Xiaomi Redmi Pro quick review: dual-cam on a budget

Dual-cameras are all the hype in 2016 and we have seen several high-end smartphones with the technology being launched in the past months, including the Huawei P9, LG G5 and, most recently, the Apple iPhone 7 Plus. While each device uses the dual-camera technology in different ways, one thing is common to all of those devices: a high price tag.

In the mid-range bracket of the market dual-cameras are still a rarity, but with the Redmi Pro, Chinese manufacturer Xiaomi has recently launched a dual-camera smartphone that is suitable for smaller budgets. The standard version with 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal memory is currently available for approximately $300. Not only is the dual-camera unusual at this price point, but its very solid metal body, deca-core chipset and 5.5" OLED display make the Redmi Pro look and feel like a much more expensive device. 

The dual-camera setup combines a 13MP Sony IMX258 1/3.06" sensor with a 5MP Samsung depth sensor. The system does does not offer any optical zoom capability, as on the LG G5 or iPhone 7 Plus, nor does it combine the captured image information from both sensors for improved image quality, ala the Huawei P9. Instead, it uses the dual-camera to simulate the bokeh of a fast lens on a large-sensor camera, something we first saw on the HTC One M8.  There is also a dual-tone LED flash and at the front the Xiaomi comes with a 5MP selfie-camera.

Thanks to retailer Gearbest.com that ships Xiaomi devices worldwide, we've had the chance to try the Redmi Pro and its dual-camera, shoot a wide range of samples and see how it generally performs as a device for mobile photography.

Key Specifications:

  • 13MP Sony IMX258 1/3.06" sensor
  • Secondary 5MP Samsung depth sensor
  • F2.0 aperture
  • Dual-tone flash
  • 1080p video
  • 5MP front camera
  • 5.5-inch 1080p OLED display 
  • Mediatek Helio X20 Deca-Core processor
  • 3GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • MicroSD support
  • 4050mAh battery
  • USB Type-C port with quick-charging

Camera App

The Redmi Pro's camera app is intuitively structured and easy to use.

The Redmi Pro's camera app comes with a pleasantly simple and intuitive design. Above the shutter button you can find the button for switching to video mode. Other controls on the main screen let you activate HDR capture and the dual-cam's Stereo mode. Swiping up opens the camera mode screen where you can enter Panorama and Manual modes among others. The latter only offers manual ISO and white balance, though. There is no manual control over shutter speed. Swiping down on the main screen opens up a thumbnail preview array of 12 simple filter effects. 

Image Quality

In bright light the Xiaomi Redmi Pro camera captures 13MP images that show very pleasant colors and good exposure in most conditions. For a smartphone in this price category the Redmi deals well with higher contrast scenes, keeping highlight clipping pretty well under control. 

Things don't look quite as good when you start zooming into the image, though. At the center of the frame, image detail is decent for a mid-range device and luminance noise is kept at bay as well. However, our test sample's lens shows strong softness on both the right and left edges of the frame, which is quite noticeable when viewing the image at screen size.

ISO 101, 1/834 sec
ISO 103, 1/1273 sec

In low light situations the Redmi Pro uses a maximum ISO setting of 2050 and slowest shutter speed of 1/15 sec, which in combination with the F2.0 aperture, allows for usable exposures even in pretty dark interiors and night scenes. There is no optical image stabilization, so holding the phone steadily when shooting in dim conditions is recommended, but overall camera shake is not too much of an issue. 

As you can see in the samples below, the Redmi Pro is capable of capturing nice exposures and colors, even in pretty dim light. Lens softness aside, detail is pretty good for this type of device at lower ISO levels, but things start falling apart at ISO 800 and above. On the plus side, luminance noise is well-managed and chroma noise is hardly visible, even at the highest sensitivity setting. Overall, the Redmi Pro's low light images look nice at web and typical social network size, but at larger viewing sizes the smearing of detail and strong lens softness don't make for a good combination. 

 ISO 155, 1/30 sec
 ISO 405, 1/30 sec
 ISO 841, 1/30 sec
 ISO 1413, 1/15 sec

Dual-camera Stereo Mode

Stereo mode is The Redmi Pro's feature highlight. Thanks to the secondary depth-sensing camera, the Redmi can distinguish between foreground and background. Applying digital blur to the latter simulates the shallow depth-of-field you can achieve with a DSLR and fast lens. In the camera app you adjust the 'virtual aperture' between F0.95 and F5.6 to control the degree of background blur. Alternatively you can change the focus point and the aperture after capture in the gallery app.

As you can see in the samples below, the feature works reasonably well, but under closer scrutiny it becomes obvious that Stereo mode is not too precise at distinguishing the focal plane, and the transition of blur is often too abrupt to look natural. Generally things look better if you choose a smaller aperture setting and make sure there is some distance between the foreground subject and the background. Stereo images are captured in 16:9 format and are 5.3 MP large.

 ISO 434, 1/30 sec, F2.4 virtual aperture
  ISO 101, 1/1445 sec, F2.0 virtual aperture
  ISO 101, 1/896 sec, F3.5 virtual aperture

In addition to refocusing and controlling the background blur you can apply a range of effects to your Stereo images in the gallery app. Again, the foreground/background separation is not too precise, but the modes can be fun to play with. 

 In the gallery app several effects can be applied to Stereo images.
Blackboard effect

Conclusion

In its price bracket the Xiaomi Redmi Pro can score a lot of points with its premium look and materials, a bright and sharp OLED display and very good battery life. The 13MP camera delivers good color and exposure across the ISO range but our test sample suffered from strong lens softness away from the center of the frame.

The dual-camera does not offer the same zooming or image quality improvement functions we have seen on some recent high-end models, but the effects can be fun to play with. Close-up the results of the shallow depth-of-field simulation do look a little artificial but they are good enough for social sharing.

Overall, the Redmi Pro looks like a good choice for those who want a high-end look and feel for little money and want to try out the dual-camera as a bonus. However, if image quality is your number one priority, and you can live without the dual-cam and metal body, the Motorola Moto G Plus might be a good alternative at a similar price point. The 32GB version of the Xiaomi Redmi Pro is currently available at Gearbest.com for $270.

What we like:

  • Premium look and feel
  • Very good battery life
  • Bright and sharp OLED display
  • Good exposure and color across the ISO range

What we don't like:

  • Lens softness
  • No manual control over shutter speed
  • Imprecise background separation in Stereo mode

There are 22 images in our Xiaomi Redmi Pro gallery. Please do not reproduce any of these images on a website or any newsletter / magazine without prior permission (see our copyright page). We make the originals available for private users to download to their own machines for personal examination or printing (in conjunction with this review), we do so in good faith, please don't abuse it.

Unless otherwise noted images taken with no particular settings at full resolution.

Review sample gallery