Amateur Photographer verdict

One of the best performing smart phones on the market with an impressive array of cameras that deliver excellent image quality, however this comes at a flagship price
  • One-inch main sensor
  • Leica SUMMILUX lenses with variable aperture for main camera 
  • Four 50MP sensors 
  • Photography kit available
  • High price 
  • Selfie camera doesn’t have AF 
  • Not available in every market 

Xiaomi is one of several Chinese smartphone manufacturers vying for our attention alongside the likes of mainstream rivals who produce the best camera phones for photography, such as Apple and Samsung.

Over the years, Xiaomi has become well-known for producing extremely capable phones, in partnership with German stalwart Leica. The latest flagship, the 14 Ultra provides a huge amount of appealing specifications for the photography enthusiast that give those bigger names (certainly in the West at least) a massive run for their money. 

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra with no case. Image credit: Amy Davies

Xiaomi accounts for around 13% of the global smartphone market, which in worldwide terms makes it pretty huge. The brand is hugely popular in certain markets, including its home territory (China) and other Asian markets. At the time of writing however, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra did not appear to be directly available for sale in the US, but you can get it very easily in the UK and other European locations.

Leica has been working with Xiaomi for a while now, having previously been partnered with another Chinese manufacturer, Huawei. For this model, we see high-end Summilux lenses being used by Xiaomi for the first time – though this branding has been used on other smartphone models plenty of times in the past, including notably in models such as the Huawei P40 Pro.

This and other high-level specifications (more on that shortly) don’t come cheap though. The Xiaomi 14 Ultra will set you back £1299, putting it in the same realm as the likes of the Samsung S24 Ultra and the iPhone 15 Pro Max. 

The four lenses of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. Image credit: Amy Davies

Xiaomi 14 Ultra at a glance:

  • 50MP f/1.6-4.0 23mm equivalent camera with one-inch sensor
  • 50MP f/1.8 12mm equivalent ultrawide camera
  • 50MP f/1.8 75mm equivalent 3x telephoto camera
  • 50MP f/2.5 120mm equivalent 5x telephoto camera (periscope lens)
  • 8K video at up to 30fps
  • 4K video at up to 120fps 
  • 6.73-inch, 3200 x 1440 pixels, 3000 nits peak brightness, 120Hz LTPO AMOLED screen
  • Operating system – HyperOS based on Android14
  • Processor – Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 

How we test camera phones

We review smartphones from the perspective of choosing one for its photography and camera performance. We look at what the Xiaomi 14 Ultra offers, and the features included for photography and video, paying particular attention to the cameras on the phone, photo editing capabilities, as well as the output from each different lens.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Features

There are a huge number of enticing features for photographers packed into this phone, helping it to really earn the “Ultra” in its name – arguably ‘Pro’ simply wouldn’t be good enough. 

With several headline grabbing features, on paper at least it stacks up to a very impressive spec sheet. 

Let’s start with the fact that it has four cameras, all of which have high-resolution 50MP sensors, and all of which are fronted by Leica Summilux branded lenses, a fine marker of quality. Not only that but the main sensor is a large one-inch type, which is much larger than sensors found in almost every other smartphone out there – and certainly bigger than from the mainstream brands of Samsung, Apple and Google. 

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra in hand – the supplied case is shown here. Image credit: Amy Davies

On top of that still is the fact that the main lens has a variable aperture, giving you the option to choose between f/1.6-f/4.0. A variable aperture isn’t something we often see, with Samsung including it in its S series smartphones for a while but dropping it for its most recent models. The Xiaomi 13 Ultra allowed you to choose between f/1.9 or f/4.0, but the 14 Ultra goes a step further by allowing f/1.6, f/2, f/2.8 or f/4.0. 

There’s other enticing features too, including special coatings to prevent typical lens problems such as glare. Macro photography is available with three out of the four lenses, so you can really get creative with your close-ups. Six focal lengths are available losslessly, with 2x and 10x using the central portion of a sensor to create images (known as in-sensor zoom). You can also extend digitally up to 120x – beating even the 100x of the Samsung S24 Ultra. 

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra with supplied case and photography kit grip. Image credit: Amy Davies

Once you add in software features such as a street photography mode and Master Portrait mode and blend that together with computational photography wizardry, then the package for photographers really is something quite special.

Other interesting specifications include the ability to shoot in raw format, 8K video recording, a Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 processor, a 6.73-inch screen and a nano-tech vegan leather back. 

If all of that isn’t enough to entice you in, also consider that a “photography kit” can also be purchased separately, giving you a grip which transforms the phone into a more traditional camera shape and includes a 67mm filter adapter too.

