Since this is a gaming phone, the cameras aren't of big priority. And it shows. The main sensor is the good old 48MP one, measuring 1/2.0" in size and offering 0.8µm pixels. The sensor is paired with an f/1.8 aperture.
For the ultrawide, Xiaomi chose another commonly used 8MP sensor measuring 1/4.0" in size with 1.12µm pixels. The lens provides f/2.2 aperture and 120-degree field of view. This 8MP camera is often used in mid-range handsets.
The third camera is for macro shots, and interestingly, it uses a 5MP f/2.4 camera with autofocus, which are better specs than the average.
The front camera is 20MP with f/2.0 opening and 0.8µm pixels.
The default camera app is pretty much the same as on any other Android smartphone. The camera modes are arranged in a carousel formation, additional settings can be found on top of the viewfinder where toggles for the HDR and AI are also at your disposal. However, the toggle for the ultrawide camera is separate from the toggle for the 2x zoom. The Macro mode is found in the hamburger menu.
The Pro mode offers control over white balance, manual focus, shutter speed, ISO and exposure. You can set those on any of the given cameras, too.
The main camera takes nice outdoor photos during the day with a typical for Xiaomi contrast-y look. Colors pop, sharpness is good and fine detail isn't missing from the photos without resorting to oversharpening. Shadows fall a bit on the dark side (no pun intended), but we attribute that to the scattered clouds in the sky.
The HDR algorithm does a good job of bringing out details from the darker areas of the image without clipping the highlights. Perhaps our only complaint would be the fairly noisy areas of uniform color.
And while outdoor shots mostly look clean, the indoor ones show considerably more noise. Sharpness also drops, but most of the detail is retained. Perhaps a brighter exposure would have been nice, too. Another thing we noticed is that the viewfinder often misrepresents the actual scene. Things always appear underexposed in the viewfinder, but the actual photo turns out well-exposed most of the time.
Going for the 48MP mode bears little to no benefits. You do get a bit more detail out of the scene, but you sacrifice sharpness and overall clarity. Full-res images are considerably noisier, and the HDR algorithm is disabled.
There's a dedicated 2x zoom toggle, but we can't say the results are great, which is to be expected. Since it's a cropped photo upscaled back to 12MP, you lose quite a bit of sharpness in the process. Zoomed photos tend to be noisier, too, but the overall rendition matches the standard photos.
The ultrawide camera is average for a typical midranger, which means that pictures are generally soft and noisy. Dynamic range is narrower than that of the main camera, but color reproduction and contrast seem to be in line. The lens correction algorithm is doing a nice job while color fringing is quite limited. Overall outdoor shots are dependable, especially for social media posting and the same goes for indoor shots in ideal conditions.
Aside from being a little soft and that noise is prominent in certain areas of the image, the low-light photos taken in the default Photo mode are good. There's definitely some HDR kicking because even without Night mode, the highlights and shadows are well-balanced while light sources look great. There's plenty of detail in the shadows too.
Keep in mind, though, that a good portion of the samples turned out blurry and out of focus, probably because there's no OIS to keep the shooter stable during slow shutter speed settings. Colors, white balance and contrast seem to be on point.
There's hardly any difference between the standard Photo mode and the dedicated Night mode because the dynamic range is just as good. Upon closer inspection, however, noise has cleared up, much-needed sharpness has been introduced, making fine detail pop.
Interestingly, the Night mode goes for darker exposure in some situations, but that's not necessarily bad. As it restores the more natural look of the shadows and gives a more contrasty feel. The best part is that the Night mode doesn't take too much time to snap and stack all the shots. So choosing it over the standard Photo mode after dusk is strongly recommended.
We weren't expecting miracles but tried out the 2x zoom at night as well. The results are far from usable, and the lack of OIS doesn't help much either. There's a noticeable increase of noise, and fine detail is smeared away. Hard to say that those photos are usable.
The ultrawide struggles to deliver quality photos at night - they are foggy, lack detail and have a narrow dynamic range. Sadly there's no Night mode to help too.
Time for some more pixel-peeping with our photo compare tool where you can see how the Xiaomi Black Shark 4 compares to its rivals.
The macro camera is a step up from most phones, which feature 2MP sensors with fixed focus. The Black Shark 4 offers a 5MP macro unit with autofocus, which greatly improves the chances of capturing a clear photo. Sharpness and detail are good, color reproduction is mostly accurate. Easily one of the best macro shots in town due to the nice hardware.
The portrait shots look excellent. They are sharp, colors are vivid without ruining the natural glow of the skin tone and the edge detection and blur effect are convincing enough. To no one's surprise, the well-lit outdoor scenes are easier on the camera, producing more detailed shots. But that doesn't mean you can't capture good-looking portraits in sub-optimal conditions like the second photo. Some detail has been washed away if you look close enough, the end result is quite impressive, nonetheless.
For a 20MP camera, the selfies are rather disappointing. At least when it comes to sharpness. Almost all selfies look like they are out of focus. Although, you can rest assured that the camera will always hit the right exposure for your face. Dynamic range is wide, and noise is kept to a minimum even in more challenging conditions. The portrait mode is convincing, too.
Surprisingly, there's no 8K video recording, but the 2160p footage makes up for that. It looks sharp, well-balanced, smooth, without any noise and with the right contrast. We struggle to find any issues with the video at all. The white buildings in the distance aren't clipped, and the shadows under the trees have some detail in them, and that's usually hard to achieve. The cloudy conditions didn't help, but the Black Shark 4 took it like a champ.
Recording with the ultrawide camera is possible, but it's limited to 1080p resolution. Be prepared for noisy and considerably softer videos with a limited dynamic range.
Surprisingly, there's no EIS available for 4K recording, so your videos will be shaky. A missed opportunity, given its excellent performance on a tripod.
Once you are done with the real-world examples, take a closer look at our video compare tool to see how the Xiaomi Black Shark 4 stacks against the competition.