Xiaomi 12S Ultra is the company’s most significant camera leap, combining the best of hardware with colour science from the legendary camera brand, Leica. With the launch of the new Ultra, Xiaomi is committed to its consumers by offering a superb photography experience. Fortunately, we got our hands on the 12S Ultra for a few days, and we can say that the company has a product ready to take on the camera heavyweights and how!
Working with an iconic camera brand undoubtedly helps smartphone brands to up their camera game, and we have seen this happening to Vivo and OnePlus.
Before diving into the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, we want to clear out that it is not a ‘true’ successor to the Mi 11 Ultra as this one is far superior and has a lot riding on it.
We have been testing Xiaomi phones since Mi 3, which made its way to India back in 2014, and we can admit that the 12S Ultra packs the best camera module yet. However, Xiaomi 12S Ultra may never see a formal launch in India, but that’s also fine as we expect Xiaomi to integrate the iconic Leica branding in its next year’s flagship that will most likely make its way to India. So, how was our time with the new Ultra? Read on to find out.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: First impressions
Xiaomi 12S Ultra is a head turner, and a big chunk of that attention is due to the professional camera design cues at the back. The massive camera module feels like it has been taken out from a point-and-shoot camera. The eco silicone leather back panel reminds Leica’s design aesthetic. The back panel is the biggest design USP of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra.
The Leica branding sits at the top left corner, while the Xiaomi branding is at the bottom. To add convenience to users, the company has added IP68 certification for water and dust resistance. It has been launched in Classic Black and Verdant Green colours. We got the latter, and it looks unique in many ways, but our favourite would be black.
We liked the overall attention to detail on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra. The gold-coloured frames give an ultra-premium feel to the phone. While we can see antenna bands running around across different sides.
At 225 grams, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is definitely among heavy devices, but at least you get all characters of a premium device like an aluminium frame and Gorilla Glass Victus at the front.
The 6.73-inch LTPO2 AMOLED display is stunning in real-world use, and you get a 120Hz refresh rate. The peak brightness stands at 1500 nits while the resolution at 1440×3200 pixels. However, during our limited time with the handset, we felt that the Xiaomi 12S Ultra display gets dim under direct sunlight, which was surprising considering on paper specs.
Unfortunately, we got a Chinese SKU for testing, and during that period, we couldn’t test the performance of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra. However, it comfortably handled multiple apps and browser tabs in our limited time. It runs on MIUI 13 based on Android 12.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Amazing cameras
Coming to the cameras, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is the company’s first phone with Sony’s 1-inch IMX989 sensor and Leica’s colour science which meant our expectations were high from the moment we got our hands on the device. The primary camera sensor has an f/1.9 aperture, OIS, and octa-PD phase detection autofocus. There’s also a 48-megapixel ultra-wide angle sensor and a 48-megapixel telephoto sensor.
Xiaomi told us that the 12S Ultra gets Aspherical High Transmittance Lens while also using the professional anti-glare lens coating called ALD ultra-low reflectance technology. And we could see the difference, though; we will go into detail in a bit. But, starting with the camera UI, it is more or less the same as other Xiaomi phones. In addition, there are additions here and obvious ones, with Leica-style camera options integrated now.
Starting with the daylight shots, the 12S Ultra is an absolute monster when it comes to capturing details, and the best thing we liked was the colours which were true to reality and not oversaturated or anything. Every photo we captured during the day was packed with so many details and maintained the authentic texture of the subject. Leica’s colour science comes to play and enhances every single one of them. When you launch the camera for the first time, you get the option to choose between Leica Authentic look and the Leica Vibrant look. Of course, you can change the setting later.
The ALD ultra-low reflectance technology does come into play when clicking shots directly into the Sun or around light sources at night. What does this mean? There is no green patch in your images, which iPhone users can easily relate to.
The biggest strength of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is the Pro lenses used for Portrait mode, and there’s a 35mm Black & White mode, 50mm Swirly bokeh, and 90mm soft focus.
Considering Leica’s history, the 35mm Black & White mode was our favourite with some fantastic results, and you can see all of the below. The focus is quick, and Leica’s colour science enhances the pictures’ black & white tone. The 50mm and 90mm modes are decent, but they work on specific subjects and situations.
A good camera phone can handle low-light shots equally well. And the 12S Ultra manages to pull that off easily. The low-light shots we clicked were rich in colours. While the noise was in check, there were incredible details, and the colours again were natural.
Xiaomi 12S Ultra: Initial thoughts
When Xiaomi unveiled the 12S Ultra in China, we knew that we would get the unit to test out and guess what, we were correct. While the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is not launching in India, the phone offers a sneak peek at how cameras on the future flagships from Xiaomi will work. We expect the company to outshine the competition by utilising the Leica partnership, which we have seen Vivo and OnePlus doing for some years.
In China, the 12S Ultra starts at roughly Rs 70,000 and goes all the way to around Rs 82,000. However, if this is launched outside China, it has to be imported, meaning it would cost more than in China.
Long thing short, Xiaomi 12S Ultra is the best camera smartphone that has come out from the house of Xiaomi. However, it is a bummer that it is not making its way to India, but at the same time, we need to understand the company’s strengths, and as of now, it’s not in the ultra-premium smartphone category. We expect Xiaomi 12 Pro‘s successor next year to be India’s first Leica-branded phone from the company.
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