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A second camera, which can take DSLR-like bokeh effect images, is an easy thing to sell to people – especially after Apple embraced the idea with its iPhone 7 Plus.

The selfie craze is not going to die down any time soon and betting on the mobile photography trend in India which has witnessed a huge momentum in the past couple of years, smartphone manufacturers are now coming up with devices that pack top-end camera specifications at affordable price price. 

And when I say dual camera craze, what I mean is it’s harder to find a phone in 2017 – be it flagship or wallet friendly – without the extra lens. One major reason in integrating dual camera setups is that with two lenses smartphone manufacturers’ can build entirely new uses and functions into their cameras. Discrete functions are more compelling and appealing when users are looking for an upgrade from their first devices to seconds and thirds.
Motorola G5S Plus, Xiaomi Mi A1 and Honor 9i are three smartphones that stand out among the affordable crowd when it comes to mobile photography. Here we will take close look at each of them. 

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Moto G5S Plus

The Moto G5S Plus is the first phone in the Moto G family that comes with two cameras at the back but uses a more conventional approach. Moto G5S Plus come with dual 13MP array of which one is RGB sensor and the other is monochrome sensor. While on the other two devices namely Xiaomi Mi A1 and Honor 9i difference lies in the lenses – one is a telephoto lens and the other standard.

The Moto G5S Plus can take depth of the field photos blurring background to produce an artsy effect. However, we found that the shutter speed of Xiaomi A1 was faster than Moto G5S Plus. Putting the shutter lag behind, overall the Moto G5S Plus has a decent camera for a low-mid-range device. You can capture more details from the Honor 9i. Also, the camera on G5S Plus struggles with complicated subjects. 

Xiaomi Mi A1, on the other hand, can zoom into the subject thanks to the telephoto lens, making it more versatile. Mi A1’s portrait mode delivered better photos as compared to the depth mode on the Moto G5S Plus. HDR range and colour production was appreciable and you can even get a decent image when shooting directly into the sun with the Auto HDR mode.

Here are some sample shots. 

For me, the contrast ratios in the G5S Plus were not as great as a premium phone and low-light photography was good enough to be usable, but noise becomes apparent. The Moto G5S Plus also allows you to shoot 4K video, at 30fps.  

Xiaomi Mi A1 

Joining the dual camera trend, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi in September launched Mi A1 smartphone in collaboration with Google, the first device to run on the evolved Android One programme. The Mi A1 sports a dual camera configuration with wide angle and telephoto lenses – similar to Mi 6. The two lenses work in tandem creating a depth-of-field effect and in addition, the company has upgraded “Beautify” mode that makes selfies look more natural, and now works with both – front 5MP camera as well as the 12MP dual rear camera. Mi A1 offers 2x optical zoom and 10x digital zoom. 

Here are some sample shots. 

As far as Mi A1’s camera is concerned, the smartphone wrestles between colour balance and low-light. If you have ample amount of light, image quality is good. But while clicking in dimly-lit areas, graininess becomes visible. The camera is easy to use and offers plenty of modes including the HDR mode, which helps a bit. Overall, I enjoyed my time while working with Mi A1’s camera and in the right conditions, you can capture great pictures, even with HDR off. 

Honor 9i

While Motorola and Xiaomi were looking to upgrade their imaging resources in smartphones, Huawei’s e-brand Honor took the game of duals a notch higher and launched Honor 9i smartphone that comes with four cameras set up — two at front and two at back; a crisp and vibrant FullView FHD+ display, all packed into a compact form factor.

The camera app in Honor 9i is easy to use and you are greeted with a simple interface along with the controls for the flash, aperture mode, moving picture mode, and portrait mode. Moving pictures are similar to live photos on iOS, where a short video is captured along with a still frame. 

If you are not a professional, we recommend you to use the default auto mode. The 16MP rear camera captured great photos without missing on details both in landscapes and portrait mode. Another distinct feature in the Honor 9i is that there is a bokeh effect in selfies as well, and we found that the front cameras produced over bright images than Xiaomi Mi A1 and Moto G5S Plus. To further smoothen the skin and air brush the face, there is a beautification mode as well. 

Here are some sample shots. 

In the dark environments, the Honor 9i worked better than Mi A1 and Moto G5S Plus and managed to kept the noise at minimum. Thus, if you are in a café or throwing a house party with dim-lights, the images captured by Honor 9i are easily usable to be put up on Instagram and Snapchat. The Honor 9i can record video at 1080p, both in front and at the back. You can also use beautification mode when recording video with the front camera, but then the output is restricted to 720p.

Final words

Overall, comparing all three together, Xiaomi Mi A1 has an upper edge over the two in terms of image quality. Bokeh shots taken with the Mi A1 are sharp with near to zero irregularity of the focused subject. Honor 9i’s bokeh shots showed a hint of slight blurring around the edges of the subject. On the other hand, Moto G5S Plus offers a balanced performance.