As part of the introduction of the Vivo X80 Pro in Berlin, we were given the opportunity to have a joint conversation with both Vivo and Zeiss, who told us more about their cooperation and news. He was one of them Oliver SchindelbeckSenior Smartphone Technology Manager at Zeiss a Daniel Götzproduct manager for Vivo Europe.
Introduction of the new Vivo X80 Pro The interview also took place at the Zeiss Major Planetarium in Berlin.
MobilMania.cz (MM): Vivo and Zeiss is not the only partnership where a large smartphone manufacturer has merged with a famous camera brand. For example, we have OnePlus and Oppo together with Hasselblad, historically there was a strong partnership between Huawei and Leica, which now joins forces with Xiaomi, and there are others. What makes your Vivo and Zeiss collaboration so special?
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): Of course, I can’t comment too much on the cooperation of other brands, because we don’t see much of it and we can only rely on what they themselves say on the outside. But I can talk about our partnership with Vivo, which is strategic and long-term and started in December 2020. It is about joint research and development of new functions and technologies. But that’s not all. At the same time, it is a matter of certifying new products that will bear the Zeiss brand. We believe that the goal will be to reach some important milestones and we would like to succeed in becoming a leader in mobile photography.
MM: Here in Berlin, we were at the premiere of the new Vivo X80 Pro, which offers some advanced features. For example, there is again gimbal stabilization, which we have seen in the past, but this time added its own chip Vivo V1 +. How much does Zeiss intervene directly in this, or is it a matter purely for Vivo? I guess that due to the close cooperation, both companies must see this in detail.
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): As for the V1 + chip, purely Vivo participated in the development, but of course we also have access to it and use it for various image processing algorithms, but this is the work of Vivo. Our cooperation consists rather in the development of the camera system itself, from the joint design of the camera specifications to the final setup and calibration of the camera. We also deal with what types of cameras Vivo should use in a smartphone and, of course, we are responsible for the optical properties of the lenses used and their analysis and testing. First, this testing consists of various simulations and only then comes the first prototypes and procurement of components from suppliers, the final testing to see if they meet all the required parameters to the finished product.
The enlarged lens model shows how each of them causes a certain reflection of light, which can then cause misal in the final photograph.
In addition, we work in parallel to develop hardware and software that are more general and often not directly dependent on the device itself. Sometimes it happens that in the end we do not even implement some of the developed innovations into the final phone, because they do not fit into it or in the end do not meet our requirements.
Mobile optics is a much bigger challenge
MM: Zeiss is famous for its lenses and various optical effects, such as your Zeiss cinematic bokeh. While cameras are effects created by the optics themselves, there is no room for phones for similar experiments and software comes into play. How faithful can he replace it? Is it comparable at all?
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): Of course, the goal is to make the two results as similar as possible from the beginning, but it is clear that in some aspects the software does not replace the optics, which can cause artifacts in the images, for example. For example, in a person with short hair like me, it is easy to get closer to the optics, but with long hair there are already complications with the accuracy of the background blur and there is clearly still room for improvement.
MM: Yes, I understand that. Just by looking at the large lenses in the cameras and these tiny lenses in the phones, it must be a challenge to make and harmonize everything so that you can even try to get closer to these results.
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): Let me tell you that it is much easier for us to produce traditional large lenses for cameras, where we have many years of experience, but there are also more opportunities for changes due to their larger physical size. Here, too, we have a wider choice of material for the lens itself, and moreover, with traditional lenses, there is no such pressure on development time or cost.
The new Bokeh mode of the Vivo and Zeiss effect demonstrated the visitors directly to me before the interview.
The development of a lens for smartphones is thus definitely more demanding and you have to make many compromises here, both for the optics, the sensor and the image processing itself, and in short you have to look for a reasonable combination of them. You also have to look at what is really necessary to solve the optics itself and what can be additionally caught up in the software. As an example, I can cite the distortion effect, which can be done well in software, often better than the optics itself, at a lower cost.
