The first phone with a liquid lens camera is by Xiaomi – the Mi Mix Fold. This was only released in China, complete with its very own imaging chip. Now, the company is making its second phone with a liquid lens.
The Xiaomi 12 Ultra is rumored to have the second-gen upgraded version of the liquid lens tech offered in the Mi Mix Fold. The reason why this is such a big deal is that liquid lens opens up new imaging possibilities. In the Mi Mix fold, the telephoto lens also acted as an ultrawide and a macro lens combined.
Watch this demo trailer for the liquid lens by Xiaomi:
Liquid lenses allow for 30x zoom and macro photography shots as close as 3cm to the subject. The liquid lens also eliminates the need for several lenses in a smartphone, making them have a more streamlined camera module. This also eliminates ugly camera bumps in the rear panel of a smartphone.
While OPPO Find X5 Pro’s autofocus macro mode does this, it switches between camera lenses rather than using the same lens.
Liquid lenses aren’t new, and Xiaomi isn’t the first company to implement this in a device, at least if we’re only discussing smartphones. Most companies that make lenses have already implemented this as far back as a decade ago.
The very first company to make use of electrowetting for its liquid lens is Varioptic. Varioptic is now under Corning, the same company which uses scratch-resistant coating for smartphone displays. The latter company bought Varioptic in 2017.
One of the questions consumers might ask about the liquid lens in the Xiaomi 12 Ultra is “How is the lens going to function below sub-zero temperatures?” The good news is that Xiaomi (or at least Nextlens) has solved this problem with anti-freeze compounds. But, this should not be a problem for individuals who will use the Xiaomi 12 Ultra in tropical countries.