A familiar triple camera
The Xiaomi Mi 9T has a triple-camera on its back with the same logic as the Mi 9. It does have different sensors for all of its three cameras, but should still be able to match the Mi 9 camera quality for the most part.
Just like the Mi 9, the Mi 9T main camera has a huge 1/2" 48MP sensor behind f/1.75 26mm lens that spits out 12MP images. On top of it, somewhat separated, is the 8MP (1/4") telephoto snapper behind f/2.4 52mm lens for 2x optical zoom. And below the main snapper, sharing the same piece of front glass is the 13MP (1/3") sensor behind an f/2.4 15mm lens for ultra-wide-angle shots.
Xiaomi Mi 9T review
The 48MP sensor sits is behind an f/1.75 lens and is not stabilized. In fact, none of the three snappers features optical stabilization. The main sensor has 0.8µm pixels, the tele and ultra-wide snappers have 1.12µm pixels.
The default camera app hasn't changed that much. Swiping left and right will shuffle through the camera modes, including a 48MP one, and you will find additional settings in the tab above the viewfinder. It lets you adjust some settings like beautification, HDR, AI, video mode, and picture quality. The usual 0.6x/1x/2x toggles are on the viewfinder itself.
Camera app - Xiaomi Mi 9T review Camera app - Xiaomi Mi 9T review Camera app - Xiaomi Mi 9T review Camera app - Xiaomi Mi 9T review Camera app - Xiaomi Mi 9T review
Night Mode is also available on the Xiaomi Mi 9T for those long-exposure hand-held shots when light is limited.
The 12MP images you'd get by default from the main camera have exemplary level of detail and true-to-life colors. The contrast is excellent, while the dynamic range is notably wide. The images are sharp but not over-sharpened and overall those are among the best 12MP daylight photos we've seen to date with the only visible issue being the moire fringes on the third photo below.
There is a dedicated 48MP mode if you want to shoot in 48MP. This time around it's put very conveniently to Photos (mode) and is one swipe away. It does save the picture in full resolution, but the detail is nothing that special and you can notice various smudged areas and artifacts.
There isn't a benefit of shooting in 48MP and then manually resizing down to 12MP either - you won't get more detail or sharper image. And saving in 48MP is a slower and costly task - one image eats about 30MB of your storage.
The 8MP tele camera may not be as cool as the main one, but it still produces great images with plenty of detail. Some of them are a little bit noisier than the ones from the primary shooter but as far as tele shooters go this is one of the better ones out there.
But also just like most phones, this zoom camera won't fire when light drops below a certain threshold. The samples you will see are excellent but don't expect you will use this camera for sunrises or sunsets, let alone night-time photos. In non-favorable light conditions, you will get a 12MP digitally zoomed photo from the main camera instead.
Finally, we snapped some 13MP images with the ultra-wide-angle camera. Its per-pixel quality is lower than the other two, but the colors are still nice, and noise levels are low.
There is noticeable corner softness, which is mostly attributed to the automatic distortion correction.
You can opt out of the lens correction, and you will get sharper corners at the expense of distorted buildings around the edges of the frame.
With correction - f/2.4, ISO 100, 1/1214s - Xiaomi Mi 9T review without correction - f/2.4, ISO 100, 1/1250s - Xiaomi Mi 9T review
With correction • without correction
Xiaomi has an AI toggle, which is a simple scene recognition and it doesn't do much. But it can offer suggestions for which camera you should use in some scenes, so if you are new to this multi-camera stuff, you might what to give the AI a try.
Now, let's see how well those cameras fare in the dark. The photos from the regular camera turned out fine, but the aggressive noise reduction resulted in the loss of a lot of fine detail. Indeed, the noise is pretty low, but so is the detail. Despite the f/1.75 aperture the Mi 9T often fails to capture bright enough exposures. The lack of optical stabilization forces it to keep shutter speeds above 1/14s and compensate with higher ISO. Higher ISO brings in more noise, which is then processed and it leads to reduced levels of captured detail overall.
The Night mode (takes about a second to shoot) makes a difference by being able to get the proper exposure even in the darkest environments. The result is nicely balanced, and subjects look a bit more detailed. It's not the best implementation we've seen, but it works a lot faster than, say, Huawei's.
The 12MP resulting images don't quite have the same per-pixel detail as the daylight shots and are quite soft obviously, but they are not too bad either and much better than you'd achieve with the regular shooting mode at night.
