Xiaomi Mi Note 10 camera review: the image sensor of tomorrow

Xiaomi Mi Note 10 camera review: the image sensor of tomorrow

Tomorrow's image sensor in today's smartphone with yesterday's software. The camera setup around the extraordinarily large 108-megapixel sensor does have some very promising features. But in practice, the mid-range smartphone is constantly overwhelmed by the possibilities and suffers from an unclear camera concept.

In times of smartphone photos printed to hang on the walls of a house, the constant promise of mobile phones resonates: "You don't need a full-grown camera anymore." That's exactly what I tried with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 - and left my familiar DSLR at home on a two-week trip through Indonesia.

The main reason for this decision was the main camera in the Mi Note 10. At 1/1.3 inches, the 108-megapixel image sensor is the third-largest ever installed in a smartphone - after the legendary Nokia 808 PureView and the tube-cropped Panasonic CM1. My enthusiasm for the Samsung Isocell HMX Bright has already been written about.

Here you will find a selection of original test photos taken with the Xiaomi Mi Note 10. In addition, of course, at the bottom of the test report a lot of photos are included with comments, enlargements, and hints.

Overall photo quality

The sensor stands out from the Mi Note 10, which is otherwise anchored in the mid-range segment, in such a way - one might almost regard the device as a public beta for Samsung's new flagship sensor. According to recent rumors, the Korean company will also use the sensor with the model number S5KHMX in the new Galaxy S11. The leap from the 12 megapixels of the past years to 108 megapixels now needs to be carefully considered and tested in advance.

The main sensor

The photos from the main sensor almost always inspire. The fully automatic system produces mostly excellent 27-megapixel photos from the 108 megapixels in the best Quad-Bayer manner. The neutral color rendering in daylight, which brings very vivid and natural colors to the pictures, is very pleasing. For high-contrast subjects, HDR mode does a good job, preserving detail in both very bright and dark areas of the image.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 hdr comparison2
The HDR mode in Mi Note 10 is very useful. / © NextPit

However, I had to struggle again and again with the HDR mode during my test. With the Auto setting, I couldn't be sure that the high contrast mode was actually firing. Accordingly, on the second day of the trip I simply set the checkmark at HDR to "on" and mostly left it that way. Most of the time it was a good decision, if the Mi Note 10 would not have had to fight with ghost pictures in daylight in rare cases.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 hdr doppler
Granted: Such strong ghosting effects are rare, but spoil an otherwise beautiful picture. The motion artifacts in the water was not visible on the display in full sunlight, so there are no more pictures of this scene. / © NextPit

Unfortunately, these ghost images did not only appear in strongly moving scenes, but also in transitions with extreme differences in brightness.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 hdr issue
The vast majority of photos are really successful. However, ghosting appeared in the shots from time to time (see small the picture). / © NextPit

In order to correct a possibly crooked impression, I actually recounted: artifacts triggered by (presumably) the HDR mode are disturbingly noticeable in 25 of 1,845 photos. That's 1.4 percent. Even if that is still a low number it still causes a bad mood.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 hdr
The sun sinks behind the Batok mountain, and the Mi Note 10 has nevertheless somehow still brought to light a reasonably exposed picture. Experience has shown that a DSLR with only exposure series would have been significantly more cunning. / © NextPit

Finally, at night, the large image sensor plays out its performance to the full. With the dedicated night mode, sharp and pleasantly clear photos are possible even in difficult lighting conditions. But you should also use this mode - the results are much better than with the fully automatic mode.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 night mode
The night mode in the Xiaomi Mi Note 10 delivers very nice results. / © NextPit

For those who really want to extend the full 108 megapixels, there is a separate '108MP' mode. Especially in good lighting conditions, the detail rendition is truly breathtaking. It is really a pleasure to zoom into the huge pictures, to discover subtleties and to re-cut a photo or two with unimagined freedom.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 108mp zoom
The 108-megapixel photos really do have a lot of detail. Towards the edge of the picture, however, the sharpness decreases somewhat. / © NextPit

The comparatively large image sensor also has a rather unusual characteristic for smartphones: a real optical bokeh. However, the shape of the light points is not as attractive as it is known from much larger DSLR lenses. With the holes in the middle, the blurred circles remind me almost a little of a Maksutov telescope.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 bokeh
The bokeh of smartphone lenses does not have such a smooth, smooth characteristic as that of larger lens systems. / © NextPit

By the way, in Pro mode it is only possible to select either RAW or 108 megapixels - both are not possible together. In view of the expected file size in the three-digit megabyte range, this may not be so bad. Apart from that, the 27-megapixel RAW images are also full of the problems that a small sensor with an infinite number of pixels brings with it. The traditional camera workflow with RAW and Adobe Camera RAW is inferior to computational photography, i.e.: HDR, Night Mode & Co.

