Major China-based consumer electronics brand, Xiaomi announced Monday it has teamed up with renowned German camera optics manufacturer Leica to produce a new line of smartphones, called the Xiaomi 12S Series, with world-class still and video photographic capabilities.

The new three-core models in the Xiaomi 12S smartphone line, which include some of the first smartphones with high-resolution and built-in Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR), will mark the kick off to a long-term “strategic partnership” between Xiaomi and Leica on mobile phone imaging.

Leica, a long-acclaimed German lens and camera manufacturer, has for a number of years maintained a similar strategic partnership on lenses and optics with Panasonic for many of its dedicated Lumix cameras and camcorders.

Xiaomi said that for now the Xiaomi 12S Series smartphones will be available only in Mainland China. Plans to market the phones in other global markets were not revealed.

Thus far, Xiaomi’s phones have not been officially available to purchase in the United States, due largely to the company’s unusual business model. This involves offering hardware at a narrow 5% threshold on profits in order to offer customers a high upfront value, while deriving profits through back-end service fees. This approach doesn’t mesh well with the carrier-dominated distribution model used in the U.S.

Nevertheless, the newly engineered Xiaomi smartphone imaging system is likely to attract attention from smartphone giants like Apple and Samsung, which have been competing fiercely on top notching camera capabilities. The Xiaomi 12S Series uses Leica Summicron lenses, and “supports Leica imaging profiles,” to give users greater photographic creativity “while retaining the authentic style of Leica imagery,” according to a joint statement.

The smartphone camera system leverages Leica’s optics and optical design expertise along with Xiaomi’s knowledge of smartphone computing photography and Sony-made image sensors. The Xiaomi 12S Series “co-engineered with Leica” is said to offer “unprecedented smartphone image quality and colors that closely adhere to Leica’s signature look and feel.”

In developing the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, Xiaomi said it adhered to Leica’s “stringent optical quality testing standards” on Xiaomi’s miniaturized components to ensure ultra-high resolution, ultra-high light sensitivity, reduced dispersion, and lower flare.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra’s primary camera incorporates an 8P aspheric lens, in order to address common photography issues such as flare, ghosting, and chromatic aberration. The camera module includes an anti-glare lens coating, lens edge ink coating, cyclic olefin copolymer material, and infrared light filter with spin coating technology.

The result is said to be consistently clearer overall image quality across the lens.

Along with the new optical design, the Xiaomi 12S Series utilizes Leica imaging profiles, leveraging Leica’s century-old image aesthetic and reproducing Leica’s tone and aesthetics with the aid of advanced algorithms.

Users will benefit from access to two new-to-Xiaomi smartphone photographic styles: the “Leica Authentic Look” and “Leica Vibrant Look”, both bringing enhanced creative freedom to users.

Xiaomi said the “Leica Authentic Look” produces natural-looking 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 Leica light and shadow aesthetics.

The “Leica Vibrant Look” features input by both Xiaomi and Leica. This combines Xiaomi’s experience in smartphone photography with Leica’s aesthetic standards to give photographers the ability to capture the emotion of a moment, the companies said.

Xiaomi 12S Series features the capabilities of a professional-quality wide-angle camera with a super-large 1-inch sensor.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra is equipped with Sony’s IMX989 1-inch sensor, implementing a Quad-Bayer pixel array with individual pixel sizes reaching 1.6μm. After pixel binning, this reaches 3.2μm, reducing noise, extending dynamic range, increasing light captured, and achieving overall better imagery in low-light conditions. This sets a new precedent in smartphone cameras, approaching traditional cameras in terms of hardware specifications.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is also billed as “the first Android device to support Dolby Vision” high dynamic range (HDR) video profile recording and playback. It also supports video creation using HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG HDR profiles and the DCI-P3 wide color gamut coverage.

Dolby Vision is a dynamic metadata-based HDR profile that enhances video recordings with vivid colors, a sharper contrast ratio, and richer details, enabling vibrant and refined image quality when played back on supporting display devices.

Xiaomi said “the Xiaomi 12S Ultra uses HyperOIS for ultra-stable performance, offering 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.”

Xiaomi smartphne models 12S and Xiaomi 12S Pro feature Sony’s IMX707 as their primary sensor, which incorporates both a large sensor size and large pixels, at 1/1.28 inches and 2.44μm after pixel binning.

