Xiaomi Mi 4 camera spotlight: one of the first with Sony’s new 13-megapixel IMX214 sensor, demo images show it off

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Xiaomi Mi 4 camera spotlight: one of the first with Sony’s new 13-megapixel IMX214 sensor, demo images show it off

Xiaomi unwrapped the Mi 4 at a huge event earlier today, and while the release date is still a few weeks away (unfortunately, the Mi 4 will not be officially sold in the United States and in Europe just yet), details about the 13-megapixel camera have already surfaced.

The Xiaomi Mi 4 comes with a 13-megapixel main camera with a wide, f/1.8 aperture. The exciting news, however, is about the camera sensor: the Mi 4 is one of the first phones to feature the new Sony IMX214 sensor (a BSI stacked CMOS sensor with a 1/3.06” size), a huge step up in the photography department over the last-gen IMX135 used in flagship devices like nowadays (phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4, LG G3, LG G2, etc).

There is a long list of advantages that the new Sony IMX214 brings over the IMX135: it comes with better sensitivity (important for low-light photography), less color crosstalk (so that pixels of one color, say red, don’t get mixed with pixels of other, say green) and significantly improved real-time video HDR.

The big breakthrough is in the speed of HDR - while earlier, it was ill-advised to shoot an HDR of a moving object (the HDR was too slow, and it’d result in a blurred image), the Sony IMX214 is capable of recording 30 frames per second HDR thanks to a new SME-HDR technology. Not just that, though, thanks to improvements in backlight, the camera module is slimmer than the IMX135.

Improvements in Sony IMX214 over IMX135

Specifically, in the Xiaomi Mi 4 camera implementation, we have a 13-megapixel shooter that is fast, capable of locking focus in just 0.3 seconds. Last-generation phones like the Mi 3 (but also devices like the Galaxy S4) took 0.6 to 0.8 seconds to achieve focus, which might not sound like much, but is more than enough to miss an impromptu smile that makes the moment special. The Mi 4 comes with a new closed-loop focus system that enables this speedier auto-focus acquisition. The difference comes in the amount of physical movement required to focus - it’s much quicker on the Mi 4.

Xiaomi Mi 4 camera interface allows easy exposure adjustment

Mi 4 combines the first 2 images to achieve a much more vibrant 3rd shots in low-light
The Mi 4 camera has also improved its low-light shooting with flash - it takes a flash-less image along with one with flash, and combines them to get both the additional light on the subject, but also the more natural colors of the flashless shot. The Mi 4 also has a post-capture image refocus mode.

For video, the Mi 4 records at up to 4K at 30 frames per second, plus it supports real-time video HDR.

The front camera on the Mi 4 is an 8-megapixel one with a smaller, Sony IMX219 sensor of 1/4" size. It comes with an equally fast f/1.8 lens, with a wide, 80-degree field of view. Xiaomi employs its usual (a bit gimmicky) age and gender recognition, and ‘beautifies’ your images by softening the skin tones and you can pick how aggressively will the phone do this. Finally, there are some of the usual filters and effects that you can overlay on top of images.

Overall, the Xiaomi Mi 4 is at the fore-front of the camera race - it has the latest Sony IMX214 sensor that we expect to see in many upcoming top-shelf devices, and with a few tweaks here and there, it has the potential to be a great cameraphone.

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