On March 29, Xiaomi will hold a big presentation in China. According to previously published posters, at least three smartphones will be shown there: Mi 11 Pro and Ultra, as well as a new smartphone of the Mi Mix series.

According to rumors, the new Xiaomi Mi Mix will be similar in design to the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2:

But this is not the most interesting thing. Apparently, it is the new Mi Mix that will receive a revolutionary liquid lens in one of the cameras. The head of the company Lei Jun told about this in his blog. Weibo

What is a liquid lens?

A liquid lens is made from special polymers that act as reservoirs. These reservoirs contain two types of fluids: water and something hydrophobic like oil. Two liquids cannot mix with each other.

When the camera is adjusted, a current flows into the lens, due to which the water changes the radius of curvature of the polymer. Thus, the lens can become concave or convex. Moreover, the shape depends only on the capabilities of the polymer from which the reservoir is made.

Liquid lens render. Source: Xiaomi

Why is this needed?

There may be several reasons:

  • Reduced weight and space that the camera lens takes up;
  • Liquid lenses allow you to focus on objects faster due to the fact that they do not need to move along the guides, as is the case with conventional glass or plastic lenses;
  • Reliability: fewer moving parts – less chance of breakage;
  • The ability to change the focal length.

This last reason is the most interesting. The fact is that the difference between different lenses of smartphone cameras lies precisely in the different focal lengths. Roughly speaking, the main camera, which is usually the main focus for presentations, has an equivalent focal length of 26-28mm. For ultra-wide, this value is 13-18 mm, depending on the company that produces a smartphone with such a camera. Telephoto lenses range from 50 to about 250 mm.

Different focal lengths are responsible for zooming in or out of the picture in the camera, that is, for zoom. So, in theory, smartphones with such a camera in the future may abandon many cameras in favor of one, but with a lens, among the sets of lenses of which there is a liquid one.

What will happen in Mi Mix?

The head of Xiaomi, Lei Jun, said in another post that a camera with a telephoto lens will receive a liquid lens. She will also be responsible for macro shots:

This camera will get both a telephoto lens and a macro lens at the same time. This innovation is made on the principle of bionics and is similar to the human eye. The magic is that this lens will fit into the lens of a mobile phone. The liquid is wrapped in a film that replaces the traditional optical lens. Thus, the change in focal length and focus adjustment will be implemented.

Lei Jun

Head of Xiaomi

And here there are difficulties.

Why this particular camera?

The Xiaomi Mi 11 and Redmi Note 10 Pro have a very unusual camera. It takes macro shots, but its equivalent focal length is 50mm. Usually this focal length corresponds to a typical “portrait” or camera with 2x optical zoom.

Xiaomi Mi 11. Source: Xiaomi

Macro camera Mi 11 really visually brings objects closer to the camera. And I have an assumption that in the new Mi Mix, despite Lei Jun’s statements, the camera is unlikely to change the focal length. It will remain the same, but the depth of field (DOF) will change dramatically using the properties of a liquid lens. Changes will be inaccessible to ordinary lenses, but liquid lenses are quite capable of changing the radius of curvature so much. This causes the depth of field setting to be very wide.

But, apparently, the optical qualities of this lens are not yet so high, so Xiaomi installed it in a camera that is not very important to users. It would be embarrassing if the shirik or ultra-wide of an expensive smartphone was shot very badly.

Therefore, there is a chance that for now the liquid lens in the lens will only be used for marketing purposes. But hopefully, in the future, technology will evolve so much that smartphones will revert to a single lens.

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