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

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

Everything about Xiaomi’s new flagship smartphone, the Mi 12S Ultra, is grand. 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 back of the phone.

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

A Couple of different businesses 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 high-end point-and-shoots like Sony’s RX100 series. The larger size allows the sensor to collect more light and capture more detailed images. It won’t turn a phone into a DSLR, but it can be a step above the typical smartphone camera; for example, the iPhone 13 Pro has a sensor size of 1/1.65-inch, according to DPReview† (Although for reference, the actual size of a sensor’s image area) is smaller than the indicated measurement suggests.)

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

Aside from the camera, the Mi 12S Ultra also has the typical features 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. The phone should also be the first Android device to be able to shoot in Dolby Vision HDR.

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

In addition to the 12S Ultra, Xiaomi is also introducing two cheaper models: the 12S and 12S Pro. Those two phones have a 1/1.28-inch main camera sensor, which is smaller than the Ultra, but still larger 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. Prices for the 12S start at RMB 3,999 ($600 USD) and the prices for the 12S Pro start at RMB 4,699 ($700 USD).

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