“With the support of Xiaomi AI Image Solution and Xiaomi ProFocus, these sensors achieve fast startup, capture, and continuous capturing. These devices support an industry-leading 30fps ultra-fast burst mode, and exceptional low-light photography capabilities. Further, they also implement All-scene snapshot in their cameras, making it easier to capture the decisive moment,” the company said.

The Xiaomi 12S Series “co-engineered with Leica” is also more photographer-friendly in post-production, the company said. The entire series supports 10-bit RAW format calibrated by Adobe Labs, with color correction metadata embedded in 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, to give users a fast starting point in the post-production process.

The flagship Xiaomi 12S Ultra model is equipped with two proprietary Xiaomi Surge chips: the Xiaomi Surge P1 fast-charging chipset and Xiaomi Surge G1 battery management chipset. Both offer improvements in battery management and overall user experience.

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra also supports 67W wired fast charging, 50W wireless fast charging and 10W reverse wireless charging.

The Xiaomi Surge Battery Management System is a 4,860mAh single-cell silicon-oxygen anode battery and Xiaomi Surge P1 fast-charging chipset, which also supports up to a 16A output current with 96.8% conversion efficiency.

The Xiaomi Surge G1 battery management chipset offers a package of battery management algorithms, embedding self-developed battery management algorithms to protect the working safety of the battery and monitor the discharge load to accurately predict the available battery life of the device, the company said The 12S Ultra also supports adaptive charging to prevent the battery from overcharging thereby increasing the number of charge cycles by 25%.

The Xiaomi model 12S Pro features the Xiaomi Surge P1 fast-charging chipset, 120W wired charging, 50W wireless charging, and a 4,600mAh single-cell battery, while the Xiaomi 12S offers 67W wired charging, 50W wireless charging, and a 4,500mAh battery.

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Xiaomi 12S Series “co-engineered with Leica” is powered by the new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 Mobile Platform, built on the TSMC 4nm process. Compared to Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the core area of Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 is 21% smaller, with both the CPU and GPU receiving a 10% improvement in performance and a 30% improvement in energy efficiency. This both reduces the standby power consumption of the Xiaomi 12S Series, and allows for lower heat emission and power consumption under high-load computing scenarios.

The Xiaomi said the 12S Ultra brings a new heat dissipation system, similar to a biological mechanism that leaves on a plant can use to absorb water. This three-dimensional cooling pump is designed with a series of channels, which use a capillary network to actively pump cooling liquid condensed at the side opposite of warm areas, greatly improving efficiency and increasing the thermal conductivity of a single unit by 100%, compared with traditional VC heat dissipation systems.

Both the 12S Ultra and the Xiaomi 12S Pro feature a 6.73 inch AMOLED color display with E5 luminescent material for exceptional detail, brightness and color performance, in addition to a peak brightness of 1500 nits, 2K resolution, P3 color gamut, and 1-120Hz AdaptiveSync Pro.

The Xiaomi 12S is slightly more compact at just 6.28”, and also supports P3 color gamut display, HDR10+, and 120Hz AdaptiveSync.

Model options and pricing:

Xiaomi 12S Ultra
(available in Classic Black and Verdant Green, with three storage options):
8GB+256G – priced at RMB 5,999 (equivalent of $894 US)
12GB+256GB – priced at RMB 6,499 (equivalent of $969)
12GB+512GB – priced at RMB 6,999 (equivalent of $1,043)

Xiaomi 12S Pro
(available in four colors–Black, Purple, Green and White, with four storage opitons):
8GB+128GB – priced at RMB 4,699 (equivalent of $700)
8GB+256G – priced at RMB 4,999 (equivalent of $745)
12GB+256GB – priced at RMB 5,399 (equivalent of $805)
12GB+512GB – priced at RMB 5,899 (equivalent of $879)

Xiaomi 12S
(available in four colors–Black, Purple, Green and White, with four storage options):
8GB+128GB – priced at RMB 3,999 (equivalent of $596)
8GB+256G – priced at RMB 4,299 (equivalent of $641)
12GB+256GB – priced at RMB 4,699 (equivalent of $700)
12GB+512GB – priced at RMB 5,199 (equivalent of $775)