You can use the 48MP mode in low-light, too, and here it could make a difference if you are down for some manual editing. The native 48MP photos lack noise reduction and thus once you resize them to 12MP they would look more detailed.
If you are okay with doing this for each night photo - download to a computer, resize, save, repeat - then you can eventually get somewhat more detailed photos out of this camera. This won't solve the dark exposure, of course, but can help capture more detail. We would still recommend using the Night mode to save yourself the hassle.
As we mentioned a few paragraphs ago, the tele camera isn't working when the light is low. Instead, you'd get a digitally cropped and zoomed 12MP photos from the main camera. And it's not a bad digital zoom - it's one of the benefits of having a high-res 48MP sensor.
The photos from the ultra-wide-angle camera are quite bad as it wasn't meant to be a night shooter. The noise reduction is very aggressive, and the exposure is often quite dark. Add to that the overall softness and lack of detail, and you get 13MP nighttime images which are not very attractive.
Once you're done with the real world samples, head over to our Photo compare tool to see how the Xiaomi Mi 9T stacks up against the competition.
Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
12MP: Xiaomi Mi 9T against the Xiaomi Mi 9 and the Samsung Galaxy A80 in our Photo compare tool
Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool Photo Compare Tool
48MP: Xiaomi Mi 9T against the Xiaomi Mi 9 and the Samsung Galaxy A80 in our Photo compare tool
The quality of the portraits taken with the rear camera of the Mi 9T is dependent on the light conditions since those are taken with the telephoto snapper that has smaller pixels and f/2.4 aperture. But that's valid for any similar telephoto camera on a smartphone.
So, when the light is right, and you take several shots just in case, you will be rewarded with some nice portrait shots - detailed, with excellent subject separation and convincing faux blur.
Various portrait lighting effects are available, but none of them really grew on us.
The 20MP pop-up selfie camera turned out to be an excellent shooter.
Xiaomi Mi 9T review
There is more than enough detail, the colors are nice, and the images are sharp enough. Sure, you have a limited range for the focus sweet spot, but with enough leeway to cover the different arm lengths and those who prefer closeup shots.
It can also take blurred background selfies and does it quite proficiently even though there isn't a depth sensor. There is a drop in the sharpness, though.
The dynamic range on the selfies is not impressive but leave the Auto HDR on and it will improve things a lot.
The Xiaomi Mi 9T captures video up to 4K @ 30fps, and all other common modes are available - 1080@30fps and 1080p@60fps. It seems at first that you can capture in these resolutions with all three cameras, but you actually can't. While the regular and ultra-wide snappers do record videos, the 2X zoom toggle is really a digital zoom from the footage from the main camera - no matter the resolution.
Slow-mo video are available - 1080 @120, and 720p @960fps or @240 fps.
The video bit rate is 40-42Mbps in 4K, about 10Mbps in 1080p at 30fps, and 20Mbps in 1080p at 60fps. Audio is recorded in stereo with a 96Kbps bit rate.
We found 4K videos from the main camera sharp and detailed, though not class-leading when you examine them from closely. The noise is kept reasonably low. Contrast is excellent, color rendition is quite nice and true to life, and the dynamic range is nicely wide. Overall, we are happy with the 4K footage.
The 1080p capture at 30fps is excellent across the board - resolved detail, contrast, colors, dynamic range.
Unfortunately, the detail in the 1080p videos shot at 60fps is halved making those looked jaggy, if not pixelated.
As we said the 2X toggle isn't using the 8MP sensor with the 52mm lens. Sure, we can understand that 8MP can't do 4K and that's why Xiaomi uses its main camera, but it's still beyond our understanding why not at least allow it for the 1080p resolution. Still, even though digitally zoomed, the 2X videos turned up pretty good reaping the benefits from that 48MP large sensor.
Our positive words for the zoomed videos apply only for the 30fps ones. The 1080p at 60fps clips are abysmal.
The ultra-wide-angle 4K videos are softer than the regular ones and less detailed. Their color rendition turned out oversaturated, and the dynamic range is lower. The 1080p videos at 30fps taken with the ultra-wide-camera are mostly on par with the ones from the main snapper but keep the colors over-saturated. And similarly, the 60fps clips are less detailed and look pixelated.
EIS is available for all snappers and resolutions at 30fps. The digital stabilization does a great job smoothing the camera shake at the expense of minor loss of FoV.
Here's a glimpse of how the Xiaomi Mi 9T compares to rivals in our Video compare tool. Head over there for the complete picture.