48 megapixels. Those have been the words (and digits) reverberating around the world ever since Xiaomi announced its Redmi Note 7. Yes, the phone did have
48 megapixels. Those have been the words (and digits) reverberating around the world ever since Xiaomi announced its Redmi Note 7. Yes, the phone did have its share of features – an all new glass design, a Snapdragon 660 chipset, and so on – but all the attention was really focused on the camera. And its massive megapixel count. And knowing the company, I am sure that is exactly what Xiaomi wanted.
For, in some ways, the Redmi Note 7 represents perhaps a crucial stop in Xiaomi’s journey back to phone camera supremacy.
When Xiaomi first came into the Indian phone market, one of its strongest points was the camera its phones carried. In those days, it was rare to see even an average (let alone exceptional) camera in the budget segment. In this scenario, we have devices like the Mi 3 and Mi 4, the Redmi 1S and Redmi 2 and the Redmi Note, all of which sported very good cameras indeed. The competition honestly had nothing quite in the same range to offer. I remember executives from Micromax and Motorola (both of which were considered major players in the budget segment in 2014-15) conceding that they had no idea how Xiaomi has squeezing that sort of camera performance from its devices at those price points – the Redmi 1S outgunned the mighty Moto E purely on its camera performance.
And then it all seemed to go wrong.
Somewhere around mid-2015, there was a general feeling in the industry that while Xiaomi had significantly upped its battery management game and indeed the general design quality of its devices, it might have missed a trick or two in the camera segment. It was not as if Xiaomi devices had BAD cameras – no, they still ticked most performance boxes – but it was just that they seemed to be losing a fair deal of ground to the competition. On the higher end, OnePlus seemed to have an edge and even in the mid-segment, devices from Asus, Motorola, Honor and Lenovo seemed a notch above what Xiaomi was delivering in terms of camera performance. Even the camera on the flagship Mi 5 was initially a bit of a disappointment, although a few software updates perked up its output later on. Xiaomi also missed the selfie bus initially in India, ceding vanity snapping ground to the likes of Oppo and Vivo. We have never really had any clear explanation for why this happened – some say it had to do with a change of sensors, others claim that it was caused by processor changes – but happen it did. Suddenly, Xiaomi device cameras were good enough, rather than being exceptional.
The company’s own approach to this dip in quality seemed confusing. It still insisted on comparing the camera on every device it released with other flagships, the demo shots always comparing more than favorably with what the competition offered (hey, they WERE demo shots).

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