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Xiaomi steals Leica from Huawei for its next flagship phone

Xiaomi is working with Leica on the camera for its next flagship, the Xiaomi 12 Ultra, and has additionally shared that the new phone will be equipped with the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1 processor. Previously Leica shared a successful partnership with Huawei, but this has come to an end with the announcement of the new deal.

huawei p20 pro leica
Daven Mathies/Digital Trends

“Xiaomi focuses on creating the ultimate user experience, and has always hoped to explore the capabilities of smartphone photography to the extreme. Xiaomi and Leica agree with each other’s pursuits and ideas and appreciate each other’s advantages and industry. This cooperation will provide a strong boost to Xiaomi’s imaging strategy,” Lei Jun, founder, chairman, and CEO of Xiaomi Group said. “During the cooperation, from optical design to tuning aesthetic orientations, the innovative technologies, product philosophies, and imaging preferences of both parties have experienced unprecedented in-depth collision and fusion.”

Xiaomi will join other manufacturers like OnePlus and Vivo who have partnered with notable camera brands to push their imaging prowess further. As Samsung, Apple, and Google have shown, it’s not always necessary. It sure helps, though.

Xiaomi’s Ultra phones have been photography powerhouses in the past, offering large cameras and large screens to use them with. And the Xiaomi 12 and 12 Pro are good enough. Still, the last true Xiaomi camera phone was the 11 Ultra, coming with a massive camera bump, a 50-megapixel main camera, a 48MP wide lens, and a 48MP telephoto.

“The main camera has a lovely natural tone, with just the right amount of color to accurately capture the atmosphere of a scene. I’ve enjoyed using it a lot, and have rarely taken a photo that I didn’t like. Xiaomi has kept the look of the photos consistent across the 48MP wide-angle camera, with very few differences in color and dynamic range, unless the lighting is particularly challenging,” Digital Trends’ Andy Boxall wrote of the 11 Ultra, adding that the zoom camera was also impressive but noting that there were some focusing issues that undermined the otherwise solid package.

Huawei and Leica part ways

Xiaomi is rumored to be reusing the same camera configuration as the 11 Ultra, albeit swapping the main Samsung sensor for a Sony one. With that change and the Leica partnership, hopefully, the company can fix the focusing issues that we found so troublesome.

Xiaomi is taking a leaf from one of its rivals — or in this case,  is taking the whole book. With Xiaomi’s 12 Ultra, Huawei will no longer be the only company using the Leica branding. Huawei has worked with Leica on its flagship phones since the Huawei P9 in 2016. Huawei had since then been restricted from selling its phones in the U.S., with Google Play Services being stripped for the rest of the world.

Huawei has confirmed that its partnership with Leica has now ended, making the Huawei P50 the last Huawei phone to include Leica’s expertise in the camera system. While the camera experience remains spectacular and comparable to the best from Apple, Samsung, and Google, restrictions placed on Huawei by the U.S. government likely have made the partnership unattractive for both parties.

The Xiaomi 12 Ultra is scheduled to launch in July.

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