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra with supplied case and photography kit grip. Image credit: Amy Davies

All in all, it’s safe to say that if all the specs live up to their billing, this is a phone that’s going to be very hard to beat. So what’s the catch? Well, assuming you can get hold of one – there isn’t one really. Yes, it’s expensive, but so are plenty of others out there. So really it might come down to brand perception and awareness – many here in the West are naturally prone to prefer American or South Korean manufacturers, with Chinese brands not being quite so popular.

Let’s see how those specs shape up in real-world usage though… 

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Handling and Design 

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra’s design is fairly different from most others on the market. 

While yes it’s still a rectangular box, the back features nano-tech vegan leather, which is quite the departure from the super-shiny glass backed phones we’re used to seeing. It helps with grip and also makes it less prone to slipping. Xiaomi says that this makes the 14 Ultra 6x better at resisting wear than its predecessor, and it certainly looks attractive too. That said, a case comes in the box with the phone, which emulates the look of the back and gives a little extra protection. 

The back of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra, with supplied case. Image credit: Amy Davies

The front of the phone uses Xiaomi Shield Glass. Here we’ve got a boast of 10x improvement in “drop resistance” compared to the predecessor. It’s also IP68 rated, giving you water and dust resistance. 

At 6.7”, the phone is on the larger side, but stays on the right side of manageable. It’s the same screen size as the iPhone 15 Pro Max, and smaller than the Samsung S24 Ultra. You can buy the phone in either black or white (we’ve been using the black one). 

The AMOLED display is nice, bright and detailed, with a peak rate of 3000 nits and an HDR display. It also adjusts automatically in bright conditions, which is always a bonus. 

Image credit: Amy Davies

For those who want to push the handling a little further, the Photography Kit can be purchased separately at £179. With this, you get a hand grip which gives you a shutter button, command dial and a zoom ring. We’ve seen things like this before turn a pocket-friendly phone into a difficult to handle monstrosity, but here it’s carried out well and you can take it on and off with ease. Another bonus is that the grip has a battery inside it which can give your phone a power boost too. 

On the downside, I found on occasion the grip simply didn’t work if it had been left on the phone for a while. Simply removing it and clicking it back on again solved the problem, so it’s not the end of the world but it could be a little smoother in operation. 

With the kit you also get a 67mm filter adapter. I haven’t used this, but can see where it would be useful for those who want to push the limits of their smartphone even further.

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Native Camera App

The default “Photo” mode in the native camera app. Image credit: Amy Davies

We are used to seeing well-featured native camera apps from Android models, and the 14 Ultra is no different. Indeed, as well as all the usual modes we’ve come to expect, there are some other useful shooting options too. 

The default mode is “Photo” which is where you’ll likely do the majority of your shooting. Here you can access all four of the lenses, plus the two focal lengths which use in-sensor zoom (2x and 5x). You can also pinch outwards to zoom to 120x if you feel so inclined. 

A small arrow at the top of the screen can be tapped to reveal some extra settings. The variable aperture can be left to Auto for it to decide for itself what is best, or you can take control and choose between four different apertures between f/1.6 and f/4.0 yourself. There’s also the ability to switch on things like super macro, Motion tracking focus and gridlines. 

Some additional settings for the Xiaomi 14 Ultra camera. Image credit: Amy Davies

You can shoot in HDR, or switch that off, and you can also switch between “Leica Vibrant” and “Leica Authentic”. You can also add filters too, such as Leica “BW Nat” (black and white natural) and other film-simulations. One downside here is that you can’t shoot in raw format in this mode, for that you’ll need to switch to the Pro mode.

The Pro mode also gives you the option to use all the different lenses, as well as change various shooting parameters such as white balance, focus mode, aperture, ISO and exposure compensation. Here again you can also shoot in Leica Authentic or Leica Vibrant colour modes, as well as the different filters. 

An image displayed on the screen of the Xiaomi 14 Ultra. Image credit: Amy Davies

Portrait mode further plays on the Leica idea, giving you the option to shoot in different focal lengths – 23mm, 35mm, 50mm and 75mm. Or, alternatively you can choose the slightly different “Standard” (23mm), “Documentary” (35mm), “Swirly Bokeh” (50mm), “Portrait” (75mm) or “Soft Focus” (90mm) options which are packaged together as the “Master Lens System”.

Night mode automatically activates should the phone detect low light levels and can be used across all of the different lenses. It’s also available to choose manually, too. The “Supermoon” feature is designed for shooting the night sky – this seems to be a way of photographing the moon with the assistance of AI technology. Is it fake? Almost certainly, but it’s a bit of fun anyway. 

