Vivo called German optics manufacturer Zeiss for its X80 Pro. We explain concretely what this partnership was able to bring and what their approach was.

The Vivo X80 Pro in front of a color test chart. // Source: Frandroid – Chloé Pertuis

marketing bullshit or real good news for your shots? The partnership between Zeiss and Vivo, such as that of Hasselblad with Oppo and OnePlus or of Leica with Xiaomi, raises many questions.

During a meeting with Zeiss engineers, we were able to better understand what the Chinese smartphone brand got from this partnership. Because neither the lenses nor the optics were produced by the German image specialist. No, his role is elsewhere. This is to provide expertise in three areas (among others): color quality, definition and anti-reflective coatings. We offer here a small overview of the three.

Keep in mind that everything shown to us here is not a trade secret and therefore there is reason to think it is just the tip of the iceberg. However, these elements help to better understand the approach of optical specialists working on smartphones.

A can of Coca-Cola and a Milka tablet to test colors

The first tool used by the Zeiss engineers that we wanted to show you is a simple box that allows you to faithfully reproduce certain colors and whose lighting can be varied. Here, for example, Zeiss showed us a box that allows us to test 18 colors. The interest is to see how much the colors change when the lighting, for example, warms up. Green, for example, tends to vary little. It is on this basis that engineers will be able to work.

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A box to monitor the variation of colors depending on the light. // Source: Frandroid – Chloé Pertuis

“What we’re trying to replicate isn’t a physical measurement of color, it’s a combination of lighting and how the eye receives color.”explains David Abreu, engineer of Zeiss, during a meeting with the press. Frandroid participated in it.

Then comes a second test, again on color, a really important topic. We start in a curious way with a painting that contains in particular a can of Coca-Cola, a piece of lawn or even a bar of Milka chocolate. If this sounds a bit farcical, it is actually very serious.

There are so-called memory colorssays engineer Zeiss. These are the colors we know users will have expectations of. They are also the ones who will jump on you immediately.

We think here, for example, of the green of the grass, the purple of the chocolate bar or the characteristic red of the can. Beyond the anecdote, these are colors anchored in everyone’s memory. Furthermore, the engineer turns into a philosopher for a time when he explains to us: “People remember these colors well, but not necessarily in the same way they actually see themselves in the scene. There may also be variations between regions of the world. It is something we have measured. “ This is why Vivo has decided to leave the choice between natural colors (called Zeiss colors) or those a little more showy, but sought after by the greatest number.

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The Vivo X80 Pro on the test bench. // Source: Frandroid – Chloé Pertuis

Other objects in this painting respond to a different problem. We have, for example, an aluminum foil that allows you to ” test very localized high intensity light sources“, More details David Abreu. We can also distinguish a brush, which allows us to measure the reproduction of details well.

How to test the definition

Zeiss engineers also showed us how they test the definition of an image. The goal is simple: to avoid deformations as much as possible. The test is based this time on a series of circles with black and white stripes. The goal is that the closer we get to the center of the circle, the more complicated the definition will be to distinguish.

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Here is a tool used to determine if the device definition is good. // Source: Frandroid – Chloé Pertuis

The other interest of this test is that it allows to distinguish if there is an asymmetry or problems on the edges of the image. Indeed, it is not difficult to notice an anomaly on perfect lines.

Anti-reflective coating to play with the light

If you’ve taken a look at the back of the latest Vivo X80 Pro, you may have noticed a strange red “T *” symbol.

Vivo X80 Pro Zeiss
The Vivo X80 Pro benefits from the Zeiss experience pictured // Source: Anthony Wonner – Frandroid

The presence of this T * is intended to inform the consumer that the lenses of this device are covered with a special coating. Coating consists of applying a very thin layer (less than one µm) of a very specific texture to a lens.

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The difference between anti-reflective and anti-reflective coating is obvious. // Source: Frandroid – Chloé Pertuis

Its purpose is essentially to reduce the reflections created by the lenses. It sounds simple that way, but it’s a big deal. “On any lens, 95% of the light passes. You might say “it’s not that bad”, but the problem is when you start putting several in a row. “ For example, we can have a lens in the middle of all the others that reflects 5% of its light towards the previous one, returning to the next one, and so on.

This is also how we get tolens flarethis famous effect so dear to JJ Abrams, director ofStar Warsepisode 7. When this is mastered, there may be some aesthetics, but overall it’s a flaw in an image that Zeiss promises to correct by applying a coating to the lenses.

The reduction of glare has other virtues. Think for example of a notable increase in contrasts, because the amount of diffused light in the image is better controlled.

What is the difference with Leica and Hasselblad?

This work on the lens, even if it is content to add a small coating, seems to us for once a specificity of the partnership between Zeiss and Vivo. To our knowledge, Hasselblad is content to help Oppo and OnePlus with color calibration while the exact extent of the partnership between Leica and Xiaomi is not yet known.

On the other hand, it is likely that the color procedures or definition we have just presented to you are generally the same as those of other manufacturers. We add that many manufacturers such as Samsung, Apple or Honor do not use such partnerships, which does not prevent them from being well placed in the various rankings of the best mobile phones.

NB. This article was written as part of a press trip organized by Vivo in Berlin, with the Zeiss teams.

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