Since we reviewed the Realme X2 Pro, the smartphone maker has gone from strength to strength with blasting out value handsets, but hasn’t always nailed its cameras. That’s something the Realme 9 Pro Plus looks set to address.
Despite costing £349 (around $460), the Realme 9 Pro Plus shares the same primary camera as the Oppo Find X3 Pro – a Sony IMX766 sensor with OIS. While not the five-axis OIS found in the Find X5 Pro, that’s still mighty for a phone of the 9 Pro Plus’s price.
The remaining camera specs are more in line with other midrange phones – an 8MP fixed-focus ultra-wide camera and a 2MP fixed-focus macro camera. That means it has a virtually identical setup to the pricier OnePlus Nord 2, which costs £50 (roughly $65) more.
For photography fans who aren’t fussed on frills, the Realme 9 Pro Plus could make for the lowest-cost alternative to the Google Pixel 6 around – flagship imaging, bargain price. But can it stack up to old favorites like the Redmi Note 10 Pro and other best budget camera phones of 2022?
Design and screen
The Realme 9 Pro Plus’s design is safe, smart, and almost premium with its glass back, plastic sides, and glass front. Pick it up in Midnight Black for a more classic look, or Aurora Green or Sunrise Blue if you want more vibrant styling.
The Pro Plus’s back is reflective and clings onto fingerprints, but it feels good in the hand with its flat, matte plastic sides and relatively light 182g weight, despite its ample screen.
With its 6.4-inch Super AMOLED screen matched with a 90Hz refresh rate, the Realme 9 Pro Plus’s display specs are good, but not best-in-class. Though it misses out on a super-fast 120Hz refresh rate, it's still perfectly adequate for everything from gaming to watching movies, scrolling through news feeds, and browsing the web.
If you’re not mad about losing a bit of smoothness, the 430 nits max brightness (600 nits in high brightness mode) means the screen’s easy enough to view outdoors, and the clarity is on-point with a 411 pixel-per-inch (PPI) pixel density – not far behind the iPhone 13, which clocks in at 460 PPI.
The Realme 9 Pro Plus’s main camera features a 50MP Sony IMX766 sensor with 1-micron pixels, OIS, and an f/1.8 aperture lens. The secondary camera is an 8MP ultra-wide with a 16mm focal length and an f/2.2 aperture. Finally, the macro camera is a 2MP f/2.5 module.
With a front camera resolution of 16MP, matched with an f/2.4 lens and a 27mm focal length, selfies aren’t super-wide, so you may struggle to get loads of people in frame.
The Realme 9 Pro Plus captures video at up to 4K resolution, 30fps, and climbs up to 60fps if you’re happy to drop to 1080 resolution. It also shoots RAW photos, features a manual ISO of up to 6400, and a shutter speed as long as 32 seconds.
As for shooting modes, these include old favorites like Night, Portrait, Video, Photo, Pro Mode, 50MP, and more, as well as the semi-automatic Street Mode, for more creative shots that pack ramped up contrast and saturation, control over manual focus and access to RAW shooting.
Realme has a style – it boosts saturation and contrast, and the Realme 9 Pro Plus is no exception. While this characteristic usually helps boost weak sensors and lenses in lower-priced or worse-specced Realme phones, in the Pro Plus it actually adds a zing to a high-quality RAW image.
The IMX 766 sensor captures plenty of detail, shooting photos at 12.5MP by default, and whether captured in bright or dark environments, it holds up well. Undercutting the OnePlus Nord 2, at its price, the Realme 9 Pro Plus is our favorite camera phone of late.
Sharpening is a bit heavy-handed, but thanks to excellent hardware and high-quality optical image stabilization, the Realme 9 Pro Plus’s photos can handle a fair bit of post-processing. Its RAW mode is also very easy to access in both Pro and Street modes, so you can capture unprocessed snaps without too many swipes or taps.
We struggled a bit with selfies. Unless our hand taking the shot was super still, photos taken packed a bit of ghosting, even in relatively bright scenes. Turning off Auto HDR helped this, but given that it’s on by default, it threw us at first. Despite this, color reproduction was accurate, and the phone exposed well for faces, even in bright backlit scenes with Auto HDR turned off.
Video capture on the Realme 9 Pro Plus is also impressive – it’s super stable when shooting across resolutions at 30fps, while 60fps FullHD video was a bit shakier. Where the camera system drops the ball is the dedicated macro camera – in anything but optimal light, you’d be better deferring to the main camera and cropping in to emulate the framing the 2MP module can capture.
A MediaTek Dimensity 920 5G powers the Realme 9 Pro Plus, doing an excellent job for the most part. It benchmarks well for the price, is great for gaming and while it can’t stack up to the cheaper Poco F3, its camera makes up for the fact it doesn’t pack best-in-class power.
With Realme UI 3 and Android 12, the interface has a few highlights. In addition to full access to Google Play Store apps and games, the Realme 9 Pro Plus’s fingerprint scanner doubles up as a heart rate monitor. It also supports two audio outputs – one wired and one wireless, acting like a digital audio splitter, and there’s quick access to shortcuts with a sidebar that you can swipe into view.
The 9 Pro Plus’s stereo speakers also help make the phone great for watching on, and with 256GB storage and 8GB RAM, there’s loads of space for photos, videos, apps, and games.
Realme fast charging powers the phone up from zero to full in around 45 minutes, and while the phone’s 4500mAh battery isn’t huge, the chipset is clearly pretty efficient, so you can comfortably expect a day of regular use out of it.
Realme 9 Pro Plus: verdict
The Realme 9 Pro Plus was never going to be the best camera phone of 2022, but it is the best camera phone at under £349 (approximately $460). Its main camera packs 2021 flagship-grade photography, which means excellent results day or night and impressive video. While Realme oversharpens things, a lot of people will likely enjoy the punchy finish its photos sport, and there are also a couple of shooting modes that support RAW photography too.
While you can get a better screen or more power for less, photography enthusiasts who appreciate masses of storage won’t be disappointed by the 9 Pro Plus.
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