Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Camera tech you need to know

Xiaomi has been doubling down on improving the camera capabilities of its smartphones. And it seems like it has reached its pinnacle with what it can offer with its new Xiaomi 12S series, specifically the Xiaomi 12S Ultra. This particular phone feels more camera than a smartphone. But it doesn’t neglect its flagship specs. You still get the standard 2022 hardware, but we aren’t focusing on that. Instead, let’s talk about its camera tech.

You’ve probably seen the teasers Xiaomi put out about its partnership with Leica. The renowned camera maker is no longer working with Huawei. Instead, Leica has partnered with Xiaomi to “co-engineer” the new 12S series. The companies said is the “first culmination of the Strategic Partnership in Imaging Technology.” Basically, it’s the first of many collaborations between the two. And we’re hoping it’ll bear some good fruit. 

Xiaomi and Leica jointly developed the different imaging systems you’ll see in the entire Xiaomi 12S series. You can expect Leica Summicron lenses and support for Leica imaging profiles. The promise these brands offer is you’ll get “unprecedented smartphone image quality.” The colors on your photos will “closely adhere to Leica’s signature look and feel.” Through that marketing speak, we’re intrigued to see how regular folk can take advantage of these technologies.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra in hand

Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Best of the best?

Xiaomi and Leica used their expertise to develop optical lenses on the 12S Ultra. They promise ultra-high light sensitivity, reduced dispersion, and lower flare for an ultra-high resolution image. The Xiaomi 12S Ultra’s main camera adopts an 8P aspheric lens to ensure you don’t have to deal with issues like flares, ghosting, and chromatic aberrations.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra combats glare further with an anti-glare lens coating, lens edge ink coating, cyclic olefin copolymer material, and infrared light filter with spin coating technology. These features on the camera module ensure you get a clearer, consistent photo across the lens.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra cameras

It’s hard to miss the camera module on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra. It is equipped with Sony’s IMX989 1-inch, 50.3-megapixel sensor. That translates to a massive 1.6μm pixel size that doubles to 3.2μm via pixel binning. The companies promise this phone’s camera extends the dynamic range and increases the light captured for better image quality in low light.

Xiaomi isn’t the first to use a 1-inch sensor on its phone. But it is said to use the entire portion of that 1-inch sensor. Xiaomi participated in developing the Sony IMX989. The two companies split the USD 15 million costs evenly. Despite that, the IMX989 won’t be exclusive to Xiaomi. According to Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun, it plans to make it available to local competitors after the 12S Ultra’s launch to “promote the advancement of mobile imaging together.” So, we’re expecting to see this in flagship phones of other Chinese smartphone makers.

As mentioned earlier, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra gets a Leica Summicron 1:1.9-4.1 / 13-120 ASPH system that covers all three rear cameras. The primary 50-megapixel sensor is joined by two 48-megapixel sensors (an ultra-wide and a periscopic lens). Both use a 1/2-inch Sony IMX586 sensor.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra’s Leica touch

Aside from getting an improved optical design, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra (along with its series mates) can take advantage of Leica imaging profiles. Basically, you’ll get filters that mimic Leica’s “century-old image aesthetic” and reproduces its tone with the help of cutting-edge algorithms. You’ll get two photographic styles in the Xiaomi 12S series’ cameras. 

The “Leica Authentic Look” works to retain light and shadow contrast to give you that sense of three-dimensional depth in your shots. This profile tries to provide more natural-looking pictures. (It reminds us a bit of what vivo and ZEISS have done with the vivo X80.) Meanwhile, the “Leica Vibrant Look” suggests a more colorful photo that seems more in line with what we see in smartphone photography.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra sample

Extra camera tech

Leica’s contributions aren’t the end of the advancements Xiaomi is bringing to the 12S Ultra. This handset is the first Android smartphone to support Dolby Vision HDR video recording and playback. Dolby Vision promises to offer “vivid colors, sharper contrast ratio, and richer details” in the videos you shoot and watch on the phone.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra also uses HyperOIS for a stable shooting experience. It offers continuous compensation for movement when you’re recording videos. It uses the gap between two frames to drive the OIS motor to its original position and give each frame a full effective range of stabilization.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra on a desk

The Ultra and the rest of its series mates will make life easier for a photographer’s post-production work. The entire lineup supports the 10-bit RAW format calibrated by Adobe Labs, with color correction metadata embedded in the files. So, when you open the photos in Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Camera RAW software will automatically optimize the pictures based on metadata.

We’re excited to see what this phone can really do. But for now, it’s coming out in China first, with pricing ranging from CNY 5,999 (around USD 895) to CNY 6,999 (~USD 1,044).

What tech on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra are you excited about? Let us know!

Check out our other Cool Tech of the Week stories HERE.