We attended the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 launch in Beijing in November, but it’s time to revisit this handset for a full-on Mi Mix 3 camera review and scoring. Learn more: what is our Camera IQ benchmark?
Key Camera Specifications and Uber-G Camera HW Score
- Rear Camera System (3 cameras)
- Primary: 26mm 12MP Camera, f/1.8, OIS
- Zoom: ~52mm 12MP 2X zoom, f/2.4
- Ultrawide: N/A
From the specifications above, it’s easy to infer that the Mi Mix 3 can compete with the iPhone XS, Samsung Galaxy S9+ and other dual-lens mobile cameras with similar specifications.
It’s true that the iPhone XS is technically close, but the Galaxy S9+ has a more sophisticated lens design with a larger f/1.5 aperture that is very useful at night. The iPhone XS also has an OIS (optical stabilization) on its 52mm 2X zoom lens, which Mi Mix 3 does not have.
Yet, for a $475 handset (Chinese price at launch, $530 via Amazon), the Mi Mix 3 offers a lot to the user, especially when compared to the more expensive options above.
Learn more: what is our camera hardware score?
Image Quality Analysis
Important: let’s clarify some terminology we’ll be using:
- “image processing”: software work that improves the image data quality
- “image filtering”: software work that changes the style (aesthetic) of the photo.
- “context photo”: a great approximation of what we see
- Including how dark the scene actually is
- Only to provide the context of the shot.
A note about the Uber-G Camera IQ Score: our camera scoring system is based on four “Pillars” or sub-scores that provides much-needed nuance: day, night, zoom and ultrawide photography.
Daylight Photography: 176
In bright light photography, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 takes agreeable photos with great color rendering. But we spare no efforts to differentiate between different cameras, so we look closer to spot key differences between cameras.
While the Mi Mix 3 does well overall, there are things competitors do better, even within the same price range. We found the Honor View 20 to perform better in daylight photography, with much sharper details (in 12MP auto mode). Some softness in the Mi Mix 3 level of details and HDR (high dynamic range) performance could be improved.
If you compare the Honor View 20’s leaves with the context photo, you can see that it may even appear a bit noisy because the fine details look over-sharpened. Still, overall, the clarity is visibly better.
Price aside, a handset like the Google Pixel 3 will capture better overall daylight photography, at the cost of slightly over-processing and exaggerated contrast that can be easily corrected with mobile photo-editing. The slight optical softness of the Mi Mix 3 lens cannot be post-processed, unfortunately.
Low-Light Photography: 179
The Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 offers good low-light capabilities, and our photo samples and analysis show excellent color capture (beyond iPhone XS) but a weakness in picture clarity. At night, our tests show clearly that the Mi Mix 3 competes well with high-end phones, but let’s find out how well.
The Mi Mix 3 is excellent for people who prefer a natural-style camera tuning, over artificial filters. We’ll demonstrate this below:
For example, in this HDR scene, you can see that the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 has a very good color capture and is able to see color tones that others will mute or miss.
It is one of the closest to what your eyes can see, along with the Note 9 and S10. Others like the Mate 20 Pro substantially modify the mood of the scene and use heavy filtering, which Xiaomi does not do. Keep in mind: brighter isn’t always better.
Below, a cropped view shows that the Galaxy Note 9’s clarity is most definitely higher (a consistent trend) and that the Mate 20 Pro has better texture preservation, despite heavy filtering. As we’ve shown in our Galaxy Note 9 Camera review and our Galaxy S10 camera review, Samsung continues to own the night.
Against the Honor View 20 (below), the relative lack of sharpness is well compensated by a more agreeable overall rendering (less noise too), including color hues that on point and realistic (therefore controllable).
Below is another ordinary scene that might be challenging for a camera. The difference in contrast between lit and unlit areas can be high, and details and colors are difficult to capture.
First, nearly all smartphones will brighten the scene beyond what your eyes see (see context photo). Both the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 and the Galaxy Note 9 capture colors that are closest to “reality”, even though they have a slightly warm tint, probably due the yellow-ish street lights.
Above, you can see that a handset like the Mate 20 Pro will substantially modify the mood of the scene. While some people may enjoy this particular style, it also makes the shot less predictable. We made in-depth comparisons between Mate 20 Pro and Galaxy Note 9 in their respective camera reviews.
Below, we take a closer look at the image quality, an indispensable step, because judging a 12 Megapixel photo on a 1-Megapixel screen isn’t very efficient. Cropping to rescue:
Although the photos from Mi Mix 3 and Note 9 appear to have the best colors of the bunch, the cropped photo is without appeal: the Galaxy Note 9 is much better at preserving details.
To its credit, Xiaomi has done a great color-tuning job because many other phones aren’t able to properly capture the subtle purple hue of the flowers. However, competitors at this level can sometimes capture details better.
Below, in our classic 0.5 LUX test, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 proves again that it can capture the mood very well. The cropped view shows that the Xiaomi tuning shows much less processing than the OnePlus 6T for example.
But again, when compared to the Galaxy Note 9 (and S10), Samsung’s level of noise is much lower thanks to its superior f/1.5 lens design and software noise-reduction. In many ways, these two points are key to low-light performance, even more so than sensor size.
Zoom Photography: 82
With its ~52mm 2X optical zoom lens, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 easily outpaces single-lens cameras of the same category, but the competition with other 2X lenses is ferocious.
In our tests, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 scored well enough to land above the LG V40 zoom camera and compete closely with the HTC U12+, with a little less image clarity.
Below, you can see the Honor View 20 achieving a slightly better image quality, without using a dedicated zoom lens, thanks to its 48-Megapixel sensor that can be put to use in zoom mode.
And of course, the Mate 20 Pro / P20 Pro 3X 80mm zoom lens remains untouchable at the moment. See for yourself below:
Other 2X zoom lenses like the S9+, Note 9 or Galaxy S10 will deliver an image which is significantly less noisy, despite having comparable levels of details. See below:
Ultrawide Photography: N/A
The Mi Mix 3 is not equipped with an Ultrawide camera, but the new Xiaomi Mi 9 does, so we’ll be looking forward to putting that one to the test as well. It’s great to see all OEMs provide an ultrawide option at the high-end.
Conclusion and Uber-G Camera IQ Score
|Uber-G Camera IQ||Sub-scores|
According to our tests, the Xiaomi Mi Mix 3 camera lands close to the Google Pixel 3 camera ($699), which is a great level when it comes to mobile photography. With a retail price of ~$530 at publishing time, the Mi Mix 3 is currently the mobile camera that has the most value for the price in the Premium segment, along with the OnePlus 6T camera.
“THE MOBILE CAMERA THAT HAS THE MOST VALUE FOR THE PRICE IN THE PREMIUM SEGMENT”
Outside of the score, we would like to praise Xiaomi for its “natural” camera tuning style, which is superior to Apple’s iPhone XS camera when it comes to capturing colors tones at night. The XS remains generally better with edge details and HDR in daylight.
In the end, it comes down to image clarity and noise levels for this camera and our Uber-G Camera IQ benchmark reflect that very well.
Filed in. Read more about Editorspick, Mobile Camera Reviews and Xiaomi.