Today, the iPhone shoots DSLR-quality photos, but the lens is still too small to actually zoom properly. A new technique should change that. Apple would have plans to give the optical zoom range of the iPhone a significant boost, by using a periscope lens.
iPhone with periscope lens
This is reported by South Korean ETNews. They say, based on industry sources, that Apple has plans for an iPhone camera lens based on the technology of a periscope. Discussions are said to have already started with suppliers for this. It is not clear whether Apple wants to introduce the periscope with the iPhone 13 yet.
You shouldn’t expect a submarine-like construction with a long tube that you extend from the back of the iPhone. The periscope camera has a technique in which the optical zoom can be considerably enlarged, without this being at the expense of a thicker iPhone.
To improve the optical zoom lens, a greater distance is needed between the lens and image sensor. This provides a longer focal length. Normally, that lens and image sensor are placed vertically from each other. The greater that distance, the better the optical zoom – but also the more the lens protrudes from the smartphone.
With a periscopic lens you can create that longer focal length without making the iPhone thicker. Instead of the lens and image sensor being stacked vertically, this is done horizontally – in the length of the iPhone. A mirror is used to ensure that the incoming light reaches the parts. This allows a longer stack of lenses to be placed, without increasing the thickness of the iPhone.
Oppo has already built a smartphone that can zoom periscopically. You can see what the camera system looks like below. It appears that the periscope lens that Apple envisions works in a similar way.
Apple still has to deal with obstacles that stand in the way of a periscope lens for the iPhone, ETNews reports. Apple has filed for patents on the periscope lens system since 2014, but the main patents are in the hands of Samsung,
For example, the so-called “Ball-type actuator” – a technique essential for most periscope cameras – would be owned by Samsung. This makes it difficult for Apple to develop the camera system