The Penta camera

Away from the brilliant main camera, the camera setup, unfortunately, doesn't look at all like a unified whole. Not only does the back look like a Huawei P30 Pro, into which two additional holes have been drilled without further ado. Even the technical data somehow sounds like a sensor remnant ramp.

AndroidPIT Xiaomi Mi Note 10 Travel 5
The Penta camera setup lacks a clear line, and not only in design. / © NextPit

Ultrawide-angle

  • Sony IMX350
  • 20 megapixels, aperture F2.2
  • 1.12-micron pixel pitch
  • No optical image stabilizer
  • 1/3-inch sensor

Main camera

  • Samsung Isocell HMX Bright
  • 108 megapixels, aperture F1.69
  • 0.8-micron pixel pitch
  • Optical image stabilizer
  • 1/1.33-inch sensor

2x Telezoom

  • Samsung Isocell 2L7
  • 12 megapixels, aperture F2.0
  • 1.4-micron pixel pitch
  • No optical image stabilizer
  • 1/2.6-inch sensor

3,7x Telezoom

  • OmniVision OV08A10
  • 8 megapixels, aperture F2.0
  • 1.0-micron pixel pitch
  • Optical image stabilizer
  • 1/4.4-inch sensor

Macro camera

  • Unknown sensor
  • 2 megapixels
  • 1.75-micron pixel pitch

Our colleagues of AndroidAuthority describe the Mi Note 10 quite aptly as a Swiss army knife for photographers. To stick with the analogy, one may imagine the various blades razor-sharp and partly on both sides. You can quickly miss it, especially in the dark.

2x Telezoom

Even in good lighting conditions, a drop in image quality can be seen as soon as you switch from the main camera to one of the other cameras. The 2x telephoto camera frequently used for portraits still has very good prerequisites with a 1/2.6-inch sensor size. Weaknesses are particularly noticeable in finely textured surfaces such as water or vegetation. It is particularly annoying that image parts with good detail rendition are directly connected to image parts with poor detail rendition. Furthermore, there were some problems with the posterization.

2x 1x comparison
When using the double optical zoom, areas with good detail reproduction often merge directly into muddy areas (left). The main camera does not have this problem (right). The effect is even stronger at 5x zoom. / © NextPit

With portraits, on the other hand, the quality is usually excellent. Fine details such as eyes make the algorithms crystal clear. The reproduction of skin tones usually succeeds properly, but there are always interruptions, especially in non-optimal lighting conditions. In the dark, more and more subtleties are lost. The pictures then increasingly look as if they had been painted.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 2x sharpness
Lucky dip: with the 2x lens, the detail reproduction is partly great, partly disappointing. You can only look scared. / © NextPit

The Bokeh background softening feature performs average services at best. Problems with the release are already noticeable with reduced consideration. By the way, the portrait mode is also suitable for releasing any objects from the background.

Unfortunately, faces are often not recognized correctly and the camera focuses on the background instead of the person. I don't remember shooting so many misfocused portraits with a smartphone. This can be corrected at the touch of a finger, but it is simply annoying.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 bokeh2
The separation between foreground and background unfortunately only works well with less demanding scenes. / © NextPit

3,7x Telephoto zoom

The next step is the fivefold zoom and its image sensor with 8 megapixels and the 1/4.4-inch format. Xiaomi even worsens these already unfavorable conditions with a trick: the lens in front of the mini chip only offers a 3.7x zoom. To get to "5x", a 5-megapixel section of the sensor center is interpolated back to 8 megapixels.

