Smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi often tries to pioneer new technologies for smartphones. For instance, its Mi Mix 3 in 2018 was the first phone to feature a sliding selfie camera. We also can’t forget the Mi Mix Alpha, which has a screen that covers the entire phone. Now, the company’s upcoming Mi Mix 4 smartphone includes a liquid lens.
Mi Mix 4 features a single liquid lens
Liquid lenses change the camera’s focus and focal length by changing the shape of the liquid element. The way they work is they send an electrical voltage to change the focus and focal length. They don’t rely on mechanical movement. Liquid lenses aren’t new. Various industrial applications use them. However, we’ve never seen one included on a consumer smartphone. So Xiaomi is treading new ground with the Mi Mix 4.
“Like traditional optical lenses made from glass, liquid lenses are single optical elements but are composed of an optical liquid material that can change its shape,” Edmond Optics says regarding liquid lenses. “The focal length of a glass lens is dependent on the material it is made from and its radius of curvature. The same basic principle applies to liquid lenses, though liquid lenses are unique in that their focal length is alterable by changing the radius of curvature. This change in radius is electronically controlled and rapidly changed on the order of milliseconds. Manufacturers use electrowetting, shape-changing polymers, and acusto-optical tuning methods to control the liquid lens’s radius of curvature and refractive index.”
What are some benefits liquid lenses offer?
DPReview claims Xiaomi can swap out the standard multi-camera arrangement most smartphones have and instead use a single camera. Since liquid lenses change focus and the focal length thanks to their liquid element, there’s no need for more than one camera. PetaPixel says this allows the phone’s camera to adjust focus points without compromising image quality or needing larger lenses to do it.
The Verge says liquid lenses’ compact size and versatility make them appealing to smartphone manufacturers. However they wear out quickly in industrial applications. We have to see how Xiaomi’s cameras function and if there will be any longevity issues.
When is the smartphone going to release?
Xiaomi plans to announce the Mi Mix 4 on March 29th. Likely, we’ll learn more about the camera’s specs.