Similarly, macro focusing should automatically activate if you bring the phone close to aa subject. If you switch to using one of the zoom lenses however, you’ll also get the option to decide whether you want to have a blurred background or keep a greater depth of field – just tap the option you want. 

There are various shooting modes. Image credit: Amy Davies

Street photographers may be drawn to the “Fast Shot” mode which changes the user interface into a rangefinder style. You can see outside the frame to help capture unfolding events, and the lenses are listed by focal length (35mm, 50mm etc) rather than 1x, 2x and so on. You also have the option to manually focus and adjust exposure compensation, too. Aperture (when using the 1x lens) can also be controlled here.

There’s a few other shooting modes, notably time-lapse, long exposure, 50MP and some video modes such as Director Mode. Video fanatics also have other special video modes, including the straightforward “Video” and the more in-depth “Movie” mode. Switching on MasterCinema in either of these modes enables HDR recording in 10-bit Rec.2020. 

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Image Quality and Performance 

An image shot with the Xiaomi Ultra 1x lens. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/2 · 1/1486s · 8.72mm · ISO50

Xiaomi has been producing some excellent smartphones for some time now, but the 14 Ultra truly does sit at the top of its line-up in terms of quality of results. 

The same scene shot with the ultrawide lens – the colours are well matched. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/1.8 · 1/2683s · 2.03mm · ISO50

The one-inch main sensor is the best performer, as we’d expect. When technology like this can now be found on smartphones, it’s no wonder that even premium compact cameras which pack similar technology are dwindling in popularity. 

The 3.2x lens – again the colours are well matched here and the detail is good. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/1.8 · 1/1938s · 12.28mm · ISO50

Images from the Xiaomi 14 Ultra have lots of detail, show good colours and dynamic range and thanks to the larger sensor you can get shallower depth of field effects without having to resort to using software recreations. 

Finally, the 5x periscope lens also produces good results. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/2.5 · 1/1105s · 19.4mm · ISO50

Having that large sensor also stands the camera in good stead when it comes to low light work, with a good amount of detail, not too much smudging and crisp results. 

An image taken using the Night mode. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/1.63 · 1/7s · 8.72mm · ISO5000

Leica Summilux lenses really do seem to add an edge of sharpness and high-quality, and there’s very little to complain about for the most part. 

Of course there isn’t just one sensor/lens here, but three more, with all three producing good results in a range of different scenarios. The fact that all four of the sensors are 50MP, and all four are fronted by Leica Summilux is quite something. 

The ultrawide lens is very useful for shooting interior scenes, and also produces great results. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/1.8 · 1/17s · 2.03mm · ISO800

The ultrawide lens also puts in a very good performance, being fairly free from distortion and also producing good shots in low light. Both the zoom lenses also give good results – it can often be the case that any additional fourth lens is a bit of a marketing gimmick which seldom gets used, but in this case the results justify engaging the lens when you want to get closer to the subject. These two lenses are not quite so good in low light as the 1x and the ultrawide, but for sharing on social media and so on, they do a good enough job. 

The Leica Summilux fronted 50MP one-inch sensor produces some wonderful images. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/2 · 1/2349s · 8.72mm · ISO50

Further good news is that colours are great from all of the lenses, and even better, between the four lenses, colours are pretty well matched. If you’re taking a series of images from the same spot you can expect uniformity. 

Digital zooming is a useful option to have if you really do need to get close to the subject. As ever, 120x really is just a gimmick that nobody is likely to use for anything they actually want to keep and look at again. However, more reasonable zoom figures of 10x, 20x and even sometimes 30x produce usable results if the light is good. 

Portrait mode produces very nice results. If you look closely there’s some outlining around the hair, but it’s handled quite nicely compared to some other models. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/1.8 · 1/100s · 12.28mm · ISO100

Portrait mode works very well and produces some fantastic results. As we tend to see there is some outlining around fine areas of hair if you examine very closely – however it’s less obvious than we might expect from a cheaper model, especially when viewing them at typically small social media type sizes.

The selfie camera with Portrait mode enabled. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/2 · 1/113s · 2.83mm · ISO50

The selfie camera doesn’t have AF, but it nevertheless does a good job. If you leave it on the default “beauty” setting then you tend to get slightly plasticky results, but than can always be switched off if you don’t like it. You can also shoot in Portrait mode and use the front camera, leading to nice bokeh in the background – as you can see in our example shot.

The macro mode is fantastic. Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/1.8 · 1/100s · 12.28mm · ISO100

Macro photography capability is something we’re seeing as a pretty standard specification for high-end phones, but you get extra functionality with the 14 Ultra. The results are very good, producing better images than we’ve seen from models such as the Samsung S24 Ultra. In fact I’d say the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is one of the best smartphones for macro photography out there.

