Leica-Branded Xiaomi 12S Ultra Has World’s Biggest Smartphone Sensor

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

Xiaomi has announced its 12S Series which includes the Ultra that was co-engineered with Leica. That flagship features the world’s largest smartphone sensor: a 50-megapixel 1-inch sensor behind a 23mm f/1.9 Leica lens.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra features a 6.73-inch AMOLED display that promises 1,500 nits of peak brightness at 2K resolution with support for the P3 color gamut (specifics on the actual color accuracy were not provided). Behind the display, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is the first flagship model to be equipped with two proprietary Xiaomi Surge chips, Xiaomi Surge P1 fast-charging chipset and Xiaomi Surge G1 battery management chipset, which the company says offers great improvements in battery management and overall user experience.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

The new smartphone also supports 67W wired fast charging, 50W wireless fast charging, and 10W reverse wireless charging. At the core of the Xiaomi Surge Battery Management System, is a 4,860mAh single-cell silicon-oxygen anode battery and Xiaomi Surge P1 fast-charging chipset, which the company says also supports up to a 16A output current with 96.8% conversion efficiency.

Not to downplay a better battery and display size, but the real star of the show is the giant camera array.

A Huge Camera

The huge camera on the back of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is centered around a Sony IMX989 1-inch sensor that uses a Quad-Bayer pixel array with individual pixels sized at 1.6μm. After pixel binning, Xiaomi says these pixels reach a larger 3.2μm, which reduces noise, extends dynamic range, increases light captured, and achieves overall better imagery in low-light conditions.

The sensor was actually co-developed between Sony and Xiaomi, which Engadget reports includes a 50-50 split in bearing the costs to put it together.

In order to use the full size of the 1-inch sensor, Xiaomi leaned on Leica to develop what it calls a “sophisticated optical lens.”

“[The 12S Ultra] utilizes Leica’s world-class optical design capabilities in its lens system while adhering to their stringent optical quality testing standards and implementing Xiaomi’s expertise in miniaturizing components to ensure ultra-high resolution, ultra-high light sensitivity, reduced dispersion, and lower flare,” the company says.

The lens supposedly mitigates flare, ghosting, and chromatic aberration. In addition to the physical lens design, the camera also has been tuned to reproduce Leica’s tone and aesthetics with “cutting edge algorithms,” realized in the Leica Authentic Look and Leica Vibrant Look photo profiles.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

As explained by Xiaomi:

  • The “Leica Authentic Look” pursues a natural imagery for which Leica is known. By retaining light and shadow contrast, it adds a sense of three-dimensional depth to photos, with the characteristic excellence of Leica’s time-proven light and shadow aesthetics.
  • The “Leica Vibrant Look” features input by both Xiaomi and Leica. Combining Xiaomi’s experience in smartphone photography with Leica’s leading aesthetic, photographers can strive to capture the emotion of the moment, symbolizing Leica’s exploration in the smartphone photography space.

The main camera is also the first Android device to support Dolby Vision HDR video recording and playback. Additionally, it features Xiaomi’s image stabilization HyberOIS which the company says provides ultra-stable performance and continuous compensation for movement during video recording.

“HyperOIS utilizes the gap between two frames to drive the OIS motor to its original position, giving each frame a full effective range of stabilization,” the company claims.

Xiaomi says the 12S Ultra has also been designed to be more friendly to photographers in post production, and it captures photos in 10-bit RAW format calibrated by Adobe Labs with color correction metadata embedded directly into the files. When using Adobe Lightroom to open photos shot on Xiaomi 12S Series, Adobe Camera RAW software will automatically optimize photos based on metadata, which Xiaomi says provides professional photographers with a good starting point for post-production.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

Xiaomi hinted that it would be releasing the landmark smartphone camera last week, but the sheer size of the camera array on the rear of the new 12S Ultra shows how challenging it is to fully utilize a large 1-inch sensor in a smartphone design that is so thin. Sony attempted something similar with its Xperia Pro-I earlier this year, but due to size constraints was unable to use the full size of the sensor like Xiaomi was able to here.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra smartphone starts at 5,999 Yuan, which is about $892. It and the other smartphones in the 12S series are launching first in mainland China and the company has not provide any information on when to expect it in other regions.

Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the focal length of the primary camera as 13mm. We apologize for the error.