Xiaomi put a huge camera sensor in its new Mi 12S Ultra flagship smartphone

Xiaomi is introducing a trio of new smartphones today, and one of them comes with a pretty huge new feature: a 1-inch camera sensor, which is relatively giant for a smartphone.

Everything about Xiaomi’s new flagship smartphone, the Mi 12S Ultra, is big. It has a 6.73-inch OLED display, a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 system on a chip, and a camera-lens shaped bulge on that back that takes up about a third of the phone’s rear side.

Inside that faux-lens are the phone’s three cameras: a 48 megapixel ultrawide, a 48 megapixel telephoto with 5x optical zoom (and “120x” digital zoom that will probably not look very good), and finally, the 50 megapixel main camera, which uses that 1-inch sensor.

A few different companies have put 1-inch sensors in their phones before, but it hasn’t been very common — you’re more likely to find 1-inch sensors in higher-end point-and-shoots like Sony’s RX100 series. The larger size allows the sensor to gather more light and capture more detailed images. It won’t turn a phone into a DSLR, but it could be a step up from the typical smartphone camera; the iPhone 13 Pro, for instance, has a sensor size of 1/1.65-inch, according to DPReview. (Though for reference, the actual size of a sensor’s imaging area is smaller than its stated measurement lets on.)

Xiaomi says the phone’s camera system was “co-engineered with Leica,” and the company told Engadget that it split the cost of developing the 1-inch image sensor with Sony. Sony actually released a phone using a 1-inch sensor late last year, however it only captured on part of the sensor, whereas Xiaomi’s phone will reportedly use the whole thing.

Camera aside, the Mi 12S Ultra otherwise has the typical hallmarks of a flagship phone. It has IP68 water and dust resistance, a large 4,860 mAh battery, 67W wired fast charging, and a 120Hz refresh rate display. The phone is also supposed to be the first Android device capable of shooting in Dolby Vision HDR.

The 12S Ultra will launch first in China. A model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage will sell for RMB 5,999 (around $900 USD), while a high-end version with 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage will go for RMB 6,999 (around $1,050 USD).

In addition to the 12S Ultra, Xiaomi is also introducing two lower-end models: the 12S and 12S Pro. Those two phones have a main camera sensor with a 1/1.28-inch size, which is smaller than the Ultra but still bigger than the typical smartphone sensor. The 12S has a smaller 6.28-inch 120Hz display, while the 12S Pro has a 6.73-inch 120Hz OLED display, like the Ultra. Both get the same Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 chip. Pricing for the 12S starts at RMB 3,999 ($600 USD) and pricing for the 12S Pro starts at RMB 4,699 ($700 USD).

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