Xiaomi unveiled a first preview of its soon-to-be-released Xiaomi Mi CC9 Pro on Weibo today. By far the most intriguing feature of the phone is its 108-megapixel camera accompanied by a 5x optical zoom lens.
Cameras are currently the main focus of development in the smartphone industry. Over the past couple of years, manufacturers have been adding more and more lenses to the back, and front, their phones.
But in a world where phones with three rear lenses are common, what difference does an extra lens or two make?
Xiaomi appear to be pulling out all the stops with their newest phone. Not only does the Xiaomi Mi CC9 Pro have a 108-megapixel rear camera, it also has a total of five lenses on the back.
What do the five cameras do?
Android Authority has speculated on what each of the five camera lenses actually do.
First of all, there’s obviously the star of the show, the main 108-megapixel camera. The sensor behind this lens will be the Samsung ISOCELL Bright HMX sensor which Samsung developed ‘in close collaboration’ with Xiaomi.
This sensor will also sit behind the main lens of the Xiaomi Mi Mix Alpha, which is expected to be released in December.
Then there’s the 5x optical zoom lens, which may well be the same as the one found in the Huawei P30 Pro.
The function of the remaining two cameras is less clear, although Android Authority suggests they could be an ultra-wide lens and a 3D time-of-flight sensor. The time-of-flight senor is the small lens at the bottom of the bunch but the function of the final lens remains unclear for now.
Is a 108-megapixel camera on a smartphone really necessary?
Just as smartphone manufacturers have been trying to outdo one another with more and more lenses, there has recently been a race to cram increasingly large sensors into their smartphones.
This year we’ve already seen a number of smartphones boasting 48-megapixel cameras. Just two years ago, a phone with a 48-megapixel sensor would have been a real head-turner.
Now it’s nothing special, especially as we will have two 108-megapixel smartphones on sale, in China at least, by the end of the year.
As anyone who knows about cameras and optics will tell you, the size of a camera’s sensor is only part of the story.
The lens arguably plays a much more important role when it comes to image quality. There’s a reason you upgrade DSLR lenses rather than the body/sensor.
Manufacturers are trying to fit camera components into a smartphone body less than an inch thick.
In reality it is the lens which will be the main limiting factor when it comes to picture quality.
With the Pixel 4, Google recognised the physical limitations of a smartphone body when it comes to picture quality.
Instead it opted to prioritize software manipulation it an attempt to produce high-quality images.
It doesn’t have quite the same ring as ‘108-megapixels’, but there comes a point where numbers like this lose most of their meaning.