Poco's F-series devices have always focused on getting you the most performance bang for your buck, while the cameras have been pretty hit-and-miss. None were awful, mind you, but the main camera was generally a good, if not great one, and it was paired with the Snapdragon 625 of ultrawides - the ubiquitous 8 MP snapper (if you got that reference, greetings, you too are an old soul in this mobile world).
Guess what? The 8 MP ultrawide is back again on the F5, to the surprise of absolutely no one. It's paired with a 64 MP main snapper that has OIS, which is not always a given in this range, and as such is very welcome.
Rounding things off is a 2 MP macro cam, which we've ignored for the purposes of this review, as we think most people will - either since they just don't know it's there (given how complicated it is to get to the Macro mode in the Camera app), or since they tried it once or twice and realized that 2 MP isn't really a usable resolution for anything in this day and age. If you like 2 MP macro cams, you can see some samples from this one in our normal review.
Now, the main camera during daytime conditions takes very good photos, with a lot of detail, great sharpness, and a wide dynamic range. Colors have some 'pop' but not overdone - aside from grass, which seems to generally be a bit too green. Noise is well controlled too. Interestingly, this is the same main camera featured in the Poco F4 last year, but it's putting out better shots - perhaps that's down to the chipset's better processing, or Xiaomi's algorithms improving.
The ultrawide is... there, and it delivers decent shots in good lighting conditions, but these definitely won't wow you, or anyone else for that matter. It's a bit better than other 8 MP ultrawides we've tested, but it's still an 8 MP ultrawide so don't expect miracles. Detail levels and especially sharpness are lacking all throughout, while dynamic range is only okay. The color rendition is a tad different from the main camera, with a noticeably warmer tinge, but the contrast levels are decent at least.
There's a 2x zoom toggle in the viewfinder, and if you hit it you'll receive crops from the main sensor, unsurprisingly. These look decent, having a good level of detail, and retaining the overall rendition from the 1x shots with a slight hit in overall quality.
At night the usual Auto Night Mode conundrum applies. Should you keep this on, as it is by default, sacrificing a bit of shot-to-shot time in Auto mode but in return receiving most of the advantages of manual Night Mode? Or should you turn it off and always go to manual Night Mode when you have the extra time?
Only you know how you would pick, of course. We left Auto Night Mode on because not a lot of people dig into the settings of the Camera app to see what's there. So we assume that most people getting this phone will have Auto Night Mode on, because it's the default state. And we want our long-term reviews to reflect how most people use their phones.
That being said, we are warning you right now that the difference between an Auto Night Mode shot and one in manual Night Mode is generally quite minimal. You will spot a few things here and there if you go looking, but for most people, Auto Night Mode left on, and then shooting everything in Auto mode is probably the way to go at night. We like being thorough, so we brought you samples from both.
Let's start with Auto Night Mode shots from the main camera. These turn out pretty good, with great sharpness, good detail levels (even in some shadows), decent dynamic range, and minimal noise (which generally lurks in the sky and other dark places). Contrast is good, as is the color temperature. There's highlight clipping, but it's not as bad as we've seen from most phones with Auto Night Mode off.
Manual Night Mode amps up the sharpening and noise suppression, as well as saturation, which may be to some people's liking, but not others'. Detail levels suffer somewhat because of this, but dynamic range is rather significantly improved. The clipped highlights also get less clipped, and light sources look a tad better. It's a mixed bag, which is why we said for most it's probably best to stick to Auto mode with Auto Night Mode turned on. The manual Night Mode is ever so slightly slower to capture, too.
The ultrawide at night is nothing to write home about, but we were expecting that, given the hardware we're dealing with here. 9, or if you're lucky, only 8 out of 10 shots will be completely unusable. It's a struggle to get anything not instantly discardable from this shooter at night, and even Auto Night Mode doesn't help.
Most shots come out at least a little bit blurry if you don't have a tripod with you - all of our shots are handheld, and you can see what we're talking about. Even if you do manage to alleviate the general blur, you get dark photos with bad dynamic range and a pretty distinct lack of detail throughout.
Manual Night Mode restores a tiny percent of the highlights at the cost of even more blur - we don't remember when we last saw nighttime shots this bad in a phone we reviewed long-term. And sure, someone with a steadier hand will definitely have gotten less blurry results, but ignoring that, there's really nothing to write home about. We would advise you to skip the ultrawide at night, it's just not worth bothering with.
2x zoom shots at night come out less nice than their 1x counterparts, but some of these are usable for social media even so, depending on what your standards are. Do however be advised that when the ambient light levels drop below a certain point, you might get shots that are too noisy and soft.
Applying manual Night Mode restores parts of the previously clipped highlights and amps up the sharpness - this latter thing may or may not be to your liking. For some people that makes the photos instantly look 'better', even though that's not technically true. To each their own, we guess. Anyway, the point is that you won't be winning any awards shooting in this mode at night, but unlike with the ultrawide, you still can get a decent shot here and there.
Selfies during daytime come out with plenty of detail and decent sharpness. They're usable, but not impressive. The same goes for Portrait Mode - it does its job decently, but if you look closer subject separation is far from perfect.
At night things become worse, and using the screen flash is imperative if you want your face to be discernible against the background. And even that won't save what are mostly binnable results. One or two times out of a dozen you'll get something worthy of sending your friends, but the rule of thumb with the selfie camera seems to be - make sure you're surrounded by plenty of light and you'll be fine.
So, all in all, the Poco F5 has a main camera that's very good during the day and good during the night too, with shots that are better than the ones coming out of seemingly the same sensor in last year's Poco F4 (it's probably down to the different chipset's ISP and improved processing). The ultrawide is at best decent during the day, and completely unusable at night, while zoomed in shots are pretty good during the daytime and pretty bad (but still better than the ultrawide's) at night. Selfies are good during the day and, again, pretty bad when the lights go down.
Some might call this a pretty standard package for a mid-range smartphone like this one, but we don't think such an ultrawide camera has any place at this price point. Also, given how selfie-crazed everyone on the planet seems to be these days, the selfie snapper's quality could have been more of a priority.