Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept camera samples and hands-on photos reveal capabilities and scale of Frankenstein smartphone
Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept fuses camera and smartphone with detachable Leica M-series lenses, the idea of ditching a DSLR or mirrorless camera in favor of your smartphone is something many have dreamed of. Chinese smartphone firm Xiaomi has taken things a step further with the 12S Ultra Concept, which fuses detachable lenses and the firm’s most impressive smartphone to date.
Effectively a modified version of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, with its 1-inch rear camera sensor, this concept device has an updated circular rear camera ring that supports the connection of Leica M-series lenses. The M-series lens collection has been designed for crop sensors, making this a fairly seamless fit.
Leica worked with Xiaomi to design and produce this concept device which has two 1-inch camera sensors plus a layer of sapphire glass protecting the camera module. This was added to protect the onboard lenses from scratches and marks that can come from the screw motion when attaching compatible Leica M-series lenses. It’s not fully clear just what camera sensor is being used, but we are led to believe that the same Sony IMX989 1-inch sensor is being utilized once again.
What you can see from the video is that a speed booster or lens extension tube is being used so that Leica lenses can be attached to the rear camera module of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept phone. If a speed booster is required, this would indicate that this is not just a like-for-like switch as extra optics are required to focus incoming light to the smaller sensor.
This also could open the door for even greater lens adaption if Xiaomi were to release the device publicly; what’s interesting is that the 35mm Summicron-M lens showcased throughout this announcement often retails for north of $3,000.
This isn’t the first smartphone to tout interchangeable lenses. Motorola offered Hasselblad-certified “True Zoom” snap-on covers for its Moto Z lineup, and Panasonic has also offered the CM1, which utilized a 1-inch camera sensor and integrated Leica lens.
For many, this looks very much like the natural progression for smartphones as sensor sizes increase and the limits of modern smartphone photography are reached. A brief video announcing the Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept phone show that many common camera features are included with focus peaking, histogram, and even 10-bit RAW image shooting appear to be included.
Video Review of Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept Phone
As is often the case with such concept devices, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see this smartphone come to market. That said, given the growing partnerships between Android OEMs and camera companies, this could be a growing area of development in the coming years. We’d love to get our hands on the device to put it through its paces and see just how it stacks up against the best smartphone cameras currently available, but this device is unlikely to hit retail channels inside and outside of China.
Currently, Xiaomi has published nine images, which it posted to Weibo. Additionally, well-known Weibo leaker WhyLAB has revealed a dozen other photos that they claim have been taken using the Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept too. On the face of it, all these photos are more detailed and closer to what a DSLR can produce than conventional smartphone camera sensors. Unfortunately, it is unclear whether these are untouched or if they have been tweaked using third-party photo editing software.
Regardless, the images highlight the limitations of using a so-called 1-inch sensor. For example, the sensor’s crop factor is particularly noticeable, especially in shots that mimic a telephoto lens. Seemingly, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept is a one-off and is not a smartphone that Xiaomi plans to mass-produce like the regular Xiaomi 12S Ultra. Instead, it appears to represent Xiaomi’s attempts to improve smartphone photography capabilities via lens improvements, rather than relying on ever larger sensors. With the Xiaomi 13 series expected to arrive within the next month or so, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept could well be a taster for what is on the horizon in the likes of the Xiaomi 13 Ultra.
Our own Dylan Roussel has coined the term “phomera,” which is a pretty apt portmanteau of this impressive-looking phone-camera. Let us know what you’d call the Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept down in the comments section below.