This is not the first camera to boast about its ability to shoot the moon, but the Xiaomi 14 Ultra results are pretty good – not withstanding the fact that the moon may or may not be assisted into creation using AI. Still, it’s fun to experiment with on nights where the moon is bright and crisp. 

The Moon, or is it? Image credit: Amy Davies
24030PN60G · f/2.5 · 1/612s · 19.4mm · ISO50

Video results are great too, with a good degree of flexibility for those who want to produce a lot of video content. You can record at up to 8K, but it seems likely that 4K or Full HD will be most used by most people. You can use all four lenses while recording 4K, which is a good bonus. Detail is very good and overall the stability is pretty good too, even when shooting handheld. Sound is fairly good but it is prone to picking up wind when recording outside, so those who do this a lot may wish to invest in external microphones and accessories to combat this. 

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Value for Money 

You’d be forgiven for wincing when you see a £1299 price tag for a smartphone, but, when something is highly priced but offers a huge amount for your money, we can still consider it good value. 

The price sees it in the same bracket as the Samsung Galaxy S24 Ultra, which also has four lenses, but, only has one high resolution sensor and doesn’t have a one-inch sensor or Leica glass to boast about. 

Xiaomi 14 Ultra with 4 high resolution lenses. Image credit: Amy Davies

In fact, the Xiaomi is cheaper when you compare like-for-like models. Samsung’s S24 Ultra with 512GB storage will set you back £1349 – it’s only the 256GB version which is £1249. 

The Xiaomi is also cheaper than the equivalent iPhone 15 Pro Max model. Here Apple will part you with £1,399 for the 512GB version (the 256GB model is £1,199). 

So all that considered, despite the high asking price, the 14 Ultra certainly can be said to offer good value for money. It’s more expensive than cheaper models, including from its own line-up, but if you want the best of the best then you might consider that worth paying for. You might also consider it further good value if it saves you from buying any other additional camera gear, and, if the phone lasts you a good while longer than something cheaper which you feel compelled to upgrade sooner. 

Image credit: Amy Davies

If you really don’t want to part with the cash however, also consider that there’s a Xiaomi 14 for under £900, which offers some similar specifications to the Ultra, and may therefore be a better balance between cost and performance. 

All that said, if you’re in a market where it’s hard to get hold of a Xiaomi, then value or not is almost irrelevant. In the US you might be able to find some grey market imports, but we’d always advise caution with those. 

Xiaomi 14 Ultra Verdict

Those looking for the best smartphone for photographers have a lot of choice these days. Generally, however we tend to see the same three names being mentioned time and again – Samsung, Apple and Google. 

However, if you’re happy to look outside those big recognisable brand names (at least in the West anyway), then there are some fantastic alternatives to be had – and the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is one of them. 

The Xiaomi 14 Ultra in hand – the supplied case is shown here. Image credit: Amy Davies

This is quite easily one of the best performing smartphones on the market for photography, with a one-inch sensor and four Leica Summilux lenses really setting it apart from its rivals. The images and videos that it produces easily match and often surpass those from the “bigger” brands. 

At £1299 it’s not a cheap proposition by any means, however, you get an awful lot for your money – more than similarly priced Samsung or Apple phones – so therefore it can still be considered good value for money. It also seems likely that you wouldn’t feel the need to quickly ditch this phone year after year to get upgrades as it’s already so good. 

Overall, the Xiaomi 14 Ultra is a fantastic choice for anyone who prioritises the quality of the onboard camera on their smartphone – the only major downside is its lack of availability across the globe.

Amateur Photographer Testbench Gold


Ultra-wide camera50MP 12mm equivalent, f/1.8, dual pixel PDAF, 1/2.51” sensor 
Wide camera50MP 23mm equivalent, f/1.6-4.0 (variable aperture), 1”-type sensor, multi-directional PDAF, OIS 
Telephoto camera (1)50MP 75mm equivalent, f/1.8, dual pixel PDAF, OIS, 1/2.51” sensor
Telephoto camera (2)50MP 120mm equivalent periscope camera, f/2.5, 1/2.51” sensor, dual pixel PDAF, OIS
Front selfie camera32MP 22mm equivalent, f/2.0, 1/3.14” sensor
Display6.7-inch LTPO AMOLED, 3200 x 1440 pixels, 120Hz, 3000nits (peak) 
Operating systemHyperOS, based on Android 14
Dimensions161.4 x 75.3 x 8.5mm

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