The dream of a smartphone camera with 1 inch sensor… We have been so close to it for a while, yet so far from it.
In fact, phones like the Panasonic Lumix CM1, Sharp Aquos R6 & R7, and of course Sony’s Xperia Pro-I does have 1-inch camera sensors. However, the different implementations come with different trade-offs:
- The 2014 Panasonic Lumix DMC-CM1 looked more like a compact camera than a phone, and was far from well-optimized to take great photos
- The Sharp Aquos R6 and R7 have only one camera on the back and lack the industry-leading computational photography needed to take full advantage of the advanced hardware
- The Xperia Pro-I only captures the middle 12MP of the 1-inch sensor that Sony has managed to fit into the phone, meaning it effectively matches the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra for usable sensor area/size – 1/1.33 -inch
Looking beyond the hardware implementations, the other thing in common between the aforementioned phones is that none of them come from a mainstream phone brand. The old Lumix CM1 was literally made by a company that makes cameras; the Sharp Aquos R7 will be sold only in its home country of Japan, and Sony’s “Pro” devices come with a complicated camera UI and staggering prices, making even Apple and Samsung flagships seem reasonably priced. But it seems we’ve finally witnessed “the correct” implementation of a 1-inch camera sensor on a phone, and we have Xiaomi to thank for it! Let’s dive in!
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: “The closest phone camera to a DSLR ever”
A few weeks ago, renowned tipster Ice Universe wrote in a short tweet that the Xiaomi 12 Ultra will be “the closest thing to a DSLR phone camera ever.” As a tech enthusiast and fan of smartphone photography, I was actually excited, which doesn’t happen often.
Despite the existence of the Xiaomi 12 and Xiaomi 12 Pro, Xiaomi has not released an ultra-premium flagship phone since March 2021, when the excellent Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra broke cover. So it was clear that the company was taking its time and preparing something special.
Well, now we are officially a few days away from the official unveiling of the Xiaomi 12S series, and the one leading the pack – the Xiaomi 12S Ultra might be blow your socks off with a utter 1-inch camera sensor, specially made for Xiaomi’s Ultra flagship. As the sages said… “Now we talk”.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Sony and Leica Collaboration for the Biggest Camera Collaboration in Smartphone History
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: true Leica collaboration
You may have already heard that Xiaomi has made a new friend (read: partner) – Leica. That’s after the German camera hardware maker and Huawei split a few months ago. This is of course no surprise as there are a lot of flashy collaborations of the same kind in the smartphone world. Sony, Nokia and Vivo partner with Zeiss; OnePlus is partnering with Hasselblad and it’s probably only a matter of time before we see more of those “strategic partnerships” emerge.But this time it seems to be different! According to Twitter user Kartikey Singh, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra will be equipped with Leica’s professional SUMMICRON optical lens. We expect an ultra-low-reflection 8P double-sided coating on all the rear cameras on the 12S Ultra – not just the primary. In practice, this should result in a reflectivity of just 0.2% and a light transmission of a staggering 93%, meaning we can expect super-bright photos regardless of the lighting conditions.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: the $15 million Sony partnership
When it comes to the star of the show, the 1-inch Sony IMX 989, it’s not just made specifically for the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, but co-developed by Xiaomi and Sony.
It’s important to note that words like “collaboration” and “joint development” can be vague and thrown around in the smartphone world. This time, however, reports say that Xiaomi has participated in the actual development of the IMX 989 by having a say in the parameters of the camera. In addition, according to reports, the development cost for the 1-inch IMX is $989 million and it was split between Xiaomi and Sony.
In practical terms, Xiaomi promises that compared to the main camera sensor of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, the IMX 989 has 172% more light sensitive area and is 32.5% faster in taking pictures. It is also said to have 101% more light sensitive capacity and 11% faster startup speed.
Figures like this shouldn’t come as a surprise as the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, unlike the Sony Xperia Pro-I, which also technically features a 1-inch sensor, is expected to use the full sensor area of the IMX 989, those combined with Leica’s custom lenses could leave the competition in the dust.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra camera samples and the rest of the camera system: Leica real camera
The rest of the camera hardware on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra should be just as impressive…
Xiaomi 12S Ultra will also be a very impressive Android flagship phone – it’s not just cameras …
Of course, the camera hardware will be the star of the show here, but the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is expected to pack a lot of other special hardware features, which should make it one of the best phones on the market. We expect:
- The official debut of the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1+ chip; a stellar display; a large battery; and super fast charging
- Eco-friendly, stain resistant and anti-aging vegan leather design that makes the Xiaomi 12S Ultra lighter than the Mi 11 Ultra and S22 Ultra
- A brand new Xiaomi-developed custom Surge G1 chip for better battery performance
- A new heat dissipation system with a “biomimetic design”, similar to that of plant leaves, which opens a fast directional channel for the conduction of cold liquid, and the thermal conductivity is 100% higher than that of traditional smartphone cooling (VC)
- New self-developed memory storage technology that can effectively prevent long-term performance degradation
In other words, maybe we’re looking at the phone of the year here… Who knows!
Xiaomi 12S Ultra is paving the way as 1-inch mobile camera sensors are finally becoming mainstream, but it may have one problem…
Xiaomi 12S, 12S Pro and 12S Ultra availability
One very important thing that I haven’t mentioned yet is availability… It is indeed a sensitive topic for Chinese phone manufacturers. Of course, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is not the only phone in the company’s lineup, despite the fact that it is the one that will steal all the headlines.
The Xiaomi 12S and Xiaomi 12S Pro will be the successors to Xiaomi’s current flagships – the Xiaomi 12 and 12 Pro, and they are almost certainly expected to hit the global stage. But unfortunately we still don’t know if the China-based Xiaomi will let the rest of the world get a taste of the impressive Xiaomi 12S Ultra. We still don’t know if it will be released worldwide.
Xiaomi and Sony let other phone manufacturers use the IMX 989 for a commission
Anyway, to end on a pretty positive note, Xiaomi is becoming the new innovator in the smartphone world. The company has essentially taken over Huawei’s old role, delivering remarkable hardware upgrades year after year without paying much attention to the competition’s safer bets, and the Xiaomi 12S Ultra’s camera system will be proof of that.
What’s interesting is that Xiaomi and Sony have apparently decided to let other phone makers use the co-developed IMX 989 sensor in their phones for a commission (which goes to both Sony and Xiaomi), so the monstrous 1-inch camera remains. not exclusive to the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, which is good news for the rest of the smartphone world!
According to the reliable Honor & Huawei tipster, Teme, the first phone to get the new IMX 989 after Xiaomi should be Honor’s Magic 5 Ultimate. The 1-inch IMX 989 is expected to “become a star sensor and widely used in (more) ultra flagship products, such as another top spot star, Ice Universe† He also makes it clear that Samsung is working on its own “200MP camera gimmick” and will not be using the IMX 989.
See you on July 4 when the Xiaomi 12S, 12S Pro and 12S Ultra take the stage!