Finally, we come to the camera. With all said and done, it is the biggest differentiating factor between the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Pro and the Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera. The main reason why would definitely prefer the latter, given the opportunity to choose. And we're not talking about the "AI" part here. Xiaomi claims the newer model comes packed with improvements to portrait mode, beauty mode and face unlock. Even if that is true, we have no reason to doubt the algorithms will eventually, if not already, end up on the Redmi Note 5 Pro as well.
No, the important difference is in the hardware. The main 12MP rear camera has been upgraded with a Samsung S5K2L7 sensor. It has larger 1.4µm pixels compared to 1.25µm, compared to its sibling and also dual pixel PDAF, for faster focusing. In front of it, a brighter f/1.9 lens replaces the f/2.2 one on the Indian model.
The 5MP secondary camera on the back is identical between the two phones - hardly significant since it is mostly used for depth data anyway. Overall, the Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera has all the prerequisites to capture notable better photos than its sibling.
The same should potentially be true about the selfie quality as well, seeing how the Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera replaces the 20MP f/2.2, 1µm snapper with a lower resolution, but higher-grade 13MP, f/2.0, 1.12µm OV13855 module.
But before we get into the gist of it, as well as some interesting video capture finds of ours, let's take a step back and look at the camera UI. The camera viewfinder is a pretty typical Xiaomi affair - a clean main interface, with a toggle for HDR (and thankfully an Auto setting) and the flash toggle.
The third icon in the roll hides away a few other interesting controls. Mostly toggles, like the level meter, timer, as well as the beauty mode, HHT and the Scenes recognition. While it's not the most elegant way of fitting more icons into the left bar, it's not that bad either.
Anyway, the Scenes button toggles the automatic detection on and off. If you want to overwrite the AI's guess, you can always set one of the listed modes manually. As far as our testing goes, most of the tweaks the various Scenes do on the picture are subtle. There is no real danger of ruining a shot by accident. You can leave it on Auto.
There are 17 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. Unfortunately, the Manual mode lets you tweak only ISO (100-3200), and white balance, but not shutter speed or focus.
Still image quality on the Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera is very good. The brighter f/1.9 aperture does make a noticeable difference, but the results are still comparable to the Redmi Note 5 Pro. Dynamic range is a bit better. Processing and color science remain consistent - noise suppression gets the job done, colors are not blown-out. Perhaps even a bit muted here and there. Edge to edge sharpness isn't great, but is about what you can expect from an entry-level device.
One thing that seems to plague the Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera is the very temperamental white balance. The algorithm is just all over the place, fluctuating constantly from super cold to super warm settings, under the exact same conditions. Even the controlled white lighting in the studio made no difference. These samples are part of a burst.
The HDR algorithm is pretty well balanced and doesn't over-process. Still, it helps to counter the rather limited dynamic range to some extent. And since there is an Auto option, we see no reason not to have it enabled all the time.
Low-light photos are reasonably good.
If you leave the automatic HHT mode enabled - it enhances the low-light shots- you will get much less noise in the images but most of the samples won't benefit from much more detail or higher contrast. Still, we prefer less noise and we suggest keeping this option on.
And here you can see how the Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera compares against other devices in our extensive pixel-peeking database.
Not much to say about panoramas. They look well enough, have plenty of resolution and practically no signs of ugly stitching.
Portrait mode works reasonably well on the Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera. Frankly, we expected some better edge detection for the bokeh effect. Even though there is a dedicated secondary camera, that should be doing most of the work, it appears Xiaomi is still relying mostly on software, than anything else. To be fair, shooting people yields noticeably better results. Flowers, on the other hands, don't make for great subjects.
You might have also noticed that Portrait mode appears to zoom a tiny bit. We aren't exactly sure why that is the case, but some users on the MIUI forum seem to consider it a bug that Xiaomi needs to address.
There is a simulated bokeh effect on the selfie camera as well. Naturally, it only works with people, through face detection. The results are definitely usable, especially for social network posts, but nothing spectacular. Things like stray hairs and glasses easily confuse the algorithm.
Since we are already on the subject of selfies, the bump up to a larger pixel size, at 1.12µm, in the OV13855 sensor and the brighter f/2.0 in front seem to make a barely noticeable difference to overall selfie quality. Non the less, we appreciate the this rout better than a higher resolution count, purely for the sake of numbers.
An autofocus camera would have made an even better upgrade. But that still seems unattainable at this price point. In low-light conditions, it's still the dedicated LED fill light that can make the most difference.
There is a fairly extensive beauty mode. You can either toggle it on and let the AI decide what to do with your face or adjust the intensity of the effects yourself. There is no real way to go over-board and distort your face, which is good.
Did we manage to peak your curiosity? OK, hold on a bit. Just a few words about the camera UI first.
You get a dedicated viewfinder and well, that's about it. On to resolution then. Officially, the Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera can capture video at up to 1080p@30fps. That's pretty odd, considering the cheaper Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 (Redmi 5 Plus) is more than happily to do 4K. And that's on the older and less powerful Snapdragon 625.
By default, clips get saved in a pretty standard MP4 wrapper, with an AVC video stream, holding quite steady at 20 Mb/s and a stereo 48kHz AAV audio stream.
Resolved detail is decent - definitely above average. Dynamic range isn't all that great, but we've definitely seen worse.
Xiaomi even went through the trouble of including EIS in the mix. It works quite well and even has a live preview.
But why no 4K? There is obviously no shortage of power. The Snapdragon 636 and its DSP are more than up to the task. The only thing standing in their way is market segmentation. Well, this trick is definitely not universal, but it turns our Xiaomi is using standard camera APIs. So, we just downloaded the OpenCamera app from the PlayStore and bingo! 4K@30fps.
Despite the hack, the MP4 video has no issues, and runs very smooth, with a rock-solid frame rate of 30 and over 40 Mb/s bit rate on the AVC video stream. Resolved detail is clearly better. Other than that, quality looks bout the same.
We definitely encourage you to play around with other third-party camera apps as well. Something out there might just work even better.
Finally, you can use our Video Compare Tool to see how the Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera stacks against the Mi A1 and Redmi 5 Plus when it comes to video capture.