Is the Redmi Note 5 Pro’s portrait mode really better than the iPhone X and Pixel 2?

At the Redmi Note 5 Pro launch, Xiaomi India was eager to play up the new Portrait mode algorithm on the phone. In fact, Xiaomi showcased that the edge detection achieved by Redmi Note 5 Pro’s camera was better than that of the iPhone X and the Pixel 2. 

Why is that a big thing? Well, the Redmi Note 5 Pro’s base variant costs Rs 13,999, which is a fraction of the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X’s asking price. Evidently, smartphone tech is more affordable today. This allows brands like Xiaomi to further reduce the chasm between budget and flagship phones. 

However, we decided to test this tall claim and answer the question – is the Redmi Note 5 Pro’s portrait mode really better than the iPhone X and Pixel 2?

Also read: Redmi Note 5, Redmi Note 5 Pro first impressions

Phone specs

Before we jump into the comparison, let’s take a look at the specs. The iPhone X comes with dual 12MP cameras on the rear, with a secondary telephoto camera. The Redmi Note 5 Pro comes with a 12MP primary camera on the rear, ably supported by a 5MP depth-sensing secondary camera. The Pixel 2, on the other hand, is the boss in this equation because it comes with a single 12.2MP camera. On the front, you get a 20MP unit on the Redmi Note 5 Pro, whereas you get a 7MP and an 8MP camera on the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X respectively.

Daylight Portrait (single subject)

Most of us will use the portrait mode to capture humans more than anything else. We used Mr. Phone’s founder Ashish Hooda as the subject. His neatly-gelled hairstyle can pose a problem for many edge detection algorithms. But, the Redmi Note 5 Pro does a pretty good job, for the most part. On closer look you will notice that a few strands of individual hair have been blurred out but overall, it does look impressive. 

But, the best edge detection is achieved by the Pixel 2. It resolves individual strands of hair beautifully. Evidently, Google’s AI-based machine learning is on the overdrive here. Additionally, both the Pixel 2 and the Redmi Note 5 Pro also keep the focus on Ashish’s shirt as well. The iPhone X, on the other hand, ends up focussing only the face, and soft focussing the hair and the shirt. 

Redmi Note 5 Pro 1 Pixel 2 1 iPhone X 1

Note – The pictures on the left are shot by the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the middle by the Pixel 2, and the one on the right by the iPhone X. If you are viewing on mobile, the image on top is the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the center is the Pixel 2, and one at the bottom is the iPhone X.

Click on the pictures for full resolution images.  

There’s a reason for this. The Redmi Note 5 Pro and the Pixel 2 use a linear blurring algorithm, instead of individually focussing on the subject and creating a blur around it, like the iPhone X does. You could prefer the iPhone’s technique but we are not really fans of the same. 

Also, as far as pure details and dynamic range are concerned, the Pixel 2 does a much better job. But, we were also honestly surprised at the amount of details that the Redmi Note 5 Pro could actually resolve. We shall give this round to the Pixel 2 but the Redmi Note 5 Pro comes a close second, followed by the iPhone X in the third position. 

Daylight Portrait (multiple subjects)

On many occasions, you will also capture photos of friends together. We tested that scenario out too. To put it bluntly, the Pixel 2 smokes the competition here and we are not really surprised. But, what’s shocking is that the Redmi Note 5 Pro’s shot is much superior when compared to the iPhone X. 

The iPhone X captures an extremely moody image here. In comparison, the Redmi Note 5 Pro captures impressive colours and details. 

Redmi Note 5 Pro 2 Pixel 2 2 iPhone X 2

Note – The pictures on the left are shot by the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the middle by the Pixel 2, and the one on the right by the iPhone X. If you are viewing on mobile, the image on top is the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the center is the Pixel 2, and one at the bottom is the iPhone X.

Click on the pictures for full resolution images.  

Once again, the top three spots go to the Pixel 2, Redmi Note 5 Pro, and the iPhone X, in exactly that order. 

Daylight Portrait (inanimate objects)

Once in a while, you’ll want to shoot pictures of inanimate objects like flowers using the Portrait mode. But note this, most portrait mode algorithms are suited for human faces. We decided to shoot a flower to check if the portrait mode holds up on all the three phones. To our genuine surprise, there was very little separating our three test samples. 

Redmi Note 5 Pro 3 Pixel 2 3 iPhone X 3

Note – The pictures on the left are shot by the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the middle by the Pixel 2, and the one on the right by the iPhone X. If you are viewing on mobile, the image on top is the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the center is the Pixel 2, and one at the bottom is the iPhone X.