With perfect lighting conditions and reduced viewing, the results are already halfway usable. In everything that is not directly illuminated by the sun, however, details are mixed up beyond recognition. As with the "2x" sensor, there are always acceptable image areas with directly adjacent image areas with completely muddy detail reproduction. To make matters worse, the autofocus is often catastrophic.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 5x sharpness
Sometimes focused on the background (top left), sometimes not really sharp at all (bottom left), sometimes focused but somehow muddy (right) - of a total of 38 photos, the large picture still looks one of the best. The details are partly okay, the textures are partly very muddy. / © NextPit

Another problem of the 5x telephoto zoom camera are the often very strong chromatic aberrations. These are violet and green fringes that usually appear at high-contrast transitions in the image.

Ultra-wide angle

I think the ultrawide-angle module is great because of its principle. No matter if landscape, interiors or even portraits: The large image angle is practical and has already given me many interesting pictures - and by the way also great in videos.

When it comes to image quality, the 20-megapixel module is roughly on a par with the 2x telephoto-sensor: The color rendition is successful and the detail rendition is basically good. Unfortunately, the ultrawide-angle photos also struggle with the partially muddy textures, as described above for the 2x telephoto zoom module. In weaker lighting conditions, the difference in size from the main sensor is finally noticeable - the image quality then drops significantly, especially in a direct comparison.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 ultra wide angle
More on the picture: the ultrawide-angle is simply great for such a scene. / © NextPit

Should the ultrawide-angle not be enough, the Mi Note 10 has an excellent panorama mode that shoots very high resolution and beautiful photos. It's worth trying.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 panorama
27 megapixels and beautiful details: this panorama could easily be printed in large format. With very high-contrast motifs, however, overexposed image areas occur due to the principle. / © NextPit

Macro camera

Last but not least there is the macro module, which I personally consider superfluous. If you zoom into the image of the main camera digitally, you will get just as many, if not more details. The only advantage of the 2-megapixel macro shots is that you get a preview of the final image right away and don't have to enlarge it later. But this could also be solved by software.

2mp vs 27mp 2
It doesn't even have to be 108: the 2-megapixel image is that big compared to a 27-megapixel image from the main camera. / © NextPit

Camera performance

Unfortunately, the main camera, in particular, shows clear deficits in terms of performance. Even in 27-megapixel mode, with HDR mode activated, there is a forced pause of about two seconds between each image. In addition, there is a significant release delay. Capturing exactly the right moment in an action scene is really problematic - with or without HDR mode. Here, one should definitely use the continuous shooting mode that shovels about ten frames per second onto the internal storage. The resolution here is 27 megapixels, but the compression is significantly higher, which reduces the file size.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 shutter delay
Shot from the moving car next to it: Funnily enough, the aircraft was initially displayed in the middle of the image preview. After finishing the image processing the nose was cut off. / © NextPit

Photographing at full resolution is even more difficult, but at least the processing time has been halved with a recent update. Last but not least, the camera app itself didn't always react stably. Sometimes even a restart was necessary to get it running again.

The selfie camera

On paper, the selfie camera has the right prerequisites - and has also done really well in practical use under various conditions.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 selfie bokeh
A selfie with the Bokeh effect: the front camera delivers very nice photos. / © NextPit

The selfie camera

  • Samsung S5KGD1
  • 32 megapixels, aperture F2.0
  • 0.8-micron pixel pitch
  • No optical image stabilizer
  • 1/2.8-inch sensor

Under good lighting conditions, photos look crisp and have natural and vibrant colors. If you switch to the selfie camera in Portrait mode, you can also use Bokeh effects here. Even in mixed light conditions, Xiaomi still produces beautiful images from the sensor that shines with largely natural colors and good details.

AndroidPIT xiaomi mi note 10 selfie
Cold as shit in the train: even under suboptimal conditions like here under artificial light, the selfie camera still delivers good results. / © NextPit

Video quality

The camera salad mentioned at the beginning shows its problems also in video mode. It is not possible to change the camera while video recording is in progress. So if you start recording in ultrawide-angle mode, you will only zoom around digitally in the image of that camera. If you start recording in telephoto mode, you can't zoom out to wide-angle. Starting from the main camera, however, zooming in is no problem thanks to the pixel mass and sensor size - but you should consider this before starting the recording.

Apart from that, the video mode shows a similar picture to that of taking pictures: the main camera delivers great results, wide-angle and 2x zoom are good, and the 3.7x/5x telephoto module isn't really convincing. Another pleasing feature is the good video stabilization, which only brings unpleasant blurring artifacts to the images in poor lighting conditions.

