Xiaomi, one of the world’s leading smartphone manufacturers, has teased an upcoming technology that will be found in the next Mi Mix device: a liquid lens. It’s the first of its kind on a smartphone and you can apparently change focus and focal length simply by altering the shape of the liquid element.
DPReview reports that according to some sources, the liquid lens will allow the manufacturer to replace common multi-camera arrays found in almost all smartphones with a single camera thanks to its ability to change focus point and focal length more easily to through that liquid element.
The liquid lens concept is not new, but it is not something that has ever been integrated into a consumer smartphone. According to Edmund Optics, a liquid lens can overcome depth of field limitations by allowing focus to be adjusted electronically without mechanical movement. Typical ways of adjusting focus points (moving motorized elements or changing f-numbers to increase depth of field) can be replaced without compromising image quality or requiring larger lenses.
Xiaomi’s Mysterious MIX Phone Will Wear Liquid Lenses For The World’s First Time pic.twitter.com/73ob6uBsyn
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Liquid lenses can be found in some industrial applications where traditional moving part optics would wear out too quickly.
“Like traditional optical lenses made of glass, liquid lenses are individual optical elements but are composed of a liquid optical material that can change its shape,” explains Edmond Optics. “The focal length of a glass lens depends on the material it is made of and its radius of curvature. The same basic principle applies to liquid lenses, although liquid lenses are unique in that their focal length can be altered by changing the radius of curvature. This radius change is electronically controlled and changes rapidly in the order of milliseconds. Manufacturers use shape-shifting and electrowetting polymers and acousto-optical fitting methods to control the radius of curvature and refractive index of the liquid lens. “
Xiaomi has a pretty good reputation when it comes to smartphone camera hardware, but as in the case of the Mi 11, the software can hold it back. Hopefully, the implementation of liquid lenses on a Mi Mix phone manages to close this gap a little better.
According to The edge, the use of cutting-edge technology is a perfect fit for the Mi Mix line. The Mi Mix 3 in 2018 was the first to offer a mechanically sliding selfie camera, while the Mi Mix Alpha the following year had a screen that wrapped almost the entire device. At that company, a liquid lens camera is a perfect fit.