In brief: Xiaomi's latest smartphone may not be much to look at, but smartphone photography amateurs will surely appreciate its camera array, which includes a 108 megapixel sensor. The phone is powered by a modest chipset, but the large battery should allow you to shoot plenty of pictures and video before you need to recharge and the price is nothing to scoff at.
While companies like Apple seem to be content with 12 megapixel image sensors in their newest smartphones, Xiaomi wants to reignite the megapixel wars. This isn't completely unexpected, as Sony and Samsung have been working hard to bring higher resolution sensors to the market.
Recently, Xiaomi announced its Mi CC9 Pro smartphone in China. Don't let the naming fool you, the device has a penta-camera system on the back, including a 108 megapixel, Isocell Bright HMX sensor that was co-developed with Samsung. There's also a 20 megapixel ultra-wide shooter, a 12 megapixel telephoto for portrait shots, a 5 megapixel one with 5x optical zoom, and a 2 megapixel macro shooter for close-ups.
While some people will want to take 108 megapixel shots so they can crop them, by default the phone will produce supersampled 27 megapixel images. That's because the new sensor will produce some noise even when taking pictures in well-lit environments. The CC9 Pro also has a "night mode" that combines multiple shots to reduce noise, and can shoot slow motion video in up to 960 fps.
Camera features aside, the CC9 Pro features a generic design that houses a 6.5 inch AMOLED display powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 730G platform, which is a mid-range chipset normally intended for mainstream mobile gaming. It's worth noting that Xiaomi has included a 5,260 mAh battery that should offer impressive battery life when coupled with a less power-hungry chipset.
The CC9 Pro is mainly intended for the Chinese market, where it will start at $400 for 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.
Xiaomi will also offer a "Premium Edition" CC9 Pro for $500 that has 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage. This will also be available in Europe as the "Mi Note 10," starting at €550 ($608) and going up to €650 ($720) for the Premium Edition. The company said that it will extend availability to other regions in the coming months.
Samsung's Galaxy S11 is being rumored to come with the new 108 megapixel sensor when it arrives around the February timeframe, as is Xiaomi's more ambitious Mi Mix Alpha that will land in December with a wrap-around screen and a price tag to match.