Cameras/Photography

Poco F4 GT Review: A gaming phone with a capable camera

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Poco F4 GT

You may know Xiaomi, but do you know Poco? Xiaomi’s sub-brand is not a household name in this part of the world, and the F4 GT is not necessarily a camera-first phone.

No, the reason is that mobile gaming is the focus here, some of the features of the phone become clear. It’s a mid-ranger, at least theoretically, proving it to be something more than some adventure on the inside. The challenge is that not all elements are created equal, and this is true even in this case.

Design and build

When I first took the device out of the box, I looked at all the buttons along the right edge and thought they might work with the camera. Not true, apparently. There are two recessed buttons that go up when sliding two hatches next to them. These are shoulder buttons for the game, although Poco allows some limited customization, these “pop-up triggers” have two functions, be it a double-click or press and hold, and each can do its own thing.

Poco F4 GT

I used a press-and-hold to turn on the camera, when a double-click video recording started. There’s no substitute for turning any one into a physical shutter release – it’s a real shame because these buttons would be perfect for explosive shooting. Basically, once I turn on the camera, the buttons do nothing more in the camera interface, unless I use them to start video recording.

I realized that the Poco wasn’t focusing on the camera when rolling these buttons, but it’s not that its engineers couldn’t. You can set the same buttons to record audio, record screen, turn on flashlight, or mute or vibrate. It’s hard to understand why just snapping a photo isn’t one of the options on that list.

Poco F4 GT

It will also add to the built-in beauty of the device. The F4 GT is a beautiful looking phone, thanks to its glass workmanship and sleek 6.67-inch AMOLED screen. The panel is limited to 2400 x 1080 resolution, so no pressure is applied to extra dense pixels, but it supports sharp, 120Hz refresh rates and has good Gorilla Glass Victus protection. What’s less clear is why Poco used the words “speediest” and “freezing” on the back panel. I would say, though, that turning the LED flash next to the rear camera array into a lightning bolt cutout is an aesthetic plus. I can’t use Flash, but it’s still a good move.

The F4 GT runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 processor, so it’s Qualcomm’s best current Silicon Sporting. My review unit had 256GB of storage and 12GB of RAM, although there is also a 128GB and 8GB variant. Both variants have no memory card slot.

While 5G-enabled, its reach will not extend to North America, where limited band support means spotter connections like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. Their 4G LTE network coverage, however, should be seamless.

Camera features

The Poco F4 GT is much like a low-down iteration of what Xiaomi has already done. Unlike the Xiaomi 12 Pro, which uses a new image sensor, the flagship 64-megapixel One (26mm equivalent) on the F4 GT is a more decent 1 / 1.73-inch Sony IMX686 with f / 1.9 aperture. The 64M-megapixel on the camera lets you shoot at full resolution, otherwise it will shoot at a 16-megapixel without a pixel.

Poco F4 GT

The 8-megapixel f / 2.2 Ultra-Wide (16mm equivalent) is less impressive with the OmniVision OV08856 image sensor. Instead of throwing a telephoto lens, the Poco carries a 2-megapixel macro that you would hopefully create a passable close-up.

Software features

If you know Xiaomi’s MIUI overlay on Android and the camera layout is very similar, there are lots of contacts. Poco offers plenty of shooting modes, all of which are carried from Xiaomi’s own branded devices. I’m not crazy about MIUI overall, but at least the camera is easy enough to get out.

As is common with Chinese manufacturers, you get an AI camera mode, which works to enhance color and contrast wherever possible. I often shoot these features off because once they are turned on there is very little that anyone can do to control them. At any rate, if you want it in certain shots, you can always try it.

This is everything else that should attract more attention. The top-right menu has a macro and tilt-shift mode, as well as a timed burst to capture the movement. It’s interesting for its granular details – you can capture up to 600 shots in 60 seconds. Others, such as clones, documents and long exposure also come from Xiaomi’s phone.

Image quality

The main camera

With the F4 GT you get the best with the main camera. Despite having a mid-range sensor, it can shoot well if you use what is available. Exposure slider is a key as a way to offset excessive brightness in each shot. Any scene with bright highlights or dark shadows is more harsh with light. Even with HDR turned on, the results are just as balanced. Reduce exposure to a bright shot, or in some cases, even a dark shot, and you’ll see really good results.

