Xiaomi 12S Ultra featured image
Image courtesy: Xiaomi

Xiaomi announced the 12S series of smartphones under the banner “co-engineered with Leica.” All of the phones in the series have imaging systems jointly developed between Xiaomi and Leica. Other headline features include Leica Summicron lenses and Leica imaging profiles. The 12S series also promises exciting features for videographers, especially with the flagship 12S Ultra model.

How is the Xiaomi 12S Ultra’s 1-inch sensor?

Xiaomi 12S Ultra camera
The Xiaomi 12S Ultra features an incredible 1-inch sensor, a major step for smartphones. Image courtesy: Xiaomi

The main camera on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra has a 23 mm f1.9 lens and Sony’s IMX989 1-inch sensor. While smaller than the sensor on even a Micro Four Thirds camera, it’s a big step up from most smartphones. The larger sensor should give you reduced noise, extended dynamic range, increased light captured and overall better imagery in low light. The other imaging options are an ultra-wide-angle 12 mm f2.2 lens and a 120 mm f4.1 telephoto lens. These cameras both use a half-inch sensor.

We need to talk about the Dolby Vision HDR support

Dolby Vision HDR Xiaomi 12S Ultra
With Dolby Vision HDR support, we’re sure the Xiaomi 12S Ultra has some of the best colored video on the smartphone market. Image courtesy: Xiaomi

The headline feature of the 12S Ultra is that it is the first Android device to support Dolby Vision HDR video recording and playback. Dolby Vision delivers videos with vivid colors, sharp contrast ratios and rich details. It’s exciting to see such a high-quality video format on a smartphone. Dolby Vision is recorded in 10-bit Rec 2020 H.265 format at up to 60 fps in 3848×2160 UHD.

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Frame rates and formats

In addition to Dolby Vision, the 12S Ultra can record video at 24 fps in 8K 7680 x 4320 resolution. If you drop the resolution to UHD, 60 fps is the maximum frame rate. Slow-motion tools are becoming the norm on smartphones; however, the 12S Ultra promises to take this to the next level. In HD, the smartphone can record up to 480 fps. If you drop the resolution to 720 p, the 12S Ultra can record at a staggering 3840 fps — though only for a short period. However, shooting at such a high frame rate would likely mean you’d need a lot of light.

Image stabilization

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra uses HyperOIS image stabilization for ultra-stable video recording. HyperOIS uses the gap between two frames to drive the OIS motor to its original position, giving each frame a full effective range of stabilization. This feature could dramatically improve the quality of your videos when shooting handheld.

A portable design

Three Xiaomi 12S Ultras
The Xiaomi 12S Ultra’s camera seems to take up almost one-third of the phone’s back. Image courtesy: Xiaomi

The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is powered by the all-new Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 Mobile Platform. The smartphone also has a 6.73-inch AMOLED color display with a peak brightness of 1500 nits, 2K resolution and P3 color gamut. Such a bright screen should really help when filming outside on a bright day. In addition, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra supports 67 W wired fast charging, 50 W wireless fast charging and 10 W reverse wireless charging.

Our thoughts

On paper, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra has a great range of video-specific features. The ability to record in Dolby Vision, or up to 8K, means that this smartphone could be an ideal second camera for solo shooters who like to travel light. With the optical image stabilization, you could also use the 12S Ultra for run and gun shooting, such as vox pops, while staying low-key and unobtrusive.

Pricing and availability

Unfortunately, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is currently only available in China, and there has been no indication when it’ll be out elsewhere. At today’s exchange rates, the base model with 256 GB of memory costs around $895, while the top-of-the-range model with 512 GB of memory is around $1,045.

Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.