There’s so much to love about the Xiaomi 12s Ultra. It’s got a huge 1-inch camera sensor that takes nuanced, rich photos. It performs incredibly well whether shooting in the day or night, and even its videos look excellent, held together by lock-tight stabilization at up to 8K resolution. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the best camera phone I’ve ever used, and after over a decade of testing out every major flagship smartphone around, that’s a mighty accolade – but it’s still missing something.
Specifically, the Xiaomi 12s Ultra is missing a feature Samsung introduced on the Galaxy S9, brought back on the S10, and then did away with for the S20 series. The feature was pretty useless at the time, so why would the world’s mightiest camera phone need a once-useless feature? I’ll explain everything, but first, it’s worth a quick recap, running through what the 12s Ultra is, and why it isn’t launching outside China.
First up – the Xiaomi 12s Ultra is special because it’s the first true 1-inch camera sensor smartphone to launch in the West. That means a huge Sony RX100-sized sensor in a pocketable body. If you’re thinking – but didn’t the Sony Xperia Pro-I have a 1.0-Type sensor? Yes, it did, but it used a cropped 1-inch sensor, as pointed out by GSM Arena(opens in new tab) in its review, so the whole sensor portion wasn’t used to take photos. With an effective sensor size that matched plenty of phones on the market, the Xperia Pro-I didn’t deliver best-in-class big-sensor-benefits.