Xiaomi’s “third-generation” under-display digital camera appears almost invisible

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  • Xiaomi's under-display camera, which you can see in the top left.

  • In the past, seeing through the display meant reducing the number of pixels. Xiaomi now only uses smaller pixels to create more space between the pixels.

  • You can only see it when you zoom in very close.

  • Here's a close-up of the round neck version that looks a lot nicer.

  • In many cases, Xiaomi's video claims it is invisible.

Front cameras have been the bane of smartphone design in recent years. With screens getting bigger and frames getting smaller, a front camera cannot be placed that does not interfere with the display. For the most part, manufacturers have opted for clunky solutions where the display is as large as possible and only the parts that you need to support the front camera are cut out. This started out as a notch-shaped cutout, and companies recently reduced this to a single circle that looks like someone put a punch tool on the display.

The holy grail of front camera design is the front camera under the display. Why should you even care about camera placement when you can just slide it behind the display? Manufacturers have been making this idea public for at least last year, with Xiaomi leading the charges. Today, the company is back with so-called "third generation" video footage of under-display camera technology, even though generations one and two never hit the market.

With the caveat that this is heavily biased advertising material, Xaiomi's new camera looks almost invisible in all but one shot of the video. In the worst shot we took above, the display above the camera area looks darker than normal. A camera under the display needs to see through the spaces between the pixels, and to do this, the display needs to be thinned out a bit. Xiaomi's graphic shows that early prototypes would remove 75 percent of the pixels above the camera, but the latest "third generation" technology maintains full screen resolution and uses smaller pixels above the camera, uses smaller pixels above the camera, and increases it Basically just the point spacing the distance between pixels.

Even if Xiaomi oversells things and the camera area of ​​the display looks a bit strange, the alternative here is complete and utter blackness. The camera area below the display is the same size as a camera cutout, and in this case, some funny looking pixels are a better alternative than no pixels at all, in my opinion. The real question that we don't have an answer to is, "How does this affect the quality of the selfie camera?" since placing pixels in front of a camera may not be good for image quality. Manufacturers will likely have to choose between a high quality selfie camera or a more seamless display.

One thing that doesn't make sense with Xiaomi's video and graphics is that the video shows a square camera section, while the graphic shows a much nicer round section. The frequent smartphone leaker Ice Universe has pictures of a Xiaomi prototype with a round cutout and looks great. According to Ice, the display comes from China Star Optoelectronics Technology (CSOT), a division of TCL.

Today there are actually some optical components that live under a smartphone display. For years, phones have packaged optical fingerprint sensors under the display, which, like a camera, are CMOS sensors that look through the display pixels. However, reading your fingerprint is much easier than taking a good quality picture because the picture quality just needs to be good enough to resolve your fingerprint. We also regularly see ambient light and proximity sensors under the display (most recently in Pixel 4a), which further reduce the need for a top bezel.

Xiaomi says it "aims to bring this technology to the mass market next year". Xiaomi's entire announcement is really designed to prevent ZTE, which has already won the title of "world's first smartphone with a camera under the display" for the ZTE Axon 20 5G, a phone to be announced next week.

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