Putting Samsung’s flagship camera feature in a mid-ranger

Putting Samsung’s flagship camera feature in a mid-ranger

Like most Chinese sub-brands, Realme pumps out a lot of phones, and while they rarely break any new ground (how could they, since sub-brands are meant to sell affordable mid-range devices), we can all agree that they are generally good value. The company’s latest, Realme 11 Pro Plus, continues the trend. It’s a sleek, good-looking phone with a 200MP main camera that can produce 2X and 4X zoom photos at near-lossless quality thanks to clever in-sensor cropping.


The phone launched in China last week, with an “international” launch in India set for June 8th. But this week, Realme held a small media event for mostly American media in New York, which was where I got my hands on the international version of the phone. (No, the phone isn’t selling in North America; yes, it’s odd that Chinese brands give American media so much access when the phones aren’t available to American consumers).

XDA VIDEOS OF THE DAYSCROLL TO CONTINUE WITH CONTENT

Because the international launch hasn’t taken place, Realme requested us American media to follow some truly ridiculous embargo rules: I am allowed to show the phone, talk about the main camera and even share photo samples, but I can’t reveal other specs, such as processor, battery size, or price. But here’s the thing: the phone has already been launched in China, so the specs and prices are widely available for anyone who wants to search for them. But I’ll respect Realme’s request and just talk about the basic design and main camera in this article.

realme 11 Pro Plus in faux leather


Design and build: not exactly new, but very nice for a mid-range phone

The Realme 11 Pro Plus is yet another typical Chinese Android slab, so expect a curved 120Hz OLED screen with thin bezels and a small hole-punch housing a selfie camera. From the front, the phone looks like dozens of other phones previously released by not just Realme but all of its BKK cousins ‚Äč‚Äčlike OnePlus, Vivo, Oppo, iQoo, etc.

realme 11 Pro Plus OLED display

The backside of the phone, however, is nice. Following the trend recently set by Chinese Android premium flagships like the Xiaomi 13 Ultra, Oppo Find X6 Pro, or Vivo X90 Pro Plus, the Realme 11 Pro Plus features a vegan leather (aka fake leather) backside with a circular camera module.

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The phone comes in either green or my unit, which almost looks white but is officially named “Sunrise Beige.” Both colors use faux-leather back, but only the beige model features subtle stitching that runs down the middle of the phone. The overall in-hand feel is comfortable; the Realme 11 Pro Plus has an in-hand feel similar to the OnePlus 11 but with a grippier leather back and lighter weight.

Cameras: Snaps good zoom photos without a dedicated zoom lens

realme-11-pro-plus-xda-501205

The phone packs a “triple camera” system, including an 8MP ultra-wide that’s okay and a 2MP macro sensor useless. But the star of the show is obviously the main camera: a 200MP shooter using Samsung’s ISOCELL HP3 sensor. Despite having a newer/higher model number, the ISOCELL HP3 is actually not a better sensor than the HP2 used in the Galaxy S23 Ultra. However, Samsung apparently worked closely with Realme to optimize the sensor for the phone. In fact, a member of Samsung’s imaging team flew in from Seoul to speak at the Realme event.

The HP3 sensor has a 1/1.4-inch sensor size (relatively large for a mid-range phone) and is capable of capturing 16,320 X 12,240 pixels. When snapping “normal” photos at standard 1X focal length, the sensor will use 16-in-1 pixel binning to produce a 12.5MP photo. But Realme is marketing “optical zoom” quality at the 2X and 4X focal lengths, too, using the in-sensor crop. At the event, Realme was keen to mention that no one else is doing a 4X in-sensor zoom right now.

So, how do the photos look? quite good. In the below set, you’ll see a standard photo, followed by zoom shots at 2X or 4X. Considering this phone does not have a physical zoom lens, these in-sensor crop zoom shots are quite sharp.

In fact, Realme set up a photo booth to show that its 4X in-sensor crop is slightly sharper than the iPhone 14 Pro’s 4X zoom shots, which is a hybrid zoom using data from its dedicated 3X telephoto lens.

Realme 11 Pro Plus (bottom) and iPhone 14 Pro (top) displaying 4X zoom images

Realme 11 Pro Plus (bottom) and iPhone 14 Pro (top) displaying 4X zoom images

In-sensor crops, of course, need good lighting to appear lossless. And so, when I snapped the below 4X zoom shots at night, the image sharpness dropped a bit, but these are still quite good, considering the phone is in an affordable mid-range price range.

How does Realme 11 Pro Plus’ HP3 sensor stack up against Samsung’s own Galaxy S23 Ultra, using an HP2 sensor? Well, the HP2 sensor has a larger sensor size, which can take in more light, so Samsung’s photos are slightly brighter, with punchier colors. But I snapped the images below in full 200MP resolution, and we can see image sharpness is close (Realme’s photos are on the left, S23 Ultra’s on the right).

1X photo at 200MP resolution.  Realme 11 Pro Plus (left);  S23 Ultra (right).

1X photo at 200MP resolution. Realme 11 Pro Plus (left); S23 Ultra (right).

100% crops of 200MP images.  Realme 11 Pro Plus (left);  S23 Ultra (right).

100% crops of 200MP images. Realme 11 Pro Plus (left); S23 Ultra (right).

Considering the Galaxy S23 Ultra costs almost four times the price of the Realme 11 Pro Plus, I’d say the latter held its own very well. As I said, I’m going to respect Realme’s request not to talk about the battery size or its potential for very fast charging, as well as the processor powering the phone. But all of this information is just a Google search away. I can at least say that the Realme 11 Pro Plus is yet another Chinese mid-range phone whose performance punches way above its price range.

The phone will launch first in India, followed by a gradual rollout in Europe and other Southeast Asian regions in which Realme has a major presence, like Singapore and Malaysia. The silver lining for Americans is this phone is priced low enough that you can import without parting with too much cash. It will work on T-Mobile, at least, as that’s how I’m using it now.

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