The “best photo smartphone on the market”? It would be the Mi 11 Ultra, according to the French laboratory DxOmark. Xiaomi, the second biggest seller of smartphones in the world (source: Canalys) unsheathed it before the summer, to reinforce the Mi 11 launched in the heart of winter. 20 minutes checked in the field whether this new premium terminal, sold from 999 euros, fulfilled its promises.

The (too) imposing photo module of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.
The (too) imposing photo module of the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES

He’s big, he’s heavy, but he’s beautiful. Xiaomi’s Mi 11 Ultra stands out in the world of mobile telephony. Not only is its size (164.3 x 74.6 x 8.38 mm for 234 grams) is generous, but in addition, it does not look like any other smartphone. By itself, its thick rear photo block is like a kick in the anthill of the competitors who try by all means to conceal their objectives.

To be preferred in white rather than black, its ceramic rear shell affirms the rare elegance of the terminal. For its part, the curved 6.81 ” / 17.29 cm screen is practically at the bleeding edge. Even the small punch at the top left of the screen and enclosing the 20 megapixel selfie camera is forgotten. Regret: wherever you put it, the device slips terribly. You have to be really vigilant to avoid finding it on the ground. It happened to us: the Mi 11 Ultra escaped from a worktop to land on the tiled floor 4 feet below. More fear than harm.

A striking screen

The display is excellent. With its WQHD definition (3200 x 1440 pixels), the Mi 11 Ultra’s Amoled screen is the ideal entertainment companion. Adaptive 120 Hz, the refreshment of the panel will appeal to die-hard gamers, while the sound section, weighted by two Harman Kardon stereo speakers, is satisfactory. You can put down your Bluetooth headset (no headphone jack) and enjoy clips, TV series … without worrying too much about the audio quality, even if the sound here remains quite high-pitched.

True quality in most shots

But it is the photo that remains the best card of the Mi 11 Ultra. Crowned during its launch in early May of “best photo smartphone on the market” by the French laboratory DxOmark, the terminal is doing everything not to betray this promise. Certainly, due to its weight and a gross imbalance due to its protruding photo module, its handling remains a little restrictive when taking pictures. This is a real concern for ergonomics. But we are quickly surprised at the true quality which, to the naked eye, is revealed in most of the pictures.

The trio of Mi 11 Ultra * sensors has been designed for all types of photos. Most often, it is the main 50 megapixel sensor that is in operation. By default, his photos are in 12 megaxipels, the so-called pixel binning merge pixels by four to bring in more light.

Night photos that impress with their brightness.
Night photos that impress with their brightness. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES

Very flattering when displayed on the smartphone screen at the time of shooting, the photos produced are teeming with details. Even in low light, the Mi 11 Ultra manages to brighten up the scenes without smoothing out the details of the images.

An optical zoom that offers the best

Its impressive 5x optical zoom is a game-changer compared to most smartphones that do not cross the 2x mark. That of Samsung’s Galaxy 11 Ultra, for example, only goes up to x3. We will also recall here the little brother of the Mi 11 Ultra, the Mi 11, is not equipped with optical zoom at all!

Ultra wide-angle photos ideal for landscapes.
Ultra wide-angle photos ideal for landscapes. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES
Up to 10x, zooming provides decent results.
Up to 10x, zooming provides decent results. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES
The digital 120x zoom impresses but offers no real results.
The digital 120x zoom impresses but offers no real results. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES

Optical and digital, that of the Mi 11 Ultra can reach x120. Without a tripod or support, the framing is a real hassle with strong deployment: the tremors of the hand are multiplied.

Watch out for distortions for ultra wide-angle photos of buildings and monuments.
Watch out for distortions for ultra wide-angle photos of buildings and monuments. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES

Suffice to say: these possibilities of zooming excessively will only be used anecdotally. Remains that up to x10, it is possible to be surprised by the quality of the images of the smartphone.

The neglected macro

We hoped to achieve macro-type photos every time. If the Mi 11 Ultra can photograph nature up close enough, the recurring difficulties of focusing to obtain a true macro rendering with tiny details perfectly revealed can sometimes give way. The photo will be sharp, but not as sharp as you hope. In this area, the Find X III Pro from Oppo seemed more relevant to us.

The Mi 11 Ultra barely focused as close as possible to the subjects.
The Mi 11 Ultra barely focused as close as possible to the subjects. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES

The selfies, they take advantage of a 20 megapixel camera. The details are there, it is indisputable, but the flesh suffers from sometimes excessive smoothing, thus imposing a “Beauty” mode which does not speak its name.

Good selfies, but often smoothed flesh.
Good selfies, but often smoothed flesh. – CHRISTOPHE SEFRIN / 20 MINUTES

Well done for the video: in 4K at 30 or 60 images / second, but also in 8K at 24 images / second, the images are brilliant, but also extremely well stabilized. And for once, it is possible to shoot in 4K with optical zoom and ultra-wide angle.

And the winner is…

So is the Mi 11 Ultra the “best photo smartphone on the market”? DxOmark’s lab tests seem final. In use, the smartphone is indeed an excellent photophone but is not perfect in all situations. And the device suffers from a glaring ergonomic problem and an autonomy limited to one day, despite its 5000 mhA / h battery. Its 67 W charger makes it possible to fill this second gap with a full charge in just over 30 minutes. To this day, the Mi 11 Ultra remains the most serious competitor of the Find X III Pro from Oppo, Galaxy S21 Ultra from Samsung and iPhone 12 Pro Max from Apple. Now the second biggest seller of smartphones in the world behind Samsung and ahead of Apple, Xiaomi seems to want to give itself the means to reach the top.

* 50 megapixels (24mm equivalent; f / 1.9); 48 megapixels (12mm; f / 2.2); 48 megapixels (120mm; f / 2.4).