Xiaomi Redmi Pro simulated bokeh effects: great results at a very affordable price

Xiaomi Redmi Pro simulated bokeh effects: great results at a very affordable price

My intention with this post is to share my experience using this phone's camera, primarily focused on the main headline feature it brings: simulated bokeh (blurred background) through a dual lens set up and advanced algorithms. If you are looking for a detailed review on this phone, there are plenty of other places you can go.

I'll start with the conclusion: although not perfect, the results this camera offer are really impressive compared to any device currently in the market. When you factor in the fact that you can buy this phone for only US$ 259,00 unlocked, this is by far one of the best bangs for the buck currently around.

Simulated depth of field is not new in smartphone cameras. HTC introduced it with the not-so-popular HTC One M8, Huawei recently launched the P9 (in partnership with Leica) and Google offers this capability to any Android smartphone running their camera app. The difference from the Google approach is that, since if functions with phones with one single lens, it requires you to move up your device in a specific way to be able to measure depth.

Last, but certainly not least, the introduction of the iPhone 7 plus with a similar effect (called Portrait mode) got many more photographers interested in the potential of computational photography. 

Here are the specs for the camera:

  1. Primary: Dual 13 MP + 5MP, f/2.0, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
  2. Geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama
  3. Video: 1080p@30fps, 720p@120fps
  4. Secondary: 5 MP, f/2.0, 1080p

Xiaomi's MIUI interface is heavily "influenced" by iOS, and the camera interface is no different: clean, well-designed and intuitive.

To take advantage of the depth of field effect, click on the "camera lens" icon to activate the "stereo" mode and pick from the equivalent simulated aperture values available (from f0.95 to f5.6). Focus is generally fast and you can have an idea of how much blur the camera is adding before you take the shot. You can also change the amount of blur at any time later.

In general, the algorithm does a great job in making the effect look natural. However, in more complex compositions and upon closer inspection, one can see that the transition area is not always perfect. To compensate for that, I usually chose a "smaller" aperture to help the image look better.

Below are some some shots using this feature. The top 2 are straight out of the device and the other 3 were edited using Snapseed.

Simulated f0.95, unedited

Simulated f0.95, unedited

Simulated f2.0, unedited

Simulated f2.0, unedited

Simulated f0.95, edited on Snapseed, optimized for Instagram

Simulated f0.95, edited on Snapseed, optimized for Instagram

Simulated f0.95, edited on Snapseed, optimized for Instagram

Simulated f0.95, edited on Snapseed, optimized for Instagram

Simulated f2.0, edited on Snapseed, optimized for Instagram

Simulated f2.0, edited on Snapseed, optimized for Instagram

As you can see from the samples above, the effect opens up many creative possibilities. I don't suggest you get rid of your camera with fast prime lenses yet, but I find it very nice to have these capabilities in my pocket. 
 

Before I wrap up, I wanted to share my thoughts in general about the phone. I have been using it for almost a month and really like it. Below are my main observations:

PROS

  1. Build quality is great. The metal finish is on par with most flagship phones around.
  2. The 1080p AMOLED screen is one of the best I've used.
  3. Performance is top notch: no lags, everything just works. The deca-core processor does a solid job.
  4. MIUI is unique, but I like the aesthetics.
  5. Battery life is very good: I usually reach bedtime with 30-40% of battery life left every day.

CONS

  1. The phone is not light. I particularly like its "heft", but at 174g, there are certainly lighter phones available.
  2. Since the device is not officially available internationally, it takes some work to get it functioning properly around Google's (not Xiaomi's) ecosystem. You get a few notifications in Chinese, but once you learn how to hide them, things work perfectly well.
  3. For some weird reason, it doesn't support 5 GHz Wi-fi. I doubt you will notice it in everyday use, but it makes the device less future-proof.
  4. MIUI's default power management setting is too aggressive, and I initially found myself missing WhatsApp or Slack messages because the phone was constantly closing the apps in the background. Disabling this mode fixes the issue with little impact on battery life.

If you want to give it a try, I purchased mine in Ireland through Honorbuy and had a great experience.

Brazilian, proud husband and father, photo geek, Beatlemaniac. Living in Dublin, Ireland. Leading Squarespace in EMEA.