Sony has a long history in digital imaging, not only creating many cameras itself, but also producing the hardware that goes into other devices. If you’re building a smartphone in 2022, chances are that if you’re not using one of Samsung’s ISOCELL sensors for your camera, you’re going for a Sony component. Samsung’s most recent launch – the 200MP ISOCELL HP3 sensor – is still a long way from making it into a commercial product, but Sony is wasting no time showing off its new 1-inch camera sensor, the IMX989, which should debuting the Xiaomi 12S Ultra on July 4.
We’re planning a big new camera module for Xiaomi’s next flagship, and now CEO Lei Jun confirms its intention to use the Sony IMX989 in the 12S Ultra.
While a 1-inch sensor on a phone is big news, Xiaomi won’t be the first to pack such a big camera into a smartphone. Models like the Sharp Aquos R6 (or the Leica Leitz Phone 1) and the follow-up Aquos R7, in addition to the Sony Xperia PRO-I, all have 1-inch camera sensors. The IMX989 does have one key distinction though: it’s the first 1-inch camera sensor designed explicitly for smartphones (according to SamMobile), rather than reusing an existing component.
With the Xiaomi 12S Ultra likely to dominate the news cycle for its 1-inch camera sensor, there will be comparisons between Sony’s offering and Samsung’s ISOCELL HP1 sensor, which is expected to launch alongside the Galaxy S23. Ultra next year. Although Samsung recently unveiled the 200MP ISOCELL HP3 sensor, it won’t be commercially available until at least late next year or early 2024.
We should start to get a better idea of the quality and performance of the IMX989 camera sensor when the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is officially unveiled on Monday, along with the Xiaomi 12S and Xiaomi 12S Pro. Both of these will feature the Sony IMX707 50MP camera sensor, according to Xiaomi’s Weibo page. Separately, leaker DigitalChatStation notes on Weibo (via DigitalTrends) that the Sony IMX989 sensor could be a 50MP component.
It’s too early to tell if the Xiaomi 12S Ultra’s new camera sensor will rival the image quality we get, for example, from Samsung flagships with high-end cameras, such as the Galaxy S22. Ultra. Simply stuffing a large image sensor doesn’t automatically translate to high-quality photos and video, and we also have to consider the impact of things like image processing algorithms – but we’re can’t wait to see the results for ourselves.