Could the Xiaomi concept camera revolutionize smartphone photography?

OPINION: This week, Xiaomi unveiled a camera concept phone that unlocks new possibilities for smartphone photography. Is this the way to the future?

Every year we see smartphone manufacturers trying to get one over the rest of the competition with a new imaging feature, which often turns into a gimmick that gets little attention after the first week or two after launch. However, every now and then we get a glimpse of a real game-changer – and Xiaomi may have given us one this week.

Xiaomi’s big idea is to attach an external Leica lens to a concept version of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, and take advantage of the massive 1 inch image sensor to turn the smartphone into a more capable camera, in a real effort to bridge a gap between the smartphone’s cameras and the original DSLR.

This feature is claimed to provide the “resolution ability, permeability and true depth of field” that other smartphones have struggled to recreate. While we’ve seen smartphones with ever larger sensors, or more specialized lenses, this is a much more ambitious prospect.

Obviously, this feature, which is still just a concept and not available for purchase, will only be for photography fanatics and not for regular smartphone users; For some reason, the attachment will definitely be prohibitively expensive, and on the other hand, regular users may find the lens a bit heavy to carry around.

But for the right target audience, this kind of development can open up new possibilities for what you can do with a camera phone, removing the limitations of the traditional form factor and bringing a whole new level of functionality to the device with just a touch. and click.

I find it encouraging to see these kinds of niche developments happening, simply because the vast consumer market for smartphones is not at all homogeneous. Each of us now uses a smartphone in one way or another, and of course we have different means and different desires to use it. While this device never hopes to be a bestseller, if done well, it could be perfect for a smaller segment of users in the same way many felt that the first generations of foldable phones served them well.

More than that, I am also excited to see the partnership between Xiaomi and Leica already paying off. For years I was somewhat skeptical that such deals actually change much about hardware on smartphones; For example, we failed to see a qualitative increase in camera quality on the OnePlus 10 Pro even though the brand struck an eye-catching deal with Hasselblad. But this example clearly shows that manufacturers have already worked hand in hand to create something new.

Top half view of light blue One Plus 9 smartphone lying upside down on a wooden table

While we won’t be seeing this concept device on store shelves any time soon, it’s a pity that the first marketable versions of this one aren’t that far away. Advances like this show that innovation is definitely not dead in the industry, and there are still exciting days ahead for the smartphone.

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