Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 vs Realme 1 vs Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro camera comparison: the budget battle

A few years ago anything other than a flagship phone meant that you’ll have to sacrifice on a lot of things. And most of the times, the camera is the first to get the least attention.
 
Thankfully, that situation has changed and today you can find budget phones that give more expensive phones a run for their money, at least when it comes to camera performance.
 
Today we are comparing three such phones: the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1, the Realme 1, and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro. We’ve taken pictures in various lighting conditions to test the cameras. So let’s begin with the comparison. 
 
Watch the full video comparison here:
 

Daylight 1

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Daylight 1

Talking about the first set of images here, the Asus Zenfone, the Realme 1, and the Redmi Note 5 Pro all produced very good-looking images. I think taking a look at them one after the other, you won’t really see a difference. The details are also very well preserved in all these images.

Realme 1 Daylight 1

Although looking at them side by side, Asus clearly has sharper details and might be a bit too oversharpened for a lot of you. For me personally, it’s fine. The Realme 1 has the least details when zoomed in and the Redmi Note 5 Pro has an overall balanced image. For these images, I would go with Redmi Note 5 Pro due to the color reproduction which is almost true to life. The Asus and Realme come a close second and third respectively. 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Daylight 1

Daylight 2

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Daylight 2

Looking at these images one by one, the image from the Realme 1 does stand out at first glance. That’s probably because it’s the brightest of the bunch and has managed to identify the subject well too.
 

Realme 1 Daylight 2

This is a difficult image to shoot because the background has a very bright source, which is why the other two images are a bit dark. But, the Realme chose to blow out the background a bit more in order to accommodate the subject in autofocus mode. Now zooming in too, I think the Redmi Note 5 Pro is a winner when it comes to details and balance in the image. But I still prefer the Realme 1 image here and I think for this image is my winner. In the 2x Zoom image, although the Realme image looks brighter, the focus is off and I will go with the Redmi Note 5 Pro image with all the details and colors.
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Daylight 2

Non-HDR daylight

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Daylight Non-HDR

In this next image, we see the same pattern, looking at them separately they all look very similar. But looking at them side by side, there are a lot more things to notice here. I think we can all agree that the Realme 1 image looks the brightest and also looks quite appealing from a distance. The colors look good, the sky also looks well exposed and everything overall looks great.
 

Realme 1 Daylight Non-HDR

However, zooming in we’ll realize that the Realme 1 has softer details. Redmi Note 5 Pro generally tries to go natural on those details and Asus clearly does a lot of oversharpening. Also zooming into the dark bottom corner of these images, the Redmi Note 5 Pro seems to have completely messed up the details. While Asus has tried to preserve them at the cost of a lot of noise.
 
While, the Realme 1 image has softer details looks the best among the three here. It’s difficult to pick a winner here so don’t forget to revisit what I’ve said earlier because your preferences might differ. That being said, if I had to pick, I’d go with Realme 1 image.
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Daylight Non-HDR

Also read: Nokia 7 Plus vs OPPO F7 vs Redmi Note 5 Pro camera comparison: the mid-range war

HDR plant daylight

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 HDR

Now Interestingly looking at the HDR shots of these images, We finally start to see a lot of differences in the way each one handles HDR. So what Asus does is quite straightforward with just preserving details in highlights by bringing them down and boosting the shadows. This way the image just looks a tad bit better. But I have to tell you here that an HDR shot on the Zenfone Max Pro M1 takes more time than others and that’s not so much because of the hardware, but the camera app.
 

Realme 1 Daylight HDR

Now looking at the Realme 1 image, it has the most drastic HDR effect where apart from bringing down highlights and bring out details in shadows, it also cranks the saturation up a bit. So you can clearly see the leaves being a lot greener in the HDR shot.
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Daylight HDR

The Redmi Note 5 Pro is known to be subtle with the HDR effect and that’s what has happened here. The highlights have been enhanced and the contrast seems to be boosted. I generally prefer the Redmi Note 5 Pro’s shot. Because while I do like my shots a bit saturated, I don’t like adding it this unnaturally. So I think the Redmi Note 5 Pro HDR shot is my favorite here. 

Portrait mode

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Daylight Portrait

Now taking a look at portrait mode images. I think this the first image where I’m somewhat impressed with the Zenfone Max Pro M1. The colors look quite good to me including the refreshing greens and blues in the background. The Realme 1 image looks a bit washed out and while the colours look good, I am not a fan. Now coming to the Redmi Note 5 Pro, I think there’s not much to say here. The image looks the most balanced and well produced out of the bunch in terms of color reproduction and balance. Now zooming in also the Redmi Note 5 Pro shines here with better details with Asus in the second spot and Realme 1 coming in at last.
 

Realme 1 Daylight Portrait

Now let’s talk about the portrait/bokeh effect. The bokeh is good on all of them and it’s also handled differently on each. So the Zenfone and Redmi just go for it and start the shallow depth of field from the exact edge. However, the Realme 1 tries to play it safe by starting out with a lighter blur and then moves on to a shallower depth effect. This way it does lessen the possibility of a blurred out parts in the subject, but it also ends up looking a little distasteful.
 
