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- A great 16MP rear sensor that can record 4K video and takes great images
- Little disappointing 4MP front-facing selfie camera
I must admit to not being one for selfies, but the front-facing camera on the Mi5 is good – images are detailed, and the angle is wide enough to get all your mates into the shot.
The selfie camera will also tell you your age and sex if you have 'beauty face' turned on. It told me I'm 30 – I'm a bit older than that, and this phone and I are now best friends.
But the real camera business is happening round the back, with the 16MP sensor capable of producing some genuinely impressive photos – I've used it a lot and the results are sometimes amazing, often great and, at worst, still pretty good.
The first thing to mention is HDR (high dynamic range). It's important to note that HDR requires subjects to be static in order to work well – any movement in the frame will result in ghosting, so this mode is best avoided if you're taking photos of children or pets, as the results are likely to disappoint.
For static scenes, however, it's good, and will help balance out images where you have a bright background and darker foreground.
Turning HDR off is easy, and indoors there's not a huge amount of reason to use it. Sometimes, against a bright background, it can help boost people in the foreground – but only very still people. In regular, non-HDR mode images look great – even in low light the results are very good.
I took some sample shots when it was dark outside, under typical overhead lighting. The camera bumped the ISO up, but the images retained enough detail to be usable; there were signs that the software was suppressing noise, as you'd expect, but it does a good job of this.
I was especially impressed with low-light images. While these aren't entirely free of noise, what noise there is looks enough like film grain to be passable. Moving subjects will fare less well in low light, but the flash on the Mi5 is to be commended, offering two colour options to produce more natural-looking images.
Photos still suffer from the flattened nature of basic flash photography, but it will give you bright subjects if you need them. I took a picture of BB-8 with the flash and the colours and detail were great; the camera kept the exposure about right too.