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Xiaomi 14 Ultra first look: Video monster

Do most people need all those camera features? No, but you're still getting an impressive piece of hardware.

Published onFebruary 25, 2024

Just ahead of MWC 2024, Xiaomi launched the Xiaomi 14 and Xiaomi 14 Ultra to a global audience and I got to spend a little time with the latter. Not a lot of products live up to the original meaning of the word Ultra (“beyond”), but I will say the Xiaomi 14 Ultra goes beyond what most people would expect or even want… at least when it comes to cameras.

It was ultra-obvious from Xiaomi’s press briefing that the company wants the Xiaomi 14 Ultra conversation to revolve around its video abilities. The event itself was held at an actual movie studio outside of Barcelona, complete with a camera dolly, sets, professional lighting, and lots of other expensive pro-grade equipment. The message was clear: the Xiaomi 14 Ultra can offer users many pro-level features, without the cost, bulk, or complexity normally associated with professional cameras.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra: Director’s Cut

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Rear Angled
Harley Maranan / Android Authority

To illustrate just what the Xiaomi 14 Ultra can do, the company mounted the phone on a rig placed on a dolly and used it to record a short scene. Then a professional colorist took the video file and edited it, to showcase the Ultra’s handling of tricky lighting conditions.

It was definitely an impressive sight, especially for someone like myself who is not well-versed in the really technical aspects of shooting pro-grade video. The end result video was visibly superior in terms of dynamic range and contrast and neatly illustrated what would have been otherwise incomprehensible technical jargon. 

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Front On Table
Harley Maranan / Android Authority

But, as my colleague Harley notes in our video, what was left unmentioned was the cost of all the professional equipment used in the demo or the years of training the colorist had under their belt. To be clear, I am not saying that Xiaomi did anything wrong, but rather that some of the recent advancements in smartphone imaging are above and beyond what 99% of phone buyers would ever ask from a smartphone camera. And Xiaomi is far from the only phone maker using increasingly esoteric imaging functionality to market their devices. 

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Camera App
Harley Maranan / Android Authority

Not all of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra’s camera functions require big setups to understand — the benefits of features like automated face tracking or the stepless variable aperture system are much more obvious. The stepless variable aperture of the main camera means the opening of the lens shutter will vary between f/1.63 and f/4.0, allowing the phone to quickly adapt to different lighting conditions. Expect better low-light capabilities and more granular control over bokeh effects when you combine this variable aperture with a large 1-inch sensor. 

Once again, Xiaomi has worked with legendary camera manufacturer Leica to design and tune the complex camera system on the 14 Ultra. Here’s a breakdown of the four cameras on the back:

  • Ultrawide: 50MP, 0.5X, 122-degree FOV, f/1.8, 12mm equivalent focal length
  • Main: 50MP, 1X, f/1.63-f/4.0, OIS, 23mm equivalent focal length
  • Telephoto: 50MP, 3.2X, f/1.8, OIS, 75mm equivalent focal length
  • Periscope telephoto: 50MP, 5X, f/2.5, OIS, 120mm equivalent focal length

Between the four cameras, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is able to handle most types of scenes, from macro shots to long-range zoom, thanks to the wide range of focal lengths. And of course, there’s a smattering of AI  features to make the most of all the data coming from the hardware.

And if you need to get even more from your 14 Ultra’s cameras, Xiaomi also launched a new version of its camera grip accessory, featuring an extra 1,500mAh battery, a shutter button, and even a zoom wheel.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra On Tripod Recording Video
Harley Maranan / Android Authority

What about the phone part of this camera phone?

While most of our attention was dedicated to the camera features of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, there’s plenty to like about the actual phone. The design was brought in line with the recent iPhone-inspired trend towards flat edges, but we’ve still got curved glass edges for a better hand feel. The 6.73-inch QHD+ OLED screen delivers just about everything you could want from a display. The Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 is of course present, as is Xiaomi’s fast-charging technology. It’s worth highlighting the insanely fast wireless 80W charging, more than what many other top Android phones get through a charging cable. 

Unfortunately, Xiaomi hasn’t given the press much time with its new flagship phone, so all of the talk about performance is theoretical for now. But the Xiaomi 14 Ultra does look like a proper monster that goes “ultra” in all the right places — and in some less obvious ones. Whether all the video power is needed for most users, that’s another story.

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra will go on sale for €1,499 (~$1,624), in either black or white, and the camera grip accessory will be another €199 (~$216).

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