Mi3 camera review with tips|
I'm writing this because after a quick search in the forum (and the web), I realised that reviews of the Mi3 are either unboxing or for the whole phone, hence very general. I shall attempt now to go in-depth and look at the camera of this fantastic phone in detail.
The Mi3 has a fantastic sounding camera on paper. It is made by Sony and has a 13MP backside illumination (BSI) Exmor sensor. The lens is 28mm (equivalent) and has a maximum aperature of f2.2. It does not come with a optical zoom, but that's a small problem. You be your own zoom. Turn on your camera, look at the screen, walk forward, walk backward, there, zoom. Ok, here's my first tip for this article. Do not ever use the digital zoom function. As if the picture quality isn't bad enough, digital zooming will only make the pathetic photo worse. Move the camera or crop later when you get home.
Mi3 Camera app
I know there are many camera apps out there. But for me, the one shipped with Mi3 is good enough. Let's take a look at what we have in the app. Saves precious memory too, since I have 1 less app to install.
1. Flash control. You want to turn it off, mainly because it makes the photo unnaturally coloured and your subjects get monster eyes. I have never used it for photo taking, only turning it on when I need to look for things in the dark.
2. Still or video Camera selector.
3. Rear or front Camera selector.
4. Shortcut to photo album. When in the photo album, swipe to the left to view the photos from the newest to the oldest. When you are at the newest photo, a swipe to the right brings you back to the camera app. Incidentally, when in the camera app, you can left swipe to go directly into the photo album, without tapping on the circle at 4.
5. Shutter release button.
Let's explore the Settings.
1. Panorama. One of my favourite feature in digital cameras, ever since Olympus "invented" it. You can take photos that are super wide. Just tap on the shutter release button, pan left or right and the camera begins to take a series of photos, while you see an orange progress bar move. When it reaches the end, the stitching begins and after a few seconds, the result is displayed on screen.
2. Audio capture. Not very useful in noisy environments. But in a quiet room, you can use it to trigger the shutter by just snapping your fingers.
3. Auto adjust. This setting is for automatic adjustment of skin tones. Not a very useful feature, even in manual mode. You are better off concentrating on getting that shot and then doing any post processing later on your computer.
4. HDR (High Dynamic Range). It works by taking multiple photos at different exposure settings continuously and then merging them to give a photo that shows both highlights and lowlights together. HDR is a novelty trick. When this feature first came out,everyone was making HDR photos. Problem is, the photos look unnatural and you would be better off trying to master your photography techniques than take a HDR photo.
5. Hand-held twilight. The way this feature works is to increase the ISO setting so that you can take photos by hand in less than desirable lighting. So, lets get a little technical here. For a digital camera to increase the ISO, it simply increases the sensitivty of the sensor (something like turning up the volume of your speaker). When that happens, noise start to creep into your photos. Noise in very simple terms would be the little specks of colour that appear in your photo, especially in the darker parts of your photo. My advice would be, use it sparingly. Try to take photos in as bright an environment as possible.
6. Filters. I never use this feature, as I prefer to post process. You have more control over how the photo turns out that way.
7. Focus mode. There are 3 options. Auto, Macro, Manual focus. I'm lazy, so I leave it on Auto focus. When using the camera app, simply tap anywhere on the screen and it will focus on where you tap. The Mi3 auto focus is not very good, so sometimes you need to tap a few times. This can be irritating when you are taking group photos and your subjects are waiting with a strained smile on their face. Occasionally, I will use Manual focus. That's for when I want to take macro (closeup) photos. I'll usually set the manual focus to the nearest focus and just move my phone forward and back to achieve the focus I want. This way of taking macro photos is way faster than using the Macro focus setting.
8. Manual exposure. The Mi3 is generally spot on when it comes to getting the right exposure. So again, this is a feature I do not use.
9. Exposure. There are some situations where you would delibrately want your photo to be very dark or very bright, you will want to adjust towards - (minus) for darker photos and + (plus) for brighter photos.
10. White balance. Again, I find that the Mi3 is very good at finding the white balance, so I leave it on AWB (auto).
11. More settings. Yes, the Mi3 Camera app lets you control a whole lot more. More than what many people need actually. Let's take a look.
I can't remember if this or Simple mode is default for the camera app, as it has been sometime since I bought the Mi3. My suspicion is simple mode. So if it is, change it to Advanced mode, which is what I have shown you so far. Advanced mode allows more tweaks to the camera. Not that all settings are useful or must be used, but more is better and you can tweak to your heart's content. Ok, Simple and Advanced mode aside, I shall proceed to talk about the more useful (my opinion) settings under More settings.
Picture size. Set it to the largest, which is 13M. The larger the picture size, the more you can crop without affecting the picture quality when you post to our forum. Remember, what I wrote about in my editing post? Link
Picture quality. The 3 settings determine the amount of compression, since the photos are saved as jpegs. Unless you are running out of space, leave it on High (least amount of compression).
Store location info. Turn it off. Unless you want weird people who see your photos online and decide to show up at your door. This is because if it is on, your location info will be saved in the EXIF, which is easily accessible to anyone who sees your photo.
Volume key functions.
Scan QR code. They are all self explanatory.
Time watermark. Again, turn it off. There was a time, when this feature was very popular and all photos in that era had a date and time stamp in a corner of the photo. It looks ugly, spoils the beauty of your photo. Just turn it off and be over with it.
Long press shutter button. Set it to Burst shoot. The Mi3 can take photos at the rate of 10 frames per second. Be careful or your 16GB phone will soon be out of space. LOL!
Reference line. I have it on because it helps me get things straight in my photo, as nothing irritates me more than a horizon that's slanting in a photo.
Auto exposure settings. Use Frame average. The Mi3 metering system is very good. Set and forget for most photo situations, unless you are taking very high contrast photos and want a very specific part of the photo to be exposed correctly, then use Spot metering. Tap on the screen, where you want the camera to calculate the exposure value, when using Spot metering. In today's context, Centre weighted metering is like an old man trying to look young. I mean, who takes photos of things that sit directly in the center of a photo? In any case, putting your subject right in the middle of the frame is poor composition. The only situation I can think of is when you are taking an ID photo, where the face is usually framed right in the middle of the photo.
Anti banding. This setting is only for when you want to take photos of the TV or monitor and need to cut out banding effects due to the refresh rate of the monitor. I just leave it on default. You might want to change it to Auto just for the heck of it.
Sharpness. Leave on Normal. Like I said, do everyting in Post processing. Remember, if your photo is blur due to wrong focus or shaky hands, no amount of post processing can save the photo. So concentrate and stay focussed on taking that photo, rather than fiddle with settings that you can adjust during Post processing.
Face recognition. I don't see the purpose of these 2 settings. Do you?
Enhance skin tones. Eventhough I have it at off in Settings, I still see 1 person as my value. Oh well, it's not going to kill me, just leave it at that.
Restore default. If you mess up something and don't know how to undo whatever you have messed up, use this setting to start all over again.
The Mi3 camera is not half bad. At least for me, as I feel that it exposes accurately, gets the AWB correct and is quite a speedy shooter (very little shutter lag). The last one being very important to me, because shutter lag irritates the hell out of me, when I'm trying to take a photo and the camera takes its own sweet time when I tap on the shutter release. The only 2 gripes being that the panorama stitching could be faster as the wait time gets a little uncomfortable and the focusing I feel, has room for improvement. This review is based on the SG Stable ROM version14 (JXDSGBD14.0). I've heard that the Mi3 can shoot RAW. Well, not in the version I have, so no comments yet.
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