Thu. Dec 1st, 2022
Will Xiaomi smartphones become the best in photos with Leica?


A faithful ally of Huawei since 2016, Leica has decided to change partners. The German specialist in photography has “co-developed” with Xiaomi a smartphone whose commercialization is scheduled for the month of July.

In the wonderful world of smartphones, manufacturers try to buy photographic credibility by signing strange alliances with specialists. Leica, Zeiss or Hasselblad have the peculiarity of displaying their logo on the back of certain smartphones, which allows their manufacturers to claim that they have “co-developed” the camera module of their devices with them. Camaraderie win win in terms of notoriety, it mixes two universes that don’t really have much in common.

Since 2016, Huawei and Leica perfectly illustrate this phenomenon. The two brands, which have joined forces in high-end smartphones, quickly managed to offer the best “photophones” on the market. Unfortunately for Huawei, its mishaps with the US likely cost it the end of this partnership (Huawei confirmed the end of the alliance to us on March 31, 2022). Through a press release, Xiaomi announces this May 23 to be the new best friend of the German.

Xiaomi and Leica, above all an opportunity?

“In July, a new era of mobile imaging begins. » With these modest words, Xiaomi and Leica announce their partnership.

What Xiaomi does not say is that, for him, the alliance with Leica has a double utility. First, it allows him to strengthen his photographic experience, while this aspect has often been criticized on his smartphones. But above all, it allows him to stab Huawei once again, which would undoubtedly have done well to see his rival bite his ally. It must be said that since the beginning of Huawei’s political setbacks, Xiaomi is the one who benefits the most. In France, for example, Xiaomi is the manufacturer that has made the most progress. To take Huawei’s place, what could be better than stealing some of Huawei’s technologies?

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Xiaomi and Leica equipment. // Source : leica

In July, Xiaomi will announce its first Leica smartphone. Should we expect a big improvement? This is our forecast: no. Perhaps Xiaomi will improve a lot in the coming years (this is a “long-term” partnership), but signing a deal is not enough to suddenly become the best. It took several years for Huawei to become this strong in photography, and the way it works is quite different.

True or false associations?

Truth be told, we’re extremely skeptical about partnerships between smartphone makers and photography brands, largely because they’re often primarily marketing. Take the example of Hasselblad, a OnePlus partner since 2021 (and Oppo, which belongs to the same group, since 2022). All OnePlus 9 communication was based on this association, while the brand itself acknowledged that Hasselblad had done absolutely nothing from a material point of view. They were just color filters in the app. Camera and a logo on the back of the smartphone.

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The Oppo Find X5 Pro was “co-developed” by Hasselblad, which did nothing hardware-wise. // Source: Louise Audry for Numerama

At the end of 2021 we had the opportunity to visit the Zeiss headquarters in Oberkochen, Germany. A partner of Sony for many years and of the Chinese manufacturer Vivo recently, Zeiss is the world specialist in lenses (whether for cameras, telescopes, microscopes or glasses). And this is precisely where this association is surprising: Zeiss does not make the lenses for the Vivo cameras.

The two brands have joint projects, particularly in terms of R&D, but Zeiss above all plays a validator role. Test Vivo prototypes and give your thumbs up, stamping your logo and offering dedicated software modes to replicate a Zeiss feel. In the end, most of the work remains the brainchild of Vivo’s Chinese engineers. Maybe it will all evolve into hardware innovations in the future, but this collaboration is currently quite limited. It is a matter of influence and marketing.

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A Vivo phone dissected by Zeiss. // Source: NL Photo

What about Leica, which still allowed Huawei to become the best photo maker? We can’t really say here. Leica seems to us to be a better partner than Zeiss or Hasselblad, since it knows how to contribute to the design of optics dedicated to smartphones. However, we must take into account one important element: Huawei, alone, is already a monster in this area. He obviously learned a lot from Leica, but he probably could have gotten pretty strong on his own. It’s hard to imagine Huawei going backwards without Leica in the coming months.

The question for which we have no answer today is: Will Xiaomi, with Leica, be as good at photos as Huawei? If he has the means (big R&D budget, hiring specialists, etc.), he is very likely to do it. What we don’t know is how long it will take and, above all, the real impact of Leica in all this. For example, Huawei has implemented an evolution of the Bayer matrix (RYYB instead of RGB), to absorb more light. This technology belongs to him and not to Leica. Therefore, Xiaomi will not be able to quickly copy it.

In any case, we imagine that you will have written “Leica” in many places on your future high-end smartphone. There is no doubt that Xiaomi will see this as a victory.

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This article was translated from this source written by

By SABER

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