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Xiaomi's Leica-branded 12S Ultra is a camera powerhouse — but there's a big problem

Xiaomi 12S Ultra
(Image credit: Xiaomi)

What you need to know

  • The Xiaomi 12S series is now official in China, with three models at launch: Xiaomi 12S Ultra, 12S Pro, and 12S. 
  • The 12S Ultra gets a massive 1-inch Sony IMX989 imaging module and Leica smarts. 
  • Xiaomi isn't going to release these phones outside China. 

Xiaomi made a lot of progress on mobile imaging over the last two years, and today, we're getting an early look at what's next for the brand with the Xiaomi 12S series. The series was unveiled in China, and there are three models at launch: Xiaomi 12S Ultra, 12S Pro, and the standard 12S. 

The big talking point is the Leica collaboration; as Xiaomi revealed earlier this year, the 12S Ultra becomes the first Xiaomi phone with Leica branding, with both brands working closely together on tuning the imaging hardware.

That should be immediately interesting once you look at the cameras on offer: the Xiaomi 12S Ultra features a 50MP f/1.9 Sony IMX989 module with a huge 1-inch sensor size, and it's joined by dual 48MP Sony IMX586 sensors, one serving as the wide-angle lens and the other delivering 5x optical zoom.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

You'll find Leica Summicron lenses, and on the software front, there are two imaging profiles on offer —  Leica Authentic Look and Leica Vibrant Look. Another interesting addition is native Dolby Vision recording — a first for Android. Xiaomi is also debuting a new OIS system for better video stabilization, and you get the ability to play back Dolby Vision content directly on the device.

Coming to the hardware, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra features a 6.73-inch QHD+ AMOLED screen with dynamic refresh, native 10-bit color, and Dolby Vision, HDR10+, and HLG. The device is powered by the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1, and comes with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage for the base model and a 12GB/512GB variant. There's the same great x-axis motor as the Xiaomi 12 series, and you get stereo sound with identical channels.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Xiaomi is also introducing new battery tech via the Surge P1 fast-charging chip and Surge G1 Battery Management System — the latter sounds similar to what OPPO is doing with its Battery Health Engine tech. Unlike most fast charging solutions these days, Xiaomi is using a single-cell design with a 4860mAh unit on the 12S Ultra, instead relying on the custom hardware to effectively deliver a fast charge.

Interestingly, the fastest charging tech isn't available on the 12S Ultra, with the device featuring 67W wired charging and 50W wireless charging. There's also the standard Xiaomi 12S and Xiaomi 12S Pro, with the 12S getting the same 67W wired/50W wireless tech for its 4500mAhy battery, and the 12S Pro picking up 120W wired and 50W wireless charging for its 4600mAh battery — just like the Xiaomi 12 Pro

All three devices are powered by the same Qualcomm hardware, with the 12S Pro sharing the same screen. The standard Xiaomi 12S has a smaller 6.28-inch AMOLED panel, similar to the Xiaomi 12. These two models miss out on that massive Sony IMX989 sensor, instead featuring the 1/1.28-inch IMX707 module. 

There's IP68 dust and water resistance, but it is limited to the 12S Ultra — the standard and Pro models have ingress protection, but aren't covered for water damage. 

Xiaomi 12S Ultra

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

Here's what the Xiaomi 12S series costs in China: 

  • Xiaomi 12S (8GB/128GB): RMB 3,999 ($598)
  • Xiaomi 12S (8GB/256GB): RMB 4,299 ($642)
  • Xiaomi 12S (12GB/256GB): RMB 4,699 ($702)
  • Xiaomi 12S (12GB/512GB): RMB 5,199 ($777)
  • Xiaomi 12S Pro (8GB/128GB): RMB 4,699 ($702)
  • Xiaomi 12S Pro (8GB/128GB): RMB 4,999 ($747)
  • Xiaomi 12S Pro (12GB/256GB): RMB 5,399 ($807)
  • Xiaomi 12S Pro (12GB/512GB): RMB 5,899 ($881)
  • Xiaomi 12S Ultra (8GB/256GB): RMB 5,999 ($896)
  • Xiaomi 12S Ultra (12GB/256GB): RMB 6,499 ($971)
  • Xiaomi 12S Ultra (12GB/512GB): RMB 6,999 ($1,045)

While Xiaomi releases its flagships outside China a few weeks after their introduction, that won't be the case with the Xiaomi 12S series. The Chinese manufacturer had this to say in a statement:

"Xiaomi will offer Xiaomi 12S Series exclusively in Mainland China. Our Strategic Partnership in Imaging Technology will have long-term impacts beyond the scope of this series, into Xiaomi's international markets."

So while Xiaomi isn't going to launch the 12S series in global markets, we may get to see another Leica-branded device slated for a global launch later this year.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Harish Jonnalagadda

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.