Space as the main limit
MM: In the past, I had the opportunity to personally try the Vivo X60 Pro and X70 Pro phones, which boasted gimbal stabilization of the main camera. Now there’s the X80 Pro, and the gimbal surprisingly has just moved to a portrait lens. Why did you decide so in Vivo?
(Götz, Vivo): Yes, you are right, this is a change from previous models and is basically a compromise caused by the physical size of the camera module. So this time we used a gimbal for a portrait lens, while for the main sensor, we use traditional optical stabilization, which, however, does not lag far behind. In the end, it’s always about finding the best result overall, even if you have to make compromises somewhere.
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): You know, the problem is that gimbal basically doubles the size of the camera itself. It is definitely not a problem to produce all gimbal-stabilized cameras, but due to their physical size, it could be at the expense of other features of the phone.
MM: You mentioned physical limits. Can’t folding phones, for example, which are much larger and could have more space, can solve this?
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): Unfortunately, paradoxically, there is even less space for folding phones, because you have two folding halves that make up larger devices, but we only have to fit these cameras in one of them.
The gimbal stabilization of the Vivo X80 Pro portrait lens can keep the image stable even when you turn the phone upside down with the phone.
MM: We talked about your new Vivo V1 + image processing chip. So you threw yourself into the chips, should we take it as a tasting and do you plan to try your own processor? We see that this is a fairly new trend.
(Götz, Vivo): I think we managed to find a great collaboration with Qualcomm and you can see for yourself that its processors such as the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 model used are great and are at the top of the benchmarks and we are extremely satisfied with them. Of course, we at Vivo are also exploring other ways, and it is possible that such a thing will be on the table sometime in the future, but so far it is definitely not so.
Using multiple chips as a crisis protection
MM: You highlight Qualcomm here, but it’s no secret that the new X80 Pro in China, for example, came in a variant with a MediaTek processor. How do I interpret it? And are these chips comparable?
(Götz, Vivo): Yes, you are right that in some markets we also reached for MediaTek, specifically the Dimensity 9000 model, which is also the highest peak from this manufacturer. Both chips thus have more than enough power for all common tasks.
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): I would just like to add that it is also a question of risk management. Nowadays, when we have a global shortage of chips, it is certainly safer to have exactly two sources when both of their chips meet your requirements and offer high performance. In the current uncertain situation, it could be too risky to bet on only one partner.
The most popular Vivo smartphones
MM: Once again back to your partnership. You said at the beginning that this is a long-term cooperation, that’s probably still true, isn’t it?
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): Of course, the partnership has been concluded for some time and its term will expire one day in the future, but we would certainly like to extend our cooperation. I think that both parties have learned a lot from each other during that time, of course we all got to know each other more personally and long-term cooperation certainly makes sense here. If I had to lighten it up, we are still somewhere in the imaginary honeymoon and a possible “divorce” is definitely very far away.
MM: Well, how can your cooperation continue? Now you take care of the production of the lenses, their anti-reflective coating, you help with the software and we’ve seen a few photo modes, but what’s next?
(Schindelbeck, Zeiss): Yes, now you can see our modes for different bokeh effects, for example, and we certainly don’t end there. Of course, you can expect some evolution of these regimes in the future, which we are constantly improving and are likely to add brand new ones. It is similar with color calibration, which we also match with every Vivo model, especially in color matching between all cameras. Of course, we are also working on other news for phones, which you do not know at all yet.
MM: In conclusion, I can’t help but ask how you see it with folding phones. You have already introduced the first Vivo X Fold in China. Will we see him here too?
(Götz, Vivo): Vivo has a very strong position in the Chinese market, while we are still building it in Europe. The introduction of the first puzzle in China had a great response from customers, which we evaluate and will definitely use in further debugging and optimization and improvement. As for the puzzle in Europe, we are still listening to our customers and carefully considering whether to enter this industry or some others in this market.
You could also see a report from the Berlin Planetarium in Live Week: