Xiaomi 12S Ultra Hands-On Experience: Camera Smartphone To Beat In 2022?


Huawei's five-year-long partnership with Leica ended with the P50-series in March 2022 when Xiaomi joined forces with the camera expert. And when Xiaomi does it, the results are mostly in the favor of consumers. Well, the result is nothing short of epic as lately we haven't enjoyed clicking pictures from a smartphone as much as we did on the new Xiaomi 12S Ultra.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra First Impressions: The Good, The Bad & The X Factor

Carrying a massive 1-inch Sony sensor fused with color science from Leica, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra proved to be an excellent street camera during our two-day stint with the phone. We tried making the most out of the triple-lens camera system by testing it in different light conditions with different photography styles while evaluating other aspects of its performance.

How did it perform? Let's find out in the flowing hands-on story.

The Mighty Leica Camera Setup

The Mighty Leica Camera Setup

Starting with the obvious, the Leica branded camera system brings three sensors featuring the all-new 50MP (f/1.9) Sony IMX989 1-inch sensor. The showstopper OIS-enabled dual pixel PDAF sensor uses an 8P Aspherical Leica lens and is capable of shooting 8K 24FPS and 4K 60FPS videos.

It is supported by a familiar secondary camera setup seen on the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra, i.e. featuring a 48MP (f/2.2) dual-pixel PDAF wide-angle lens (128-degree FoV) and another 48MP OIS-enabled sensor with 5x optical zoom capabilities.

The camera system sits inside a unibody aluminum-alloy camera module with a 23K gold lens rim. Yup, that's right! For selfies, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra has a 32MP f/2.4 fixed focus sensor. We primarily tested the rear camera during the review.

Here's some analysis of the camera performance based on the camera samples we captured during a photo walk organized by Xiaomi.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra Picture Quality

Xiaomi 12S Ultra Picture Quality

  • The pictures captured from the primary camera are impressive. The clarity, contrast, and colors that the 50MP primary camera captures (Sony IMX989) can create sheer poetry on the canvas if you are hands-on with some photography skills.
  • Don't believe us?Check out the camera samples in the story and the video we have shared on our YouTube channel. Besides, you can also go through the high-res. Camera samples on our Twitter handle. The above picture shows the actual color skin tone of the subject and doesn't add any unreal smoothness or color shade.
  • As you can see, the images retain the natural skin tones and are mostly free of flares and chromatic aberration, which is hard to find on a smartphone camera. The credit goes to the custom-made 8P aspheric lens that underwent a series of coating treatments to deliver good results even in the most challenging light conditions.
  • The current camera-centric flagships in the market from Vivo, Oppo, and Samsung won't be able to match the quality. And we haven't even explored the pro mode yet.
Almost No Shutter Lag With The Primary Sensor

Almost No Shutter Lag With The Primary Sensor

  • The primary sensor is also extremely fast at taking pictures. You will rarely miss a shot if the light conditions are favorable. It also captures a wide dynamic range and colors are easily distinguishable even in complex scenes.
  • The 48MP wide-angle isn't that good at acing every shot and often delivered blurred images even with the slightest hand movement. Xiaomi said an upcoming OTA should fix the issue.
  • You can choose between Leica's Vibrant or Authentic color profile to frame your shots. Both offer discrete color tones to set up a different mood in the pictures. After all, a picture is all about capturing a mood or an emotion and who understands it better than Leica?
Monochrome Master

Monochrome Master

  • With our testing, we can say that the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is currently the best handset in the market to capture Black & White pictures.
  • Thanks to Leica's exclusive 35mm Black and White Lens mode, the handset captures stunning monochrome pictures. It reminded us of Huawei's Mate and P30-series devices that first introduced the smartphone world to Leica's color science. Once again, the flagships from Vivo, Oppo, and even Samsung cannot match the picture output on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra.
  • Monochrome shots captured in the standard photo mode also look equally impressive.
Leica’s Exclusive Portrait Modes On A Smartphone

Leica’s Exclusive Portrait Modes On A Smartphone

The 12S Ultra also gets Leica's exclusive portrait modes. These include the above-mentioned 35mm Black & White, 50mm Swirly Bokeh, and 90mm Soft Focus. Each plays on a different focal length and delivers mind-blowing results.

The monochrome mode works well for street photography, the 50mm offers a creamy bokeh effect and the 90mm can help you capture some dreamy pictures with the subject showing soft details and mesmerizing background separation. The above sample is shot with 90mm mode.

35mm, 50mm And 90mm Portrait Modes

35mm, 50mm And 90mm Portrait Modes

Now, this camera sample shows a picture taken in the 50mm Leica portrait mode on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra. Check out the different color hues, shadows of the dancer's dress, and the natural-looking bokeh behind them. The subject separation is spot on. It's hard to believe that the picture is straight from a phone camera. We also took some low-light shots and found the results impressive yet again.

What Else Does Xiaomi 12S Ultra Brings To The Table?

What Else Does Xiaomi 12S Ultra Brings To The Table?

Well, one can almost forget that the 12S Ultra is also a smartphone and has to deliver on other aspects too. Does it? The smartphone leaves no stone unturned when it comes to other key specs such as display, battery, chipset, and storage.

The phone flaunts a stunning 6.73-inch WQHD+ AMOLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate. It feels extremely smooth and allows for immersive video playback and gaming experience. We also didn't face any visibility issues shooting pictures under direct sunlight as the panel can touch a peak brightness of 1500 nits.

Moving on, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra draws power from the current best chipset in the market- the Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1. Fabricated on TSMC's 4nm node, the new SoC is power efficient and at the same time offers noticeable performance upgrades as compared to its predecessor. While we couldn't test how the SoC and the ample 12GB RAM scores in the benchmarks, we can tell that the configuration ensures lag-free performance around the clock.

Smooth Performance All-Day Long

Smooth Performance All-Day Long

We mostly used the handset for long photography sessions and not even once wenoticed any performance stutter or heating problems. The 12S Ultra seems to offer better thermals than the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, OnePlus 10 Pro, and the Vivo X80 Pro-series flagships. As far as the battery and charging are concerned, the 12S Ultra has a 4,860mAh battery with support for 67W wired charging, 50W wireless charging, and 10W reverse wireless charging.

The smartphone is IP68 dust and water resistant and packs dual speakers tuned by Harman Kardon. The Xiaomi 12S Ultra comes with Wi-Fi 6, NFC, and Bluetooth 5.2 support to handle connectivity. Like most Android flagships in 2022, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra also lacks memory expansion and the 3.5mm audio jack.

Final Thoughts On The Xiaomi 12S Ultra

Final Thoughts On The Xiaomi 12S Ultra

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is the start of something exciting for the brand and its consumers. It is a pro-grade camera smartphone for photography professionals who are well versed with Leica's ecosystem or photography per se. It makes us sad that the handset won't come to the Indian shores; however, rest assured that the next Xiaomi flagship in India will bring all the goodness of Leica's expertise.

And how about some value flagship Xiaomi smartphones mimicking the same Leica camera modes and utilities? Sounds interesting or too ambitious, well we have to wait for Xiaomi to make it happen.

Best Mobiles in India

Best Phones

Get Instant News Updates
Notification Settings X
Time Settings
Clear Notification X
Do you want to clear all the notifications from your inbox?
Yes No
Settings X