When a phone has been in a market for some time, it is quite possible to be known of its potential in terms of performance, camera and so on. And you may not really need to invest much time and effort into revisiting that knowledge. However, when a new competition arrives, it becomes apparent to not only be reminded of the capability of the existing handset, but it becomes important to put it directly against the new player to see which one is better. It can’t get any simpler than that.
And so, while we wait for its India launch, we have got our hands on the Nokia 6 (2018) – the upgraded version of (and the successor to) last year’s Nokia 6 – with improvements to the camera, audio and performance. We have pitted it against the Redmi Note 5, launched in India on Feb 14, in a detailed camera comparison.
The Nokia 6 (2018) has the same camera as its predecessor, that is, 16 MP lens with an aperture size of f2.0, Phase Detection Auto Focus and dual-tone Dual LED flash as primary features. The difference is that the new Nokia 6 gets the Carl Zeiss optics that guarantee, at least on paper, better image quality.
The Redmi Note 5, on the other hand, has a 12 MP lens with an f2.2 aperture, Phase Detection Autofocus and a similar Dual-tone Dual LED flash. Both cameras are quite well-matched, but clearly, the Nokia 6 seems a bit ahead as far as the specifications are concerned.
Looking at the daylight samples above, some things are clear enough – Nokia 6 (2018) has better control over the Exposure (amount of light) compared to the Redmi Note 5 which has gone on to over-expose all three images a bit. As a result, the colour saturation (and accuracy) has suffered in the images from the Note 5 since the sky has white/off-white tone. On the contrary, Nokia 6 displays better colour saturation and accuracy, although, both handsets are more or less on par when it comes to detail. However, we would like to point out that the over-exposed areas in the images from the Redmi Note 5 also negatively affect the outcome of details. Lastly, there is a touch of warmth in the images from the Redmi Note 5, which is not bad in itself since these images were taken in the sunlight, so some warmth is acceptable. However, there is a touch more reddish hue observed especially in the 1st sample which is a bit more away from how the scene looked in real.
Winner: Nokia 6 (2018)
DAYLIGHT HDR IMAGES
HDR is a very interesting feature as it is designed to bring out the details from the darker or the shadowy areas in an image. In other words, it exposes the dark areas while maintaining the details of the brighter areas without over-exposure. Also, in case there is over exposure in the original image, HDR reduces it to highlight the details that are otherwise lost due to too much light.
Looking at the HDR samples above, it is observed that Nokia 6 actually darkens the shadowy areas even more, which basically goes against the idea of having an HDR image. For example, look at the leaves (the HDR image actually makes it difficult or even impossible to isolate leaves that are in the shadow). At the same time, the handset does control the exposure and highlights the details from the areas that are over-exposed in the standard (or non HDR) version of the image.
In comparison, we cannot really say that we like the HDR images from the Redmi Note 5 any more than what we see from the Nokia 6. The thing is, an HDR image can look unreal if the effect is not right (or too much), something which can be observed in the 2nd sample above. There’s a visible whitish lining bordering the leaves and the building in the HDR image from the Redmi Note 5.
Winner: Nokia 6 (2018). Handing the win to Nokia 6 in the HDR category was not easy. On one hand, we did not like that it turns shadowy areas even darker, but overall, we like that Nokia 6 continues to maintain the saturation and colour accuracy more than the Redmi Note 5. Secondly, we do not really like the reddish tone which is visible in the HDR images (1st sample) from the Note 5.
To our surprise, the tables slightly turn in favor of the Redmi Note 5 when it comes to Night images. Looking at the samples it is revealed that there is a touch more noise in the images from the Nokia 6 even though the Redmi Note 5 doesn’t really produce noise-free images either. But the Nokia 6 is worse in this case under Night conditions. Also, since the noise level is low from the Redmi Note 5, this invariably maintains the details more than what we can observe in the Nokia 6 images.
