Xiaomi 12S Ultra has world's biggest phone sensor and a triple Leica camera

Xiaomi 12S Ultra
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Xiaomi has launched the Xiaomi 12S series, which consists of three new smartphones – the Xiaomi 12S, the Xiaomi 12S Pro, and the eagerly awaited Xiaomi 12S Ultra. While the 12S and 12S Pro offer relatively minor upgrades over their predecessor, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is clearly where Xiaomi have focused their efforts – the phone is a serious step up from the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra

Xiaomi 12S Ultra upgrades include an impressive camera system featuring Sony’s huge IMX989 1-inch sensor, new camera hardware developed in collaboration with Leica, a better display and a faster SoC. In short, it looks set to give the best camera phones on the market a run for their money. 

Biggest smartphone sensor

The Xiaomi Mi 12S Ultra now takes away the record for the largest effective camera phone sensor from the older Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra. Its one-inch Sony-made sensor has also been used in Sony's own Xperia Pro-I - but in this phone only around 60% of the surface area of the sensor is actually used.

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Smartphone sensor sizes compared
Header Cell - Column 0 Main sensor size (in)Main sensor size (mm)
Xiaomi Mi 12S Ultra1 inch25.4mm
Sony Xperia Pro-I1 inch25.4mm
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra1/1.12 inch22.7mm
Huawei P40 Pro Plus1/1.28 inch19.8mm
Huawei Mate 40 Pro+1/1.28 inch19.8mm
Samsung S21 Ultra1/1.33 inch19.1mm
Xiaomi Mi 111/1.33 inch19.1mm
Oppo X3 Pro1/1.56 inch16.3mm
Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max1/1.7 inch14.7mm

Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Design 

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

There’s no missing the Xiaomi 12S Ultra it’s a premium looking phone that is dominated by the circular protrusion of the camera bump that takes up nearly a third of the back of the phone. 

The 163.17 x 74.92 x 9.06mm and 225g phone has an aluminum chassis and a curved display, with a punch-hole camera in the centre near the top edge. The rear surface covered in a very top-end looking leather-like material which comes in Verdant Green and a Classic Black. It’s more than a thing of beauty too, with IP68 water and dust resistant rating. 

Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Specifications  

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip sits at the heart of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, where there’s also a new 3D cooling system, which should help improve thermals in games and more demanding applications.  

It has a 4860mAh battery with 67W wired charging and 50W wireless charging support – perhaps the only feature we would have expected more from, however it’s still very decent. RAM and storage combinations are: 8GB/256GB, 12GB/256GB and 12GB/512GB. 

Display-wise, the 12S Ultra features a large 6.73-inch display, which has a quadHD+ 3200x1440 panel with a pixel density of 522 pixels per inch, as seen on the Xiaomi 12 Pro, launched earlier this year. 

Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Camera system 

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

The new Xiaomi 12S Series is the first to benefit from company’s strategic partnership in imaging technology with Leica, which sees co-developed sophisticated optical lenses. As the top model, Xiaomi 12S Ultra’s primary 50.3MP camera adopts an eight-piece aspheric lens, which will combat common smartphone issues including flare, ghosting, and chromatic aberration. The camera module of Xiaomi 12S Ultra also features anti-glare lens coating, lens edge ink coating, cyclic olefin copolymer material, and infrared light filter with spin coating technology, in order to provide a clear overall picture, which is consistent across the lens.

A 48MP ultra-wide camera features a Leica Summicron 1:1.9-4.1 / 13-120 aspherical lens with dual-PD auto-focus, and macro mode support and a 48MP periscope telephoto camera featuring dual-PD auto-focus and HyperOIS complete the 12S Ultra’s serious triple camera system. 

The leaks turned out to be true, as the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is indeed equipped with a huge 1-inch sensor, the Sony IMX989. Significantly bigger than the sensors found in most other flagships, it features a a Quad-Bayer pixel array with individual pixel sizes reaching 1.6μm. After pixel binning, this reaches 3.2μm, and is said to reduce noise, extend dynamic range, increase light captured, and achieve overall better imagery in low-light conditions. 

The Xiaomi 12S Series “co-engineered with Leica” also utilizes Leica imaging profiles, offering users a choice of "Leica Authentic Look" and "Leica Vibrant Look". The "Leica Authentic Look" is as you would expect a natural look, retaining light and shadow contrast, which adds a sense of three-dimensional depth to photos. The "Leica Vibrant Look" features input by both Xiaomi and Leica and is a more modern look which Xiaomi says allows photographers to: “capture the emotion of the moment, symbolizing Leica's exploration in the smartphone photography space.” We can’t wait to test these out. 

Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Price and availability 

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra will go on sale in China starting on8  July  with pre-orders open now. Sadly, we’ve had it confirmed by Xiaomi that the 12S Series will not be coming to the US or the UK, and await confirmation of which other markets (if any) the series will come to and when. 

In China the 12S Ultra costs CNY 5,999 ($896) for the 8GB+256GB variant, CNY 6,499 ($970) for the 12GB+256GB variant and CNY 6,999 ($1045) for the 12GB+512GB variant. 

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Rachael Sharpe

Rachael is a British journalist with 18 years experience in the publishing industry. Since working on www.digitalcameraworld.com, she’s been freelancing, and contributing to some of the world’s best-loved websites and magazines including T3.com and TechRadar.com and has also had a book, iPad for Photographers, published. She's currently acting as editor of 5GRadar.com - a website specializing in the latest cellular technology.