Xiaomi has been pushing the boundaries regarding smartphone cameras of late. The Xiaomi 12S Ultra launched earlier this year was one of the most significant jumps a smartphone manufacturer has made in recent years, thanks to the 1-inch sensor they were using. Then, there is the fact that they had partnered up with Leica, one of the oldest and best legacy camera brands in the world.
Now, they have released a few images of a concept smartphone that we only hope they end up working on making available commercially. They showcased a project where they worked on a hybrid between a smartphone and a mirrorless camera.
The new images of the concept device show that it had a secondary 1-inch sensor. However, unlike the original or, instead, real 12S Ultra, this one is not covered by its own fixed focal length lens but by a simple, single piece of sapphire glass, mainly to protect the exposed sensor from the elements. The camera module is surrounded by a mounting mechanism, which allows the user to attach Leica M mount lenses.
The wide variety of lenses from Leica will undoubtedly make such a smartphone a dream for photographers to work with. In the showcase, Xiaomi reveals that the smartphone/camera is combined with the lenses and a much-advanced camera app that supports focus peaking, zebra lines, a histogram, and a ton of other tools that proper, professional photographers have come to expect from their DSLRs and Mirrorless cameras. And, of course, it has support for 10-bit RAW images.
This does require an adapter, which makes the device bulky. However, the concept 12S Ultra can shoot photos and videos like a regular phone because it has the same primary camera as the 12S Ultra (1-inch sensor with 23mm lens) and a 13mm ultrawide camera. These can be used without any extra hardware.
There have been lens accessories for smartphones before, but that is a flawed design – light has to pass through the external lens and the phone’s lens, leading to light losses and a softer image. This Xiaomi concept is different because an attached Leica lens sends light directly to the sensor, except for the protective glass.
Xiaomi also unveiled a couple of shots they had taken using the 12S Ultra concept device.
We don’t have all the details about this concept device. Still, it is clear from the images that this is a regular 12S Ultra that has been slightly modified to make it compatible with Leica’s lenses and that it gets a much better camera app. It even has the same grippy faux leather back and enjoys total IP68 dust and water resistance. The company did add some reinforcement to the frame where the lens attaches to make it sturdier.
Xiaomi has not indicated whether it plans to sell this 12S Ultra-based concept device. The upcoming Xiaomi 13 Pro is said to have a 1-inch sensor as well. We sincerely hope they finally take this concept to the mass market.