I edited a video for you with some scenes from Indonesia. There are consciously neither effects nor music put over the video, in order to give you as unadulterated a picture of the video quality as possible.

Battery life

Even if we normally cover this in the general test, it still deserves a mention here: the battery life is catastrophic if the camera is used diligently. With 5,260 mAh, the really powerful battery can't even survive an entire day's holiday if the cameras are used regularly.

The bottom line

Back to the striking opening question: can the smartphone, represented here by the Xiaomi Mi Note 10, replace a DSLR? I can feel the outcry in the comments, but still! More than any other image sensor recently installed in smartphones, the 108-megapixel has what it takes, at least for the average user.

If I now imagine a Xiaomi Mi Note 10 without the mixed performance, without the occasional full misses and for it with a tidy camera setup and some fine-tuning of the algorithms, then the answer for me is: yes, I probably wouldn't miss my DSLR anymore on such a journey.

Until we get the image sensor of tomorrow also with the smartphone and the software of tomorrow, we have to wait, well, probably until "tomorrow". In addition to the aforementioned Samsung Galaxy S11, the Xiaomi Mi Mix Alpha is a hot (and also likely expensive) candidate. The sensor definitely has the potential to turn the smartphone camera world upside down in 2020.

Finally, I'd like to mention once again: I shot most of the photos and videos before the two most recent firmware updates. However, I was able to observe all the problems mentioned in the test - unless explicitly mentioned - in one form or another even after the update. In the very poor changelogs, there was nothing to read from the camera in both updates, even if at least the performance in 108MP mode has noticeably improved.

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14 comments

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  • There's something I don't get about you people....you're talking about a phone here right?What's this harping on and on about the camera this and camera that about?WTF do I care if the camera can photograph my ass in the dark?It is a PHONE!Why dontcha tell us something about sound quality?Connection?You know like something important...to do with communication?I live in Britain,my family lives on the continent.So I would be interested about soundquality and stuff to do with connection etc...you wanna photgraph something get a frigging camera for chrissakes.Bande de cons...


    • David McCourt
      • Admin
      • Staff
      1 month ago Link to comment

      The good news for you Dada is that the all those connectivity benchmarks we used to run in the 90s are going to come back with the 5G rollout : )


  • storm 10 months ago Link to comment

    Id like to see a review of the clip on camera extensions for smartphones. Which is best, tricks for usage and so on.


  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 8 camera review


  • When did phone forums become camera forums? The camera has got to be the very LEAST important thing on any smart PHONE for me and many others. If you cannot communicate with your smart phone then nothing else matters!


    • bbbb 6 months ago Link to comment

      For me (and many others), cameras are the only real distinguishing factor between phones, as they've gotten to a point where everything else is at least decent. Communication already worked on the old Nokias.


    • Wow,finally an intelligent comment on here.Exactly what I think man.This is so stupid.They go on and on and on about tech stuff to do with the bloody camera I for one am not interested in at all and nothing about things which matter when choosing a cell phone...connection,and quality of sound when talking to my relatives who all live in an other country.That's something I would be interested in.Something important to me and I suspect to lots of others too.But...those chinless,assless,brainless "oh look at us we're so smart" tech savvy wankers only repeat what the first guy said about a given phone and think they're really smart blubbering tech shit they don't even fully comprehend on these sites.Like I said chinless and assless...


      • David McCourt
        • Admin
        • Staff
        1 month ago Link to comment

        Any smartphone will satisfy your user needs for good coverage and making a phone call between the UK and abroad. If this is your only requirement, my advice would be to buy the cheapest you can find.


    • You are Right...


  • marco sarli
    • Admin
    10 months ago Link to comment

    Xiaomi always gives excellent hardware for the price but a real camera is another thing


    • From the point of view of WikiMob Xiaomi Mi Note 10 already has the best back camera in the price category for it, but we blame it for using this processor, which causes slow process of image processing, and also the battery is large but does not give performance as much as its size


    • I thought this is about cellphones?All I read is about camera this,camera that...is this a joke?Why not tell us something about connection stability?Sound quality?Things which are IMPORTANT.If I want to photograph something I'll get a fucking camera...

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