Xiaomi to launch the world's first liquid lens smartphone camera
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi has officially confirmed on its Weibo blog that its upcoming Mi Mix phone, to be launched in a few days, will be the world's first smartphone to use "liquid lens" technology in its camera.
The lens will use a liquid wrapped in a thin film to replace a regular optical lens. A motor will be able to precisely control the shape of the lens, allowing super-fast autofocus but also the ability to rapidly change the lens's focal length. In essence, the liquid lens can easily shift from wide-angle to macro to telephoto, giving users a super-flexible cameraphone that uses just one lens instead of the three to four lenses you're starting to see on many flagships with photographic aspirations.
Xiaomi says it's developed the technology itself, and that the liquid lens "has the characteristics of high light transmittance, ultra-low dispersion and resistance to extreme environments."
We've been covering liquid lenses on New Atlas since the technology was first demonstrated to the public all the way back in June 2004. Even back then it was being feted as a game-changer for the smartphone market – a smartphone market, mind you, in which the Motorola Razr V3 was about as awesome as phones got. By the next year, Varioptic was working with Samsung on a liquid lens smartphone camera, saying it'd be commercially available by the end of 2005.
Clearly, that didn't happen, although Samsung has been sitting on liquid zoom lens patents since at least 2010. Why hasn't it fielded one commercially yet? Who knows ... Perhaps for a major parts supplier like Samsung, the idea of selling multiple cameras per device is more attractive than a single lens system that can do it all.
Either way, it'll be fascinating to see how the Mi Mix camera performs, and learning what the benefits and drawbacks of this technology are in the field. Xiaomi is certainly swinging hard with its camera tech right now; the March 29 launch event will also be the debut of the Mi 11 Super Cup GN2, which will be one of the first phones to use Samsung's extraordinary new Isocell GN2 camera sensor.
Check out a short video below.