On Thursday, Xiaomi released the upper-end version of its flagship phone, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra. Working with Leica, the Chinese smartphone maker is attempting to position the device as more like professional camera in a smartphone rather than a smartphone with powerful cameras. The 13 Ultra features a rear camera with four lenses, while the main camera uses a 50MP 1-inch Sony IMX989 sensor, offering a physical aperture that opens as wide as f/1.9. The phone is priced from RMB 5,999 to RMB 7,299 ($870 to $1,142). 

Why it matters: This update to the Ultra series, which has long been Xiaomi’s smartphone offering, indicates the firm’s continuing ambition to push smartphones more into the realm of professional camera devices, with photography seen as the main selling point over other functionalities.  

Details: To back up its pro-camera ambition, the Xiaomi 13 Ultra cameras use Leica’s newly designed Vario-Summicron lens, with the device also offering manual aperture and optical stabilization. Xiaomi has also added professional photography accessories, including a wireless handle with built-in buttons and dial to give the phone a more camera-like grip.  

  • The main camera of the phone features a one-inch 50MP Sony IMX989 sensor with a variable aperture, optical image stabilization (OIS), and Leica’s Vario-Summicron lens. Users can manually change the physical aperture on the main camera from f/1.9 to f/4.0, allowing for greater depth of field or more light. Three supporting 50MP rear cameras include a 75mm telephoto camera, a 120mm super-telephoto camera, and a wide-angle 12mm camera with macro mode. 
  • Summicron indicates a maximum lens aperture of f/2.0. The term was originally assigned to the most popular focal lengths in Leica’s M-System: 28 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, 75 mm, and 90 mm, according to Leica
  • Xiaomi is also offering professional photography kits to accompany the phone for an extra $116. These photography kits include a protective case made of nano-skin technology and a wireless photography handle, giving users a physical shutter button. The protective case also comes with a 67mm adapter ring for the camera, allowing users to attach other lenses, and comes with a lens cap and camera strap. 
  • The 13 Ultra is equipped with a 6.73-inch dust and water-resistant 1440-pixel OLED screen and is powered by a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 processor. The 5,000mAh battery can be fast-charged wirelessly.
  • The 13 Ultra is released in China this month, ahead of its launch in international markets. The device comes with a vegan leather coating in green, black, or white and offers three storage options: 12GM RAM + 256GB, 16GM RAM + 512GB, 16GB RAM + 1TB.

Context: Xiaomi’s income slid significantly in 2022, totaling RMB 280 billion ($40.68 billion), a decrease of 14.7% year-on-year, according to its financial results. But the firm said it had still managed to increase investment in research and development. In 2022, Xiaomi invested about RMB 16 billion ($2.32 billion) in R&D, an increase of 21% year-on-year, CEO and founder Lei Jun announced at this week’s launch event. Lei reiterated that the brand’s focus on the high-end phone market will not change in the long term. Lei estimated that the firm’s investment will reach RMB 200 billion ($29 billion) this year.

  • Xiaomi’s financial report for the fourth quarter of 2022 shows that the company’s high-end smartphone shipments increased by 6.8% year-on-year during the period.
  • Xiaomi and Leica first announced their collaboration on advanced camera-centric smartphones last year. The 12S Ultra became the first Xiaomi smartphone to offer an entirely new imaging system developed by Leica when it was released in November.
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Jessie Wu

Jessie Wu is a tech reporter based in Shanghai. She covers consumer electronics, semiconductor, and the gaming industry for TechNode. Connect with her via e-mail: jessie.wu@technode.com.