There is one thing that is clear: if we look at purely objective reasons, leaving aside the brand of the phone or the price, there would be many surprises about which is the best camera of the moment. The newly introduced Huawei Mate 50 Pro is a good example of a very good camera, but for reasons beyond our control, it will not be enough to establish itself as the king of the market in this category.
Vivo is another of those manufacturers that could perfectly be a contender for the title thanks to the Vivo X80 Pro. One of the great surprises of the year, especially due to the performance of its camera.
In Hipertextual we have spoken with Daniel Götz, Product Manager, Vivo Europe, about the present and future of the company, now that two years have passed since its official arrival. Spain as a key market for them or their relationship with Zeiss. Also, taking advantage of the latter, we also spoke with Oliver Schindelbeck, Senior Smartphone Technology Manager, Zeiss.
Vivo X80 Pro is undoubtedly one of the best camera phones on the market. With a little more experience and weight in Spain, it would have been a phone among the best sellers in its segment. What evolutions do you hope to incorporate for future models, mainly the one that will be presented in a few months?
Daniel Gotz, Alive: Our expectation is to continue with a healthy growth, doing things step by step and expanding the catalogue, putting -yes-. always the users in the center. In fact, in order to have direct contact with Spanish consumers, we have recently opened our first store in Madrid, at the MediaMarkt in Majadahonda.
The case of Spain is special for us: it is one of the markets with the best performance in Europe.
Daniel Gotz, Alive: We landed exactly 2 years ago, in a complex context -as everyone knows- and from minute 1 we felt the affection of the public like almost nowhere else. And we like to think that there is a lot of that Spanish character in Vivo. That is why we closed the most important agreement in Europe with LaLiga. Because it’s not just an alliance with LaLiga; It is not even an alliance with soccer. This alliance is an alliance with Spain, with its values and its passionate way of seeing and feeling life and sport.
At this time, Vivo has expanded its sales network to more than 60 countries and regions, and we will continue to do so by seeking new partners and launching more products. We will increase the visibility of the brand and the devices themselves to continue growing.
Regarding technology, we continue to focus on the camera, making the user’s life easier, improving their experience with both photography and video.
In addition to its long history in the field of optics, what value does Zeiss bring to the development of the Vivo X80 Pro camera? Has it been an advisory task or has it influenced more processes in the development of the camera?
Daniel Gotz, Alive: We are committed to raising the bar in mobile photography. On Vivo’s part, this includes further advances in image computing, Vivo’s proprietary imaging chip and optics, including lenses, as light performance is essential to capturing outstanding images.
Both our partner Zeiss and we share the ambition to pioneer mobile imaging and meet the most demanding demands of consumers. We are committed to maintaining the level of quality and precision and combining our experience to push the boundaries of mobile imaging technology. An example of this is the Vivo Zeiss Imaging Lab.
In addition, the two of us have created several joint innovation and development programs to innovate mobile photography technology for Vivo’s leading smartphones.
Why not bring the collaboration with Zeiss to other models of the company, such as the recently presented V23?
Daniel Gotz, Alive: When it comes to the camera, we keep our focus: “Perfect Shot” not only in the high-end, also in the mid-range, but obviously some of the specifications premium they can only be found on high-end phones for now. That is why we focus our collaboration on our flagships.
We try to cover the needs of all types of public, and based on that, we focus on the rear camera, the selfiesperformance, design, battery (or all at once).
The alliance with Zeiss, key in its strategy for the camera
Mobile photography is at a very mature point, with phones that offer very high quality and features. What do you think will be the future of mobile photography? What great novelties in terms of hardware will we find in the next mobile phones?
Oliver Schindelbeck, Zeiss: Well, there are two ways to do it. First with optical hardware. Develop faster lenses that can collect more light and sensors that are more sensitive. Second, it’s about software: using smart algorithms to reduce noise and get more information from the sensor. The solutions we deliver together with Vivo are always a combination of everything.
Our goal is to adapt even more technologies, known from conventional cameras, for smartphones as we already did with the Zeiss T* coating, iconic portrait styles and other features. An integrated approach is always needed with hardware and software, with optics, image computing, sensors, and system integration.
We are seeing how several brands are associated with references in the world of photography. A few years ago Huawei and Leica, now Oppo and OnePlus with Hasselblad. What is Zeiss’ contribution to the development of the Vivo X80 Pro?
Oliver Schindelbeck, Zeiss: Two experiences flow in our collaboration. First, Zeiss has been developing imaging solutions for more than 130 years. If you think of anti-reflective coating, invented almost 90 years ago and now with the most advanced T* coating, we bring it to imaging systems co-designed by ZEISS and Vivo. In optics too, our expertise is an asset in driving mobile imaging development to the next level.
Partnering with smartphone brands or other consumer electronics companies helps further understand consumer needs and work closely on future technology for products with an even shorter life cycle than Zeiss lenses. Likewise, our year-long work with mobile phone companies was very beneficial to start the collaboration with Vivo..
It is important to keep in mind that each brand, each collaboration is unique. It is important to know the partner’s requirements as well as possible. Therefore, we created a perfect blend of Vivo and Zeiss capabilities to create a compelling imaging experience for Vivo smartphone users.
In addition to the space limitation, due to being small devices, what are the main challenges you face to improve the hardware of mobile phone cameras?
Oliver Schindelbeck, Zeiss: Well, limited space is still the key factor. Especially with increasing sensor sizes (at least on the high end), it is extremely difficult to design optics to fit the desired thickness of the devices. New optical materials, new technologies and the combination with AI and image processing algorithms allow these compact cameras to be built with exceptional image quality. Without forgetting that, when it comes to hardware, we must always guarantee quality standards in development and manufacturing. Therefore, the Zeiss Imaging Test Lab is involved in all of our joint R&D activities with Vivo.
What does an optical technology manufacturer think of the importance that many manufacturers give to the software part, especially using Artificial Intelligence that usually retouches the real result to make it more beautiful?
Oliver Schindelbeck, Zeiss: We will definitely see an increasing importance of software and algorithms. But software alone won’t get you to the next levels of mobile imaging. An optical system perfectly matched to the image processing capabilities will be a key factor for higher image quality and new imaging features.
For a few years we have been seeing how phones with larger sensors are increasingly being presented. In fact, Xiaomi has just introduced a phone with a 200-megapixel sensor which, at the marketing level, is important. How does Zeiss see this race to have the largest sensor? Do you think other aspects are being neglected?
Oliver Schindelbeck, Zeiss: Several years ago, Zeiss pioneered pixel binning technology. Combining multiple sensor pixels into one image pixel along with intelligent image processing enables amazing improvements in some aspects of image quality and even some entirely new features such as single-shot HDR. These benefits make sensor pixels larger than 50MP very reasonable. But each technology also has its disadvantages, and therefore it is equally reasonable to use sensors with less than 20MP and to have large sensor pixels.
In the end, pixel numbers don’t count for the entire image. For an outstanding imaging experience, the combination of hardware and software, sensors, AI and optical features must be a perfect fit.
It has been talked about for several years, but when does Zeiss think we will start to see liquid lenses in a massive way, at least in high-end terminals?
Oliver Schindelbeck, Zeiss: Liquid lenses are a technology that could be very interesting for smartphones. But there are plenty of challenges, not just for image quality, to overcome until it’s seen on high-end smartphones. I have been in the smartphone industry for more than 16 years. And I can confirm that the liquid lens is getting closer to being produced for the mass market. We can only wait and see when this becomes a reality.