Xiaomi 12 Pro Dimensity Edition
(available in two colors–Black and Blue, with two storage options):
8GB+128G – priced at RMB 3,999 (equivalent of $596)
12GB+256GB – priced at RMB 4,499 (equivalent of $670)

Xiaomi 12S Ultra Quick Specs

Design163.17 x 74.92 x 9.06mm 225g IP68 dust and water resistance Leather-like rear Classic Black, Verdant Green
Imaging SystemLeica Summicron 1:1.9-4.1 / 13-120 ASPH. camera system  Ultra-wide angle: 13mm f/2.2  1/2″ sensor (SONY’s IMX586) 48MP Quad-Bayer pixel array Pixel Binning: 12MP, 1.6µm 4-in-1 Super Pixel Dual-PD Auto-focus Supports macro mode   Wide angle: 23mm f/1.9 8P Aspheric Lens  1″ sensor (SONY’s IMX989) 50.3MP Quad-Bayer pixel array Pixel Binning: 12.5MP, 3.2µm 4-in-1 Super Pixel Octa-PD Auto-focus Lens edge ink coating Multi-layer ALD ultra-low reflectance coating   Telephoto: 120mm f/4.1 Periscope  1/2″ sensor (SONY’s IMX586) 48MP Quad-Bayer pixel array Pixel Binning: 12MP, 1.6µm 4-in-1 Super Pixel Dual-PD Auto-focus Two photographic styles: Leica Authentic Look, Leica Vibrant Look Leica filters: Leica Vivid, Leica Natural, Leica BW Natural, Leica BW High Contrast Master-lens System HyperOIS   Front camera: 32MP RGBW Image Sensor 
Image FormatJPEG / HEIF  4096 x 3072 (default) 8192 x 6144 (50MP mode) 8-bit sRGB   DNG  4096 x 3072 10-bit Adobe RGB Adobe Camera RAW
Video FormatDefault (H.264 / H.265)  7680 x 4320 24FPS 3840 x 2160 60FPS 3840 x 2160 30FPS 1920 x 1080 60FPS 1920 x 1080 30FPS 1280 x 720p 30FPS   Dolby Vision (10-bit Rec.2020 HLG H.265)  3840 x 2160 60FPS 80Mbps VBR 3840 x 2160 30FPS 80Mbps VBR 1920 x 1080 60FPS 55Mbps VBR 1920 x 1080 30FPS 35Mbps VBR   Slow Motion (H.264 / H.265)  1920 x 1080 480FPS 1920 x 1080 240FPS 1920 x 1080 120FPS 1280 x 720 3840FPS (95ms capture speed, supports motion detection, upscale to output 12s slow-mo video) 1280 x 720 960FPS (max. 30s capture) 1280 x 720 480FPS 1280 x 720 240FPS 1280 x 720 120FPS
PerformanceSnapdragon® 8+ Gen 1 Mobile Platform  All-new 3D cooling system 8GB / 12GB LPDDR5 (6400Mbps) 256GB / 512GB UFS 3.1 FBO storage refresh
Charging SystemXiaomi Surge Battery Management System  Xiaomi Surge G1 Battery Management Chip Xiaomi Surge P1 Charging Chip 4,860mAh (typical) 67W wired turbo charging 50W wireless turbo charging 10W reverse wireless charging
Display6.73″ Dolby Vision® TrueColor Display  Samsung AMOLED LTPO, E5 material 3,200 x 1,440, 522ppi 1,500nits peak brightness, HBM 1,000nits (typ) 360° ambient light sensor 1-120Hz AdaptiveSync Pro Native 10-bit color depth, P3 color gamut Supports Dolby Vision®, HDR10+, HDR10, HLG
AudioSymmetrical Stereo Speakers  SOUND BY Harman Kardon Support Dolby Atmos®  X-axis linear motor
ConnectivityDual 5G Release 16 4×4 MIMO Wi-Fi 6  4K QAM 160MHz Channel 2×2 MIMO Supports 8×8 Sounding MU-MIMO Bluetooth 5.2  Supports AAC / LDAC / LHDC / aptX Adaptive Supports BLE Audio Supports Snapdragon Sound™ Multi-functional NFC
Operating SystemMIUI 13 based on Android 12
Variants8GB+256GB 12GB+256GB 12GB+512GB

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By Greg Tarr

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