Xiaomi's new Mi 12S Ultra Android phone works with real camera lenses

And Samsung Galaxy should be worried

Xiaomi Mi 12S Ultra Concept Machine
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

The new Xiaomi 12S Ultra Concept Machine does something that none of the best Android phones do: it enables you to attach a professional Leica camera lens to your phone. As CEO Lei Jun says, it's the first smartphone in the history of mobile phones that can be equipped with pro-spec Leica lenses, but even without adding a whopping great lens to it, the specs are really tasty.

The leak comes via Ice Universe on Twitter (opens in new tab), who has acquired photos showing the phone in action. It's pretty massive on its own, and truly enormous with a lens attached.

Xiaomi Mi 12S Ultra Concept Machine

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Why has the Xiaomi MI 12S Ultra Concept Machine got a massive lens?

It's all about the photo quality. Smartphone lenses can only do so much with their lenses because of their tiny dimensions; that's one reason why smartphone zooms move into digital zooms so quickly. But by equipping a phone with a way to mount professional lenses onto it, something Xiaomi has been working closely with Leica on, you can get much more optical power.

In order to deal with that power, the phone's camera module has been given a pretty major upgrade too. The Concept Machine – whose name, release date and price are still unconfirmed – has two 1-inch image sensors instead of the single sensor in the Xiaomi 12S ultra, and in the Concept Machine the second sensor is in the centre of the camera module to work with those additional lenses.

If you don't need quite so much camera power, Xiaomi has a pretty impressive alternative already, also developed in partnership with Leica: the Mi 12S Ultra, which was announced earlier this year, has Leica lenses and a triple-camera model with 50.3MP wide, 48MP periscope telephoto and 48MP ultrawide cameras. Sadly that one's limited to the Chinese market, and if the Concept makes it into production that's likely to be the case for that phone too.

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So why should this worry Samsung Galaxy?

The point is, as Ice himself expressed succinctly in another Tweet viewable above, while it is clear that this Concept Machine phone is not going to go on widespread sale, it is Xiaomi right now who are pushing the boundaries of what smartphones can do in terms of photography, and not Samsung.

What we seem to be seeing right now in the phone industry is Chinese brands like Xiaomi starting to take the lead in technological advancement in a number of key mobile phone areas, including photography and battery systems. This means that phone enthusiasts are now looking at firms like Xiaomi for the next big thing.

And, while Samsung and other major phone makers like Apple do offer their own areas of technological pioneering expertise, such as folding phone tech for Samsung and processor silicon for Apple, things like taking pictures and charging are really important to every phone user, so the fact that Xiaomi is now dominating these fields should make Samsung and other rivals worry, as it's going to make them look more and more attractive as the tech gap widens.

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written thirteen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote another seven books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (havrmusic.com (opens in new tab)).