Xiaomi and Leica deliver a one inch punch with the Ultra 12S

Just in case you're wondering, this camera also happens to be a phone.

by Justin Choo

How much do you love the camera on your phone? The Xiaomi 12S Ultra must surely be the ultimate litmus test.

And that is for one good reason that is clear for all to see: the rear camera module covers just over a third of the grain leather facade and is punctuated with what must surely be the biggest ever single glass dome placed on a smartphone. Unlike other cameras with individual protective domes for the lenses, the single domed glass protects the three lenses beneath it.

At the centre is a 48MP ultra-wide camera (13mm, f2.2) offering a 128° field of view accompanied by a 48MP telephoto camera with a 5x optical zoom lens (120mm, f4.1) offering a maximum of up to 120x magnification and the undisputed star of the show: the 50MP wide-angle camera (23mm, f1.9) sporting a 1-inch sensor from Sony (IMX989). That said, the 1/2-inch auxiliary camera sensors (48MP Sony IMX586) aren’t half bad either.

The other firecracker in this double bill of headlining features is the collaboration with photography royalty Leica, who lends its optical designs to the lenses on the phone. The main camera also sports a more complicated eight aspherical lens elements design (8P), often employed to reduce optical errors like lens flare and chromatic aberration. On top of that, there’s anti-glare lens coating, lens edge ink coating, cyclic olefin copolymer material, and infrared light filter with spin coating technology. The camera system is also supported by algorithms to capture that distinctive ‘Leica look’.

While OIS is available on the wide-angle and telephoto camera, the majority of the fun tech is found on the wide-angle camera. It has a sensor that boasts a Quad-Bayer array with a pixel pitch of 1.6μm, which can be binned for an effective size of 3.2μm.

Xiaomi also says that this is the first Android phone to offer Dolby Vision HDR recording and playback. On top of that, the display also supports HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG playback.

The rest of the phone is also impressive, though by this time it feels somewhat pedestrian next to the camera – if shots like the one above are anything to go by. The 12s Ultra sports the new 4nm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 SoC, which offers 10 per cent more performance and 30 per cent more energy efficiency. They’ve paired it with a new heat dissipation that uses capillary action to double thermal conductivity.

The 6.73″ AMOLED colour display (E5 LTPO) offers a peak brightness of 1500 nits, along with support for the P3 colour gamut, and a 120Hz refresh rate. The visuals are paired with Harman Kardon stereo speakers that support Dolby Atmos.

Last but not least, the 12S Ultra has been given the Surge P1 fast charging chipset and G1 battery management chipset. The phone supports (a surprisingly modest) 67W wired fast charging, 50W wireless fast charging and 10W reverse wireless charging for its 4,860mAh silicon-oxygen anode battery. The P1 chipset enables up to a 16A output current with 96.8% conversion efficiency while the G1 battery management chipset offers a slew of algorithms to protect the battery and accurately predict its available life. Xiaomi says its system will increase the number of charge cycles by 25 per cent.

The 12S Ultra is currently only available for the Chinese market but chances are there will be enough interest for an international release. Two colours – Classic Black and Verdant Green – have been announced along with three storage variants. The base model 8GB+256G is priced at RMB 5,999 (approx. $1,256); the 12GB+256GB is priced at RMB 6,499 (approx. $1,360) and the 12GB+512GB is priced at RMB 6,999 (approx. $1,465).

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