Poco F4 GT

I was amazed at how good the composition was, especially when it came to shots. The available lighting creates a world of diversity, and I improvised wherever I could, such as a candle at a dinner table or a courtyard light. I didn’t expect to see the same level of detail for different subjects. At first, I thought it might just be a sharpening process, but the shots I got were impressively natural – both inside and out.

Poco F4 GT

For the most part, the night and low light photos came out pretty well. The mode sometimes does more harm than good by processing images to a point where the zoomed-in “goo” pixels are exposed. Rarely surprising for a mid-range phone, but it’s also strange how regular photo mode can sometimes surpass night mode in that situation.

Poco F4 GT
Long exposure mode.

I prefer long exposure mode for creative possibilities. As a whim, I used it at a Specksy in New York, where it was very dark, with the idea that I could capture a moving bartender in a silhouette to create a neat effect. The whole mood is not really different from that of the Xiaomi device, the only exception being the built-in image sensor. The Snapdragon 8 chipset has more than the ability to render in short order, and it shows why you don’t want to shoot in that mode.

Ultra-wide

This is where the weaknesses begin to show and everything has to do with its scope. Zoom in on the edges, and you see smooth sensor pixels pointing to a sensor that prioritizes what’s in the middle more than anything else. Taking a good ultra-wide shot is certainly not impossible, it is even more challenging to do it in different situations.

Poco F4 GT

Poco makes it available in several shooting modes, so at least it has. You can’t use it in Pro or Long Exposure, for example, but Photo, Night and Video modes can work with it. Same with tilt-shift and timed burst shots.

Portraits and macros

I didn’t expect too much from these two, though I can say they offer some utility in the case. With portraits, the phone can feel like an apology if you’re not in the sweet spot where the bokeh effect starts. Just when I thought I’d locked the subject properly, the image wasn’t as crisp as I wanted it to be.

Poco F4 GT

Macro shots are similar, meaning you have to hold the phone at a certain distance and the F4 GT doesn’t tell you when you’re in the ballpark. Without any focus picking, which would be great to have in this mode, you are assuming that you have got everything in focus.

Poco F4 GT

Pro mode

There is some depth here that any shooter can appreciate. Much like the Xiaomi, the Poco offers many options ranging from switching between prime and ultra-wide lenses to metering, composition parameters, focus picking, exposure verification and filtering. You can shoot in RAW, if you want, or go into 64-megapixel mode, if you like that option. If you are new to Pro Mode, a solid interpreter has been created in the interface highlighting what each of these features does.

Poco F4 GT
Captured in Pro mode

The results are quite good, all things considered. I’m not sure there was a huge difference between RAW and 64-megapixel good light images, but I would have preferred RAW if I was going to capture something more challenging. For a mid-ranger with good support features, the F4 GT has a solid pro mode to use.

Poco F4 GT
Taken in 64-megapixel mode.

Video features

Nothing very surprising is happening here, although your choice is easy to appreciate. The main video mode can shoot up to 60 frames per second in 4K, even in macros, if you wish. Short videos and vlogs are social media type content. Movie Effects adds Hollywood-style techniques, such as Parallax, Slow Shutter, Time Freeze and Parallel World to Video, which you can also shoot in a 2.35: 1 ratio. Missing a 24 frame per second framerate option for true cinematic video.

Dual video is one of those tricky modes that uses the rear and front cameras together. Plus, you can get some fun shooting clips with the F4 GT, which can really vary depending on what and where you’re shooting, regardless of what you bring.

A gaming phone with a capable camera

Poko does not hide who will like this phone the most. Much of this build and feature set fits for gamers, so the camera doesn’t get the same shine. The internal components are strong enough to play the games you want, so it’s covered, but good hardware helps to quickly render photos and videos.

Poco F4 GT

Think of it as a marginal advantage, or at least one that comes with useful caution. Poco borrowed heavily from Xiaomi, and if it had a better image sensor for the Ultra-Wide, it would be a pretty Nifty mobile shooter in multiple ways.

Have an alternative?

If we are looking at mid-range phones that are less about gaming, and more about photography, then you have to look at the Google Pixel 6, even the Pixel 6a when it comes to the market. The quality of the Samsung Galaxy S22 is good, many of Samsung’s cameras find their way into that device considering the arsenal. The same thing can be said about the iPhone 13 if you are interested in going the way of iOS via Android.

Will you buy it?

If you are not an equal part photographer and gamer, probably not. The gaming element is really important here and should be one of the main reasons why you are choosing Poco F4 GT over everyone else. For less than $ 700, though, you’ll find a powerful device with a capable camera and one that no one else around you can use.

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