Flagship smartphone camera powered by Swiss technology

The latest flagship phone from a Chinese tech giant features a novel liquid lens element, which was developed by Swiss optics company Nextlens, a sister company of the ETH Zurich spin-off Optotune. Although the name of the customer and the model was not mentioned by Nextlens there is clear evidence that the technology is used in Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold.

For the first time, a liquid lens is introduced into such a high-precision imaging optical system after years of research and development. The novel high-quality camera system features an unrivalled macro camera with exceptional magnification, ultra-fast focusing speeds measured in thousands of a second and close focusing up to 3 cm. This new macro functionality turns the smartphone into a microscope allowing users for example to count the eyes of insects. All these features are enabled by the application of a new liquid lens element.

The miniaturized Swiss lens works like the lens in the human eye. It changes its shape to focus on an object, while traditional cameras move rigid lenses back and forth. This degree of freedom propels novel camera designs and brings features to mobile phones, previously only available in professional digital reflex cameras. The liquid lens element is manufactured by Nextlens in Switzerland, using proprietary manufacturing technologies.

Nextlens, founded in 2019, is a sister company of Optotune and took over the business unite “mobile” from Optotune Holding AG at incorporation. Board members of both companies are identical. Nextlens CEO Frank Bose is at the same time Managing Director at Optotune Consumer AG.

The names of the Chinese company and its flagship model are not mentioned in Nextlens’ press release. However the information given and additional information by Xiaomi allow the conclusion that the lens is used in Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold, the first foldable smartphone of the Chinese technology group. According to a press release, “Mi Mix Fold is the world’s first smartphone with Liquid Lens technology. The liquid lens uses the principle of human eye bionics, forming a lens-like structure with a transparent fluid wrapped in film, very different from traditional optical lenses.” The performance features mentioned correspond to the description provided by Nextlens. The Mi Mix Fold was introduced End of March. The commercial launch in mainland China was on 16 April.

(Press release / Stefan Kyora)Picture: Nextlens