2 and the Realme 2 Pro. Though all the images here are shot from exactly the same angle, the samples shot using the Realme 2 Pro look dramatically different.
Portrait Mode: Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
In the shot of the statue (that's the statue of R K Laxman, in case you're wondering), the Redmi Note 7 Pro showcased the most pleasing colours with better depth in comparison. The margins are fine here when compared to the Note 6 Pro, but if you notice the textures on the floor, you will notice that Note 7 Pro does a brilliant job in separating the pavement below the statue and road behind it.
The Zenfone also does a good job here with separation, but it does boost up the contrast just a bit too much. The Realme 2 Pro also does a good job overall but because of the odd angle, the exposure does go for a toss. The background also looks a little too dramatic though that's something that some people might prefer.
Moving on to the portrait selfie, the margins are really slim as three of the four phones in the comparison do a great job both in terms of colours and exposure, as well as, details and subject separation. I personally prefer the samples shot on the Xiaomi phones more though Realme does do a great job of the image as well. The reason why I would lean towards the Note 7 and Note 6 Pro is because of a slight halo effect the Realme 2 Pro generates while separating the subject from the background.
Again, most people won't be pixel peeping to look for the halo effect but since this is a comparison, the Redmi phones do edge ahead.
The Zenfone Max Pro M2 completely lacks a portrait mode, something I had noted in my in-depth review as well.
Landscapes: Xiaomi Redmi Note 6 Pro
While the photo from the Redmi Note 6 Pro definitely stands out from the pact, the cropped image again reveals how far behind the Zenfone Max Pro is when it comes to dynamic range and just being able to handle the exposures.
The sample from the Note 6 Pro is well contrasted and cleaner with better-resolved details in comparison to the Redmi Note 7 and the Realme 2 Pro. There definitely is some over-sharpening at work on the image, but the Note 6 Pro still does a far better job with HDR than the Realme 2 Pro and the Note 7 Pro.
What is also worth mentioning is the fact that the Note 7 Pro image sample cropped into here is a 12 MP binned sample and not a RAW 48 MP shot, which essentially helps the phone preserve more detail. A 48 MP image meanwhile, does not preserve the same amount of details. But because it is a RAW image, you can tweak the image to your liking.
In the second image, the Redmi Note 7 Pro comes out on top, doing a better job with colours, contrast and detail. If you take a look at the cropped image, you'll see how only the Redmi Note 7 Pro and the Realme 2 Pro manage to preserve the textures on tank wall on top of the building.
Night cityscape: Xiaomi Redmi Note 7 Pro
While none of the phones manage to deal with the tricky shot with aplomb, the Redmi Note 7 Pro definitely has the cleanest image and also manages to do a great job of retaining detail. The Note 6 Pro is a close second when it comes to detail, but fails to match the Note 7 Pro's sheer sensor prowess overall.
The images shot on Realme 2 Pro do look pleasing at first glance but zooming in does reveal a lot of noise. The same applies to the Zenfone as well.
Side Note: The Redmi Note 7 Pro is also the only phone in the mix to feature a dedicated Night Mode.
When it comes to video, I would pick up the Redmi Note 7 Pro or the Realme 2 Pro as they both offer better stability while shooting at 1080p 60 fps. 4K is available on both the phones but both of them lose out on EIS at that resolution which does hurt if you aren't super steady.
To check out all the image samples from the smartphones in this camera comparison head to our Flickr album here.
The Redmi Note 7 Pro may pack great hardware for the price but at the moment, it still loses out to the Redmi Note 6 Pro when it comes to handling tricky lighting conditions in broad daylight. The phone struggles with exposures on certain occasions but its low-light performance and the sheer amount of light it captures is certainly unmatched by any phone in the segment.
The Realme 2 Pro, meanwhile, also does a respectable job in daylight as well as with portraits but simply doesn't take the fight to the Redmi Note 7 Pro when it comes to low-light shots.
Xiaomi, meanwhile, is expected to announce a software patch for the Redmi Note 7 Pro very soon and the camera is one of the key focus areas of the update.
The Redmi Note 7 Pro is definitely your pick if the camera is all you care. The phone's prowess is not only limited to its low-light performance or video capabilities but the sheer hardware advantage that it holds over its competition. Xiaomi is also expected to roll out a camera-oriented software update which is expected to only better the phone's ability to shoot images. Definitely worth every penny considering the phone is priced at Rs 13,999 for the base variant.
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