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A beginner's guide to the Xiaomi camera app: Here's what those settings and modes do
The Xiaomi camera app isn’t the worst app around, but plenty of users find its iOS-style interface a little obtuse. If you ever wondered about the app’s more advanced options, or even its basic functions, we’ve got some advice for you.
The basic viewfinder options
When you launch the Xiaomi camera app on your budget phone, you’ll be greeted by the viewfinder, with several icons dotted around the window.
The large white button at the bottom is the shutter key. The icon to the left (holding the phone in portrait) takes you to your previously taken shots. The red icon to the right of the shutter key is the video recording mode.
Just above those main buttons sits three more buttons. From right to left, there’s a camera toggle button for quickly switching between the main and selfie camera, an “options” menu button, and a filter menu for applying various effects before taking a shot.
Finally, the flash icon sits in the top-left corner (tap it to enable the camera flash) and the HDR toggle in the top-right corner (tap it to enable HDR mode). You’ll want to enable HDR for scenes with both bright and dark elements. That way you can make out detail in the shadows without blowing out the clouds.
The camera app on many premium Xiaomi phones usually differs a little from the budget devices. The more expensive phones tend to use a hamburger button instead of the “options” menu, usually containing shooting modes and settings menus. These more premium phones also copy the iPhone by allowing you to scroll laterally through the camera modes from the viewfinder.
Digging into the various modes
Tapping the “options” menu (or the hamburger menu) will bring up a list of all the Xiaomi camera modes. If you want to take a panorama or dabble with manual mode on your cheaper phone, you need to visit this menu first.
A single-camera budget Xiaomi phone usually has roughly nine modes here:
- Panorama: This is handy if you’re taking shots of landscapes or the city.
- Timer: This mode takes a shot after a user-defined delay (like three, five, or ten seconds).
- Audio: Use this mode to take a photo with your voice instead of your finger — any sound will do.
- Manual: This mode allows you to adjust white balance and ISO before taking a shot. More expensive Xiaomi phones also let you adjust shutter speed and several other variables.
- Straighten: This option presents a virtual box over your viewfinder, constantly shifting to help you straighten your shot out.
- Beautify: This applies a user-defined level of “beauty” enhancement to your shots (low, medium or high), usually taking the form of skin smoothing.
- HHT: This stands for handheld twilight and is for taking better low-light images. The mode uses multiple images for a better shot.
- Scene: This mode lets you choose from roughly a dozen scenes before taking the photo, with each scene offering minor camera tweaks. Notable scenes include landscape, backlit, and beach.
- Tilt-shift: This mode delivers the tilt-shift effect when you take a photo, blurring everything but a pre-defined area to simulate a miniature scene. The mode offers to either blur everything but a small circle in the center, or everything bar the middle third of the screen.
More expensive dual-camera Xiaomi phones usually have a few more modes, too:
- AI mode: Enable AI mode and your camera will automatically adjust various settings based on the recognized scene. So expect more colorful shots of food, for example.
- Portrait mode: This mode generates a shot with a lovely bokeh effect, blurring the background but keeping the subject perfectly in focus.
What other settings are available?
Tap the gear icon in the top-right of the options menu will open a menu with settings for saving location info for photos, disabling or enabling camera sounds, a pocket mode (disabling touch gestures if you put the phone in your pocket while the camera app is open), a time-stamp option (showing the time and date of the photo), and more.
There are several handy options here, starting with the “show gridlines” toggle. I usually enable this option, as it helps me keep things straight and level, and use the rule of thirds more easily. The “volume buttons function” option lets you tap the volume button to either take a photo or zoom, which is handy if you want a physical camera button on your phone.
We also see options for contrast, saturation and sharpness, in case you want to crank up the colors for Instagram. The last option really worth knowing is the “auto exposure settings” field, which determines how your Xiaomi phone sets exposure. We’d recommend leaving it on “spot metering,” which bases the exposure on where you tapped to focus. Tap on a bright area and the phone will set the exposure lower to compensate, and vice-versa.
All your video options
Switch to the video recording mode and the “options” menu changes accordingly too. Instead of options like manual, panorama, and tilt-shift, there’s a brief list of video modes. If you’re using a Redmi 5 like me, you’ll only see a time-lapse or slow-motion option.
Tapping the gear icon will bring up different settings to tinker with too. You’ll want to pay attention to video quality (try adjusting your video quality to HD if you’re short on storage space), and the time-lapse interval (how many shots are being taken for a time-lapse).
It’s also worth noting that you might not see the slow-motion video mode if your camera quality is set to Full HD, as some budget phones only capture slow-mo at HD. You’d think the camera app would present the slow-mo option and switch the video resolution in the background when you actually tap it, but Xiaomi is definitely backwards in this regard.
A few handy tips
Try adjusting exposure like this
When actually taking photos, the Xiaomi camera app has an alternative way to adjust exposure. Simply tap to focus, then hold on the resulting icon with arrows pointing up and down. From here, drag the icon up for a higher exposure and down for a lower exposure.
Use the fingerprint scanner
If you’ve got a Xiaomi phone with a fingerprint scanner, you’ve also got an extra way to take shots. The Xiaomi camera app lets you take photos by simply tapping the scanner. You might find this handy for taking selfies, when the main shutter key is in an awkward spot.
Take photos while recording video
Many phones can take shots while recording a clip, and it’s pretty easy in the Xiaomi camera app. Simply start recording, then tap the circular icon next to the “stop” button. The photo won’t be high-resolution at all — it’s more like a screengrab — but it’s still a useful trick and shows you don’t necessarily have to choose between video or photo. If you’re not seeing the feature, you might have to enable it via settings > image capture while recording.
That’s pretty much all there is to the Xiaomi camera app. Let us know in the comments if you’ve got any more tips and tricks to share!