Winner: Redmi Note 5
NIGHT HDR IMAGES
In a not-so-surprising manner, and rather a bit funnily, the Night HDR images from the Nokia 6 turn out better than the ones from the Redmi Note 5. The Note 5 went on to overexpose all those areas that are under direct light. That goes against the concept of HDR according to which there shall be zero overexposed areas in an image. And just like what happened with Redmi Note 5 in the daylight conditions, the overexposed areas in the Night HDR samples hurt the details.
Winner: Nokia 6 (2018)
DEPTH-OF-FIELD IMAGES (also referred to as Bokeh or Portrait images)
Neither handset has a dedicated Portrait mode. In fact, the Redmi Note 5 does have the option of Portrait (under the Scene category) but it is not designed to work like the Portrait mode in phones like the iPhone 7 Plus and such. We have found that using the Portrait option in the Note 5 doesn’t bring any perceptible difference than creating a Portrait image by simply keeping the subject close to the camera (which automatically blurs the background).
However, in the particular depth-of-field sample above, it turns out that the Redmi Note 5 manages to bring out more detail from the leave in focus (subject) while both handsets blur the background with more or less equal affect. We would like to point out here that the Nokia 6 kept the tone of the light (temperature) more natural but the relatively less amount of detail robs it off from the creating the overall better image. It is just one of those Bokeh images which turned out better from the Redmi Note 5. Here, the Nokia 6 was indeed a bit challenging in maintaining the focus on any object which was close to the camera.
Winner: Redmi Note 5
Taking a Panorama is quite tricky as it involves rotating (or moving) the camera in one direction and it is critical to maintain the angle or the height of the phone in order to capture seamless stitching of the images that eventually create a Panorama. Any amount of instability (barring the tiniest ones) can result in a Panorama which would look cracked.
Nokia 6 (2018) Panorama
Redmi Note 5 Panorama
Here, we like the Panorama from the Nokia 6 as it generates more natural colours while any difference in the detail (visible by zooming in on the images) is ignorable. Also, the stitching is more or less equally good or bad in the two images.
Winner: Nokia 6 (2018)
An important aspect of owning a smartphone today, selfies mean a lot to many people. And even though I, personally, am not a fan of selfies, I would agree that it does help in capturing some cute personal moments with friends and family.
Selfie Image with Beauty and Smart effects
Instinctively, we like the Selfie image from the Redmi Note 5 more than the one from the Nokia 6. We do not like that Nokia 6, by default, created a Portrait selfie (blurring the background) and the result is not impressive at all. The blur is leaking into the person in focus and it is all very artificial. In comparison, the Redmi Note 5 is not too impressive either but it avoids any unnecessary gimmicks and creates an acceptable image. Also, as useless as it might be (to me at least), we prefer the “Beauty” effect of the Redmi Note 5 more than the “Smart” processing effect of the Nokia 6 in this case.
Winner: Redmi Note 5
If we consider the numbers, the result is in favour of the Nokia 6 (2018) by a whisker. However, the Redmi Note 5 is good enough especially looking at its starting price of Rs 9,999. But, the Redmi Note 5 appears to be better in Night conditions, Bokeh and in Selfie department, these are the situations that are not too important to me if we look at the results strictly from my point of view. The reason is, I do not click many images in the Night conditions because unless it’s a flagship like the top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy devices and the iPhone 8 or X, I know for sure that the night images are not going to be really impressive. Also, with no dedicated algorithm or tuning, the Bokeh is mostly going to be as good as we have seen in this comparison. And I believe that Bokehs are best left to the DSLRs or the most high-end of phones. Lastly, I simply do not care about selfies much, so which one is better or worse is not really important to me as long as a phone can take a decent one if and when the situation demands it.
And, the Nokia 6 (2018) has turned out to be a better camera phone in all those conditions that matter most to me (and also to others generally speaking), hence, the new Nokia 6 (2018) is the winner of this camera comparison. Let’s hope that it launches in India soon enough.