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Honor 9 Lite vs Xiaomi Mi A1: In-Depth Camera Comparison

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The competition in the hugely-lucrative mid-range smartphone market continues to get stiffer by the day, with companies outing mobile handsets at breakneck rates to grab customers’ eyeballs. Players like Xiaomi and Motorola (along with its parent company, Lenovo) have been slugging it out with each other in the sub-15K segment for a while now, but lately, it’s Honor that seems to be taking the fight to them.

Backed by Huawei, the world’s largest telecommunication equipment manufacturer, Honor has been on a sort of launch spree since the last few months. And the latest addition to its line-up is the Honor 9 Lite, pitted against segment leader(s) like the Xiaomi Mi A1.

Priced competitively at Rs 10,999 (for the 3GB RAM /32GB storage variant), the 9 Lite has a total of four cameras (two each at the front and the back), and claims to offer a great all-round camera experience. But is it really any good when compared to Xiaomi’s offering?

Read our comprehensive camera comparison between Xiaomi Mi A1 and Honor 9 Lite, and find out.

Daylight Photos (Regular)

xiaomi mi a1 vs honor 9 lite - daylight (hdr off)

In broad daylight, the dual rear camera systems of both Honor 9 Lite and Xiaomi Mi A1 do their thing admirably. Photos are amply bright, with decent resolved detail. However, the Mi A1’s photos tend to be a little better in terms of color accuracy.

honor 9 lite vs xiaomi mi a1 - daylight (hdr off)

Zooming in reveals the photos from both smartphones to be similar in terms of sharpness levels, with slight differences arising only due to external factors such as the amount of ambient light.

Daylight Photos (HDR)

xiaomi mi a1 vs honor 9 lite - daylight (hdr on)

As one would expect, turning on HDR in well-lit conditions does help in bringing out the details in darker parts of the images. And this is true for both Xiaomi Mi A1 and Honor 9 Lite.

honor 9 lite vs xiaomi mia 1 - daylight (hdr on)

That said, it brightens up the Mi A1’s photos a little too much, also increasing the contrast levels in the process. When zoomed in, photos from both smartphones look similar, and results are a mixed bag.

Bottom line: Neither of the two smartphones is ‘bad’ when it comes to daylight camera performance. If you want slightly ‘vibrant’ photos, go for the Honor 9 Lite. If you’d rather photos with more accurate colors, get the Mi A1.

Lowlight Photos (Regular)

xiaomi mi a1 vs honor 9 lite - lowlight (hdr off)

At night time (with some artificial lighting available), photos from Xiaomi Mi A1 and Honor 9 Lite come out to be pretty alright. Having said that, the 9 Lite’s issues with producing accurate colors (take a look at the scooter in the accompanying comparative image) become even more pronounced.

honor 9 lite vs xiaomi mi a1 - lowlight (hdr off)

On zooming in, the results are again a mixed bag, just like in case of daylight photos.

Lowlight Photos (HDR)

xiaomi mi a1 vs honor 9 lite - lowlight (hdr on)

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In dimly-lit conditions, HDR doesn’t really help in ‘improving’ the camera performance of Honor 9 Lite and Xiaomi Mi A1. On the contrary, its effect(s) on image quality can only be termed as non-existent at best, and strange at worst.

honor 9 lite vs xiaomi mi a1 - lowlight (hdr on)

Generally, HDR mode barely enhances the darker spots of the images. But in some cases, it ‘over brightens’ Honor 9 Lite’s photos, while strangely ‘darkening’ Xiaomi Mi A1’s shots. Zooming in reveals shots from Mi A1 to be better.

Dedicated Night Mode Photos

Both Xiaomi Mi A1 and Honor 9 Lite come with a dedicated night mode for improving lowlight photography. It’s worth mentioning that the 9 Lite takes anywhere from 10 to 20 seconds to capture a photo with night mode enabled, and even the slightest movement of the hand/phone during that time ruins the photo.

xiaomi mi a1 vs honor 9 lite - dedicated night mode

On the plus side, night mode dramatically improves the quality of lowlight photos captured from Honor 9 Lite. In case of Xiaomi Mi A1, night mode helps in improving image quality a little.

Bottom line: Xiaomi Mi A1 is clearly better when it comes to lowlight photography, be it color accuracy or resolved detail. Honor 9 Lite can do that as well, as long as you have hands as steady as a tripod and don’t mind waiting 20 seconds to capture a single photo.

Depth-Of-Field Photos

Thanks to their rear dual-camera systems, both Xiaomi Mi A1 and Honor 9 Lite can capture photos with fancy depth-of-field effect, a trend that’s all the rage these days.

honor 9 lite vs xiaomi mi a1 - depth of field

For the most part, depth-of-field photos from both Mi A1 and 9 Lite come out to be very good. But upon closer inspection, Xiaomi Mi A1’s photos are revealed to be a marginally ahead than those of Honor 9 Lite, with better background blur and subject separation.

Selfies (Regular)

Given the fact that Honor 9 Lite has a dual-camera setup at the front, one could say that it takes better selfies (at least, in theory) than Xiaomi Mi A1. And for the most part, it does.

xiaomi mi a1 vs honor 9 lite - selfies (regular)

It’s true that selfies from the 9 Lite come out to be brighter than those from the Mi A1, but they don’t look overexposed or washed out. Resolved detail and sharpness levels visible on zooming in are also quite good, and similar to those in the Mi A1’s selfies. The ‘bokeh’ effect works well for selfies too.

Selfies (Beauty Mode)

This is where things get interesting. Once ‘beauty mode’ is enabled, Mi A1’s selfies get brighter, and the usual skin ‘smoothening’ effect is visible as well. But in case of Honor 9 Lite, this effect (especially with ‘beauty level’ maxed out) is so extreme that it causes the facial contours to disappear. Honestly, it’s better to ignore the beauty mode on Honor 9 Lite altogether.

honor 9 lite vs xiaomi mi a1 - selfies (beauty mode)

Bottom line: Honor 9 Lite does capture better selfies, but only if the ‘beauty mode’ is not taken into consideration. Having said that, Xiaomi Mi A1’s performance isn’t bad either.

Verdict

The camera performance of Huawei’s Honor 9 Lite isn’t, by any means, bad. It can hold its own pretty well when pitted against Xiaomi Mi A1, which is admirable. If you do get the 9 Lite, its ‘quad cameras’ aren’t going to disappoint.

But if you care about finer details such as color accuracy and want an affordable smartphone that’s pretty good at lowlight photography, the Mi A1 is a better choice.

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