Xiaomi recently teased a floating lens for their recently announced Mi Mix smartphones. The liquid lens can change shape to change focal length and focus to suit a variety of applications. Is this the future of lens technology?
In this short video, Lew from Laterclips discusses some of the future potential of liquid lens technology based on a teaser released by Xiaomi earlier this week. A liquid lens would work more like the human eye in that it would change shape to adjust focus and aperture instead of using motors to move heavy glass elements around a tube. This technology is not a new idea; there are already industrial applications that use floating lenses, such as machine speed on production lines.
One lens to control them all
The idea of a lens that can change shape is quite exciting for any photographer who has ever had a heavy bag of lenses around for a long time; The very idea of a lens that can do everything is surely a dream for anyone who regularly needs to change lenses under adverse conditions.
The claim is that this technology will eventually be used to allow smartphones to have one camera with a floating lens instead of the huge camera matrices with multiple lenses and sensors that we see in the current series of flagship smartphones. This will allow either cheaper devices by having a single image sensor or the potential for larger sensors on smartphones, which can have major benefits in image quality. As is the case with most new technologies, software and implementation will be the key to how useful this technology can be.
When can we use a smartphone camera with a floating lens?
The new Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold was announced on March 31, 2021, this is claimed to be the first smartphone that has a floating lens in the camera setup. That’s right, a foldable smartphone with a floating lens. We really live in the future.
Unfortunately, for many of us, this phone is not available in Europe or the United States. Xiaomi Mi Mix Fold has an 8-megapixel “bionic” camera that uses a floating lens powered by a motor that uses precision manipulation on that packet of liquid to switch between 3x telephoto zoom and a macro mode that allows for close focus down to just 3 centimeters. This liquid lens is said to work in temperatures from -40 degrees to 60 degrees Celsius (-40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), so it should work well anywhere you can find yourself using a smartphone.
Interestingly, despite claims that this technology would replace large camera matrices, the Mi Mix Fold still has a camera camera with three cameras. The primary camera is a 108-megapixel Samsung sensor with a 13-megapixel ultra-wide camera underneath, as well as the camera with a floating lens. Whether Xiaomi did not have full confidence in the technology yet, or whether they wanted to be the first to bring this to market, is not clear. Without getting hold of the phone, those of us in the West have to wait until similar technology makes its way to phones in our region before we can see first hand how it works. It is still an exciting piece of technology if nothing else.
What do you think of liquid lenses? Do you think that liquid lenses will eventually get to professional cameras?
Let me know in the comments.