It looks increasingly likely that Xiaomi will launch a revolutionary new type of lens in a smartphone soon. A poster with an enigmatic water design has appeared on Twitter showing what could be an exciting liquid-based lens in the new Xiaomi Mi Mix.
The post, which comes from Ben Geskin, quotes Lei Hun, co-founder of Xiaomi, and describes a lens which is both telephoto and macro at the same time. He claims that the principal is the same as the human eye, which uses muscles to change the shape of your lenses, allowing you to focus very quickly.
The only slight confusion here is that claim of both macro and telephoto in the same lens. This might be a slight error, because an optical zoom would be many times more complicated than a simple fixed focal length. However, the idea of focusing at infinity, and then back down to a macro scale is certainly exciting even if there’s no zoom involved.
Xiaomi Mi MIX will use Liquid Lens for the first time ever 🙌It’s changing focal length and focus making it both telephoto and macro lens 🤯 pic.twitter.com/tKgtirbmqhMarch 25, 2021
It’s quite possible Xiaomi has indeed developed something which can also adjust the focal length, too, which would allow for a lens like this to zoom. It’s hard to imagine this maintaining the quality of an optical lens, but perhaps there’s a surprise ahead of us.
The idea of a water lens isn’t actually new, and the technology is used in manufacturing already. You may know Corning from Gorilla Glass, which protects your phone glass from scratches or breakage, but the company also has a range of lenses that use technology similar to this already.
In these lenses water and oil are used. Because they won’t mix, when they’re trapped together the surface they create can be used as a lens. That surface can be expanded or contracted with an electrical current and used to focus an image incredibly quickly. You can see the result of that in the video below.
The big advantage of these lenses is that they are not mechanical. That means they don’t wear out and can be used in places when a mechanical system might malfunction. That’s not necessarily a big problem in a smartphone, but the simplicity of the system and the speed at which it can operate might make for a more responsive camera.
The Xiaomi Mi Mix will launch March 29.