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Camera Comparison: Xiaomi Mi 9T vs Xiaomi Mi 9 vs Redmi K20 Pro

There are fewer phones out in the market right now that are more exciting than the Redmi K20 Pro. It’s got the trifecta of great performance, premium build and an affordable price tag, and it does it so well that some even call it the spiritual successor to the Pocophone F1.

But, unlike the Pocophone F1, the Redmi K20 Pro has — what appears to be — a proper flagship camera setup. A triple camera setup that consists of a 48MP wide camera, an 8MP telephoto and a 13MP ultra-wide.

To find out if it can actually hold its own against a proper flagship smartphone, we decided to pit it against its very own flagship sibling: The Xiaomi Mi 9 — a smartphone that sits in the top 5 position in DxOMark’s leaderboard by points. And, since we also had it on hand, we set it up versus its global twin, the Mi 9T.

“But why these phones?” I hear you ask. Well, its because on paper, these smartphones have very similar camera specs:

Besides the drop in resolution for the telephoto and ultra-wide cameras, the other difference between the three smartphones is that the Mi 9T uses a Sony IMX582 sensor instead of an IMX586. But, the biggest difference between these two sensors is that the IMX582 is only capable of recording videos of up to 4K resolution at 30fps, while the IMX586 can do 4K at 60fps. Not a huge difference, in my opinion, and one that’s unlikely to affect photography.

We tested these three smartphones in several different scenarios ranging from bright to low light, as well as a test for each of the smartphone’s secondary cameras. Be sure to click on each image to view its full resolution so you can judge quality for yourself.

All the photos were shot with the same settings on each camera, with AI enhancement turned off, and with the device watermark turned on so you can easily identify which camera took which image. The phone was mounted onto a tripod for every shot except the selfie because who takes selfies with a tripod?

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I would also like to thank Mobile2Go for providing us with the Redmi K20 Pro and Xiaomi Mi 9T for the purpose of this camera comparison. If you want to pick up these devices, you can head to any Mobile2Go store, or at their online store. Keep in mind that these are import sets (aka AP set) so they don’t come with official Xiaomi Malaysia warranties.

SCENE 1

This scene is a standard daylight scenario where the scene is lit beautifully with soft diffused light from a setting sun. It’s a solid test to see how much detail each camera can pull from the scene. One interesting thing about this scene is that despite the fact that they’re both on MIUI, the Mi 9 has noticeably less sharpening going on, resulting in a more natural-looking image.

SCENE 2

This scene is a standard low-light test shot but with a little twist. Instead of a fully dark image, our subject is actually lit by overhead lighting. We wanted to create a little contrast in the lighting to see how the cameras would meter and expose because we think these scenes are far more common than purely dark scenes. Predictably, however, all three phones exposed the image almost identically — especially between the K20 Pro and Mi 9T — except the Mi 9 which brought up the shadows a little more. The Mi 9’s image has noticeably lower contrast, so it looks a touch softer than the K20 Pro and the Mi 9T.

We also took the same scene with Night Mode turned on.

With Night Mode on, the images are certainly brighter and you get the same kind of HDR-feel you do with other night mode implementations. There’s also little variance between three phones to my eyes, with the exception of the Mi 9T’s slightly more saturated image.

SCENE 3

Alright, it’s time for the zoom test. Both cameras come with 2X short telephoto lenses so let’s see how they perform. We’ll be testing images at 1X, 2X and 10X.

I think the Mi 9 is a clear winner here. At 2X it produces a much more detailed image than its competition and the same can also be said at 10X, though the difference is less obvious. We aren’t quite sure why the Mi 9T had so much trouble focusing at 2X as none of our photos at 2X seemed particularly in focus.

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SCENE 4

Next up, we’ve got the ultra-wide camera. One interesting thing to note is that the Mi 9T and K20 Pro have a slightly wider focal length, coming in at about 12mm (35mm equivalent) while the Mi 9 tops out at 13mm (35mm equivalent). Still, I have to say that the Mi 9’s image looks slightly better. It’s more properly exposed and looks more detailed with less distortion at the edges.

Nevertheless, the other cameras aren’t bad either and are certainly better than the “security camera” images you get from other ultra-wides at affordable price points.

SCENE 5

Now, it’s time for the portrait test. At a glance, all three images look identical, but upon closer inspection, the Mi 9’s skin tone looks better to my eye. All three images have good edge detection — something Xiaomi has been pretty solid at for a while now — and a relatively pleasant bokeh. If you want more blur, you can edit the images in the smartphone’s photo app and crank it all the way up. But, I found the most pleasant blur happens around f/3.2 to f/4 (which is what we shot in).

SCENE 6

Finally, we’ve got the selfie test, and much like a lot of the other scenes, the phones are all pretty evenly matched here too. I can’t definitively pick a winner in this test because they all look super comparable. The photo was taken without any beauty turned on.

CONCLUSION

At the end of the day, I can’t say that this test was a revelation. We sorta knew going in that the smartphones would be very evenly matched — because they had very similar specs and ran on the same software — and the tests have definitely confirmed that. However, if I had to crown a winner, my pick would go to the Xiaomi Mi 9 because it edges out its competition in the ultra-wide and telephoto tests, but even then I wouldn’t say that it did it by a huge margin.

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That said, this isn’t a knock against the Mi 9 because I think that it’s a very solid shooter for its price. Rather, I’d call this a win for the Redmi K20 Pro and Mi 9T because these devices will likely be priced lower than the Mi 9, so to produce such comparable images is nothing to scoff at.

It is, however, worth noting that of the three devices, the Mi 9T and Redmi K20 Pro have a better camera app UI. Even though they’re all MIUI’s camera app, I’m happy to report that the Mi 9’s unintuitive method of switching between ultra-wide and the other camera modes does not carry over to these two new smartphones.

In the end, I believe that the final difference maker will be the prices that these devices will eventually retail for when the officially come to Malaysia. From the looks of things, the Mi 9T will likely retail for about RM1,300 to RM1,400, which means that it should be about RM200 cheaper than the Mi 9, but we can only know for sure once it launches on the 20th of June.

In the meantime, if you can’t wait, you can pick up an import set from our friends over at Mobile2Go who were kind enough to send us the Redmi K20 Pro and the Mi 9T.

What do you guys think? Which phone was the winner for you? Let me know in the comments below.