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Xiaomi, Leica announce partnership for camera tech, but details are slim

Xiaomi, Leica announce partnership for camera tech, but details are slim
23 May, 2022

Chinese electronics company Xiaomi, and iconic German imaging and photography company Leica Camera AG, have announced a strategic partnership earlier today. The two companies have become the latest smartphone-camera manufacturer duo to partner with each other, although the exact details of how this collaboration will play out remains unclear.

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While the companies haven’t revealed the specifics, two key phrases stand out from the joint media announcement – ‘optical performance’ and ‘photography aesthetics’. Leica, as a company, is known in the photography industry for its high fidelity lenses, as well as a signature Leica color tone and quality. As a result, Leica could potentially contribute to the development and design of the lenses used in a future Xiaomi smartphone, and develop software filters that offer the company’s signature analog film aesthetics.

Leica has previously partnered with Chinese electronics company Huawei, which saw Leica co-branded cameras on Huawei phones being launched as early as 2015. The partnership was reportedly snapped earlier this year, leading to fellow Chinese company, Xiaomi, tying up with the German imaging company. Other existing smartphone-camera partnerships notably include BBK Electronics’ OnePlus, in partnership with iconic Swedish medium-format camera pioneer, Hasselblad.

The first partnership of this kind dates back to 2005, when iconic lens maker Carl Zeiss announced a partnership with Finnish erstwhile mobile phone giant, Nokia. The two companies have had a long-standing collaboration that has seen some of Nokia's most popular mobile phones, including its iconic N-Series range, feature Carl Zeiss lenses. Now owned by HMD Global, the revived Nokia brand continues to have a non-exclusive collaboration agreement with Zeiss for its present generation smartphones.

Lei Jun, chief executive and chairman of Xiaomi Group, said in a statement that the two companies “agree with each other's pursuits and ideas and appreciate each other's advantages and industry.” He added that the collaboration has included “optical design and tuning aesthetic orientation,” and will boost Xiaomi’s “imaging strategy”.

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Matthias Harsch, chief executive of Leica, claimed that the company will bring “exceptional image quality, classic Leica aesthetics and unrestricted creativity” to this partnership, which also sounds in line with the company potentially working on high precision lenses and specific filters to be added to Xiaomi’s phones.

While such partnerships sound quite flowery on paper, their practical implementation often varies in terms of the effective quality and real-world difference. For instance, the OnePlus-Hasselblad collaboration is yet to make any real quantifiable splash in the mobile photography industry. Vivo, in partnership with Zeiss, claims to offer the company’s high precision lenses and specific image filters in its flagship phones – but such features haven’t exactly been headliners.

Industry speculation suggests that the Leica brand would be seen in Xiaomi’s upcoming flagship phone, the Xiaomi 12 Ultra, set to be launched in July this year.

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