Click on the pictures for full resolution images.  

In fact, the colour accuracy, detail reproduction, and the exposure was near identical on the photos captured by the phones. We found it really difficult to distinguish between the three samples. If you look closely, the iPhone X decides to blur the leaves in the background. But, it looks pleasing nonetheless. 

We are going to call this round a tie. 

Indoor Portrait

This is where we start stress testing the phones. Our test subject was an action figure in our office backdrop. Now, things start getting interesting. For the very first time, the Pixel falters. You can clearly see a green tint all over the image. Moreover, parts of the leg are underexposed. The Redmi Note 5 Pro does an impeccable job with exposure, colour accuracy, and cutout. But the iPhone X’s shot is the best of the lot, despite the slight noise. 

Redmi Note 5 Pro 4 Pixel 2 4 iPhone X 4

Note – The pictures on the left are shot by the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the middle by the Pixel 2, and the one on the right by the iPhone X. If you are viewing on mobile, the image on top is the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the center is the Pixel 2, and one at the bottom is the iPhone X.

Click on the pictures for full resolution images.  

This round, the iPhone X takes the cake. Followed very closely by the Redmi Note 5 Pro and the Pixel 2. 

Lowlight Portrait

In our lowlight test, we picked a convenient lighting condition suited for smartphones instead of shooting in extremely low light. This is the test that clearly showcases the difference between a budget phone and a flagship phone. The Pixel 2 and the iPhone X’s portrait shots capture fairly detailed shots. Evidently, the Pixel 2’s shot is superbly detailed and very crisp.

Redmi Note 5 Pro 5 Pixel 2 5 iPhone X 5

Note – The pictures on the left are shot by the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the middle by the Pixel 2, and the one on the right by the iPhone X. If you are viewing on mobile, the image on top is the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the center is the Pixel 2, and one at the bottom is the iPhone X.

Click on the pictures for full resolution images.  

The Redmi Note 5 Pro struggles to maintain focus and the details are smudged too. 

Selfie Portrait

Once again, our preconceived notions about “more megapixels=better pictures” was shattered when we tested the portrait selfie mode in daylight and lowlight conditions. In both the scenarios, the iPhone X’s 7MP selfie camera captured better selfie portraits.

Redmi Note 5 Pro 6 Pixel 2 6 iPhone X 6

Note – The pictures on the left are shot by the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the middle by the Pixel 2, and the one on the right by the iPhone X. If you are viewing on mobile, the image on top is the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the center is the Pixel 2, and one at the bottom is the iPhone X.

Click on the pictures for full resolution images.  

In fact, in the daylight shot, the iPhone X’s selfie portrait captures a stupendous amount of details. Unfortunately, the edge detection is annoyingly bad. The algorithm is so aggressive that it eats up Ashish’s face, which is sad. 

In low light, the scenario is the same. The iPhone X cuts off Ashish’s ears. Poor Ashish. 

Redmi Note 5 Pro 7  

Note – The pictures on the left are shot by the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the middle by the Pixel 2, and the one on the right by the iPhone X. If you are viewing on mobile, the image on top is the Redmi Note 5 Pro, the one in the center is the Pixel 2, and one at the bottom is the iPhone X.

Click on the pictures for full resolution images.  

So, while the iPhone X captures some really good details, the edge detection is very poor. And since we are testing the Portrait mode, we have to dock points for this shortfall. We shall give this round to the Pixel 2, then the iPhone X, and finally the Redmi Note 5 Pro. But, if you don’t care so much about zooming into the details, then the order changes. First comes the Pixel 2, then the Redmi Note 5 Pro, and finally the iPhone X. 

Verdict

So, to answer the question – the Redmi Note 5 Pro takes superb portrait shots using the rear camera. And, it is better than the iPhone X in low light situations. But, the Pixel 2 is still the reigning king of the Portrait mode. The fact that it achieves it with a single camera is proof that you don’t need two cameras to achieve a good depth. Moreover, the Redmi Note 5 Pro’s camera struggles in low light compared to the flagship phones. Also, the selfie camera on the Redmi Note 5 Pro is good but not flagship-grade. 

Redmi Note 5 Pro comparison 1

All that detailed dissection notwithstanding, we are completely convinced that price of smartphone technology is no more a barrier for capturing good photos. The Redmi Note 5 Pro’s camera is a revelation!

Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?