A proper flagship deserves a proper camera. If you deliberately landed on this page of the review, we are pretty sure you agree. It is no secret that the 16MP snapper on the original Mi Mix looked a bit like an afterthought or somewhat of a weak link in an otherwise spectacular phone.
Thankfully, its successor got a noticeably better deal in this department. The Mi Mix 2 is equipped with a single 12MP camera, complete with Xiaomi's impressively stable 4-axis OIS system. It employs a Sony IMX386 sensor, the very same found inside the Mi Max 2, Mi Note 3 and the Mi6 flagship. Oddly enough, the latter two employ a brighter f/1.8 lens, but for some reason, the Mix 2 only gets an f/2.0 one. This definitely takes its toll on image quality in low-light conditions.
Even more perplexing is the absence of Xiaomi's secondary telephoto camera. We guess that the cost-saving aspect is a viable point and one that could contribute to the overall mission of making the Mix 2 more accessible. Then again, most buyers really place great value in a phone's camera capabilities, so the absence of the extra feature could swing both ways.
Before we get into a quality analysis, we should take a quick look at the camera UI. The camera interface is fairly simple and features toggles for HDR, and flash on the left. Once again, no telephoto or portrait mode anywhere to be found.
There are 12 filters available with live previews. The camera also offers quite a few different shooting modes - Panorama, Timer, Audio, Straighten, Manual, Beautify, Group Shot, Tilt Shift, and Night (HHT) as well as the camera settings. All pretty familiar options, just moved around some from previous models.
The Manual mode lets you tweak ISO (100-3200), exposure time (up to 1/4s), white balance, and focus.
The camera settings are pretty extensive, despite lacking a straightforward resolution adjustment option. You can even play with Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness levels and tune the stills to your liking. There are a few exposure metering options as well. The automatic lowlight photo enhancement is a sort-of toned-down HDR mode. It works pretty well, but bear in mind that it is not exactly full-fledged HDR.
We've already seen the IMX386 in action plenty of times. Meizu and Xiaomi's implementations in the past all share solid overall still quality. The Mi Mix 2 makes no exception. In daylight, its photos are on par with those taken by the Mi6 - per-pixel quality is very high, there's plenty of resolved detail, even the foliage is rendered great, and noise is kept low overall.
Colors typically come out accurate and dynamic range is pleasantly wide as well. The only small issues we experienced while shooting around with the Mix 2 is a sometimes unreliable auto exposure algorithm. Stop exposure metering on your end remedies the issue.
Autofocus exhibited some strange behaviour as well. From time to time, the camera would randomly decide to set the focus plane back a bit, while shooting far-away objects and then just leave it there. Thankfully, tapping on the display not only prompts an exposure recalculation but also triggers a re-focus procedure that fixes the problem. However, in its current state, the camera AF software can not be trusted for a no-input point-and-shoot operation.
To get the full extent of the HDR processing, you have to toggle it manually. Overall, it works well to recover detail in the shadows. It all depends on the particular scene, but the effect is easily noticeable.
The low-light photos came out rather unimpressive with poor detail and some of them washed out.
Xiaomi has a good track record when it comes to panoramas. The implementation running on the Mi MIx 2 is quite impressive as well. Samples come out with plenty of detail and almost no downgrade in quality compared to stills. Resolution is also plentiful at over 3800 pixels in height. Even better, there is practically no sign of stitching artefacts. Even moving objects are generally handled gracefully with little to no ghosting or deformation.
Considering the Mi Mix 2's Full screen display and 12% smaller chin underneath it, compared to its predecessor, having any selfie camera at all is an achievement in itself. To cope with space constraints, Xiaomi had to stick to a rather unfortunate 5MP resolution once again. At least the Mix 2 gets a slightly brighter f/2.0 lens.
Still, the end results are not good. Well, samples are serviceable, but not really spectacular. You can judge for yourself.
Interestingly enough, Xiaomi decided to plant a fairly extensive beauty mode on top of the unimpressive selfie cam. There is an Auto mode with three levels of intensity. If you find that insufficient, you can go into Pro mode and adjust Slim and Skin sliders individually. Bear in mind, there is a little bit of beauty filtering going on in all selfies by default, unless you set the algorithm to off altogether.
Last, but not least, you can check out how the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2 stacks up against the competition in our extensive photo compare database.
Video mode gives you a choice of 2160p @ 30fps and 1080p @ 30fps for common shooting with a 720p @ 120fps option if you want some slow-motion effects. There's no 1080p @ 60fps mode though, which would make a big difference for fast-paced scenes. Also, changing resolution involves going to Modes and then in the advanced settings, which isn't all that convenient.
The 2160p videos are captured at 42Mbps bitrate and have rock solid 30fps. The audio is captured in stereo at 96Kbps bitrate. There appears to be some form of stabilization going on in both 4K and 1080p video recording. However, it is not nearly as fluent as that on many of its competitors. Nor is it advertised as such, so take it or leave it.
4K quality is good, but not great by any means. The Mix 2 suffers from some noticeable focusing issues. And its not the typical focus hunting, but rather missing the mark altogether. Granted, this only happens from time to time and only with the default continuous autofocus mode. Still, since the focus tends to stay out of adjustment once the bug occurs, if you don't notice, it can easily spoil a clip. Spot metering is a temporary patch in this case as well. Hopefully it's only our review unit acting up.
1080p clips get recorded with a 20Mbps video bitrate and the same quality audio stream are quite pleasant. Sure, some detail is lost, but not that much. The only issue seems to be the Mix 2's tendency to oversaturate. Be weary of focus and exposure here as well.
Finally, you can use our Video Compare Tool to see how the Mi Mix 2 stacks against rivals in both 4K and 1080p modes.