Fun fact: in our camera comparisons we’ve noticed that this is also how the Pixel does its bokeh, but there it’s done in a much more premium way.  So for these set of images, my winner is the Redmi Note 5 Pro
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Daylight Portrait

Selfies

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Daylight Selfie

Now going to the selfies, I think the Realme 1 really shines here. The colors, the details, focus all is spot on. The Redmi Note 5 Pro didn’t exactly focus well but has still managed to produce a good-looking image.
 

Realme 1 Daylight Selfie

The Zenfone image is really dull looking here which actually makes me wonder about the inconsistency in post-processing. The back camera of the Zenfone Max Pro M1 takes saturated pictures with boosted colors but images from the front camera look equally dull.
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Daylight Selfie

Daylight Closeups

Asus Zenfone Daylight closeup

Now coming to some daylight closeup shots, even looking at them one by one, Asus really shit the bed. These are difficult colors for cameras to reproduce but Asus’s photo looks really poor.
 

Realme 1 Daylight Closeup

Here again, the Realme 1 has a brighter image, but I think the Redmi Note 5 Pro really wins here. The colours, details, contrast it’s got them all right. The Realme 1 image is also very close to this albeit with less contrast.
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Daylight Closeup

Now as we zoom in the Realme 1 really shines, the details are really good and with Redmi Note 5 Pro’s crushed details. I think I’ll pick the Realme 1.

Indoor shots 

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Indoor

Now looking at an indoor shot which is actually really good to understand the dynamic range performance of these. So the Asus has the brightest image of the bunch with almost all areas exposed well but there is more noise too.
 

Realme 1 Indoor

The Redmi Note 5 Pro is my favorite image here, it has more details, less noise, and very good color reproduction. I think the colour temperature is also quite pleasing on the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Realme 1 straight out underexposed the whole image being my least favorite image.
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Indoor 

Low Light 

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Low light

Now looking at a low light situation, I think all three images look quite good however there are slight differences in each of them. The Asus Zenfone’s image has a lot of details and maybe even the most details, but that comes at a cost of that much more noise.
 

Realme 1 Low light

Now the Realme image is the softest of the bunch, in line with the earlier pattern but does manage to click the brightest image of the bunch. Now, coming to the Redmi Note 5 Pro image, I think we have our winner. The details, the colors, the noise control everything is just very well done. This one would be my pick.
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Low light

Low Light with flash

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Low Light flash

Now looking at some low light flash images, the Redmi Note 5 Pro wins this round for me. The Asus has the least appealing image, the colours are off and the details are completely smudged.
 

Realme 1 Low Light Flash

Now the Realme 1 and the Redmi Note 5 Pro are very close in these images and looking at it from this distance, I don’t think there is any difference. However, zooming in we can clearly see that the Redmi Note 5 pro has a lot more details and is hence my winner for this. 
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Low light Flash

Extreme Low Light

Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 Extreme Low Light

In this last set of images the Asus and Redmi Note 5 Pro both do a good job. However, the realme 1 has surprised me with this image. The colors are amazing and the noise levels are controlled very well all while preserving more details than the other two.
 

Realme 1 Extreme Low light

Zooming in too, I am gravitated towards the Realme 1 because of how good and bright the image looks in this low lit room.
 

Redmi Note 5 Pro Extreme Low light

Video Test
 
Now moving towards video, I think the Redmi Note 5 Pro is clearly the winner and that is primarily because of the stabilization. The Realme 1 does have appealing colors, but the stabilization and good color reproduction win Redmi Note 5 Pro this one.
 

The Asus Zenfone has the least appealing color reproduction and the stabilization is also missing. I think the Realme is a close second and if it just had stabilization, the decision would’ve been a very difficult one.

Conclusion

All three cameras performed well and the performance from the Redmi Note 5 Pro and the Asus Zenfone Max Pro M1 was as expected, but the Realme 1 surprised me.
 
The pictures came out very good looking and being the only single camera phone in this comparison, it shows you don’t need crazy looking hardware to take good pictures. That said, the Redmi Note 5 Pro clearly wins this comparison and is according to me the best camera phone under Rs 20,000. The Realme 1 is a close second as you can see and with a starting price of just Rs. 8,990 it is a steal.  
 
 
 
 

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Sreehari
sree.hari@u2opiamobile.com

Sreehari is in love; in love with technology. His enthusiasm for new gadgets can be seen in his videos. He single-handedly built Mr. Phone's YouTube channel and continues to persevere with Nitesh in making world-class tech videos. Sree - as everyone calls him affectionately - is also a big fan of Artificial Intelligence and Industrial Design. If he is not working on gadget reviews, Sree is a trained Carnatic singer. When you meet him, do to request for his rendition of Kabira by Arijit Singh.