This Xiaomi Smartphone Includes a Full-sized Leica Lens
While smartphone lens attachments certainly do exist on the market, few people have probably thought that a phone maker would ramp this compatibility up to include full-sized professional lenses.
Xiaomi however has done just that. The company has been working on a new phone that’s specifically designed to be compatible with serious, professional M-mount lenses from none other than Leica.
The Chinese phone maker originally shared the concept for this new phone on its Weibo page (a sort of Chinese social media platform) and has since spread the news of its existence to Twitter and elsewhere.
Essentially, Xiaomi announced that its recently unveiled 12S Ultra phone, which isn’t available in the United States but which contains an incredibly large and powerful phone camera/lens combo, was originally supposed to be much more ambitious.
This even more extreme project was a “12S Ultra Concept Phone” variant that accepts Leica M mount lenses by letting them be mounted to an enlarged Type 1 50.3-megapixel sensor with an adapter for these specific lens types.
Again, we’re talking here about a full-sized camera sensor on a smartphone that accepts a full-sized camera lens for truly crisp photos. These images supposedly go at least partly beyond the usual pixel-binned “large resolution” photography of most modern smartphones.
Basically, the sensor and lens combo would be able to produce photography that’s much closer to what a true mirrorless camera can do.
Image credits: Xiaomi
However, as Engadget reported, only 10 units of this Leica-compatible phone have been produced and each one of them came at an absurd cost of $41,210 dollars, or roughly 300,000 Chinese Yuan.
Even if you take the included Leica lens into consideration, this price seems more than a bit steep, but it didn’t stop Xiaomi from lending a few sample models of the phone out to select social media influencers for hands-on use.
Xiaomi hasn’t stated whether it planned on seriously mass producing this camera/phone but it at least did create it to demonstrate functional proof-of-concept for the device.
It’s worth noting that the device really does work too. Though the large lens looks bizarre poking out lopsidedly from one side of the elegantly flat phone itself, the combo can take great photos, as the examples that Xiaomi showed off show below.
So far, despite a lot of media hype over phone camera sensor specs and lenses, smartphones generally can’t recreate the kind of quality that full cameras with ostensibly lower resolutions are capable of.
The reasons for this partly have to do with the size of individual pixels and how they absorb light, and we cover the matter more in this post on another recent phone with a huge camera sensor.
Xiaomi’s 12S Ultra comes closer to leaping over these limitations, and the concept 12S Ultra with Leica lens would have presumably done so to an even greater degree.
It would be cool too because the idea of a smartphone being able to deliver pro-photographic resolution and lens functionality is indeed enticing. It would at least be fantastic for professional ultra-compact photography.
Other companies have even toyed with the same notion: Back in 2014, Sony created two smartphone attachment devices called the QX1 and QX30, which were designed to work with Sony’s own E-mount lenses.
However, these lenses didn’t actually mount to a phone. Instead, they took the photos through these devices and then sent them wirelessly to a nearby phone.
The really good spot in all of this would be a phone or phone-sized device with the same thinness of a phone, but with the ability to create photos as well as a full camera can even at the fine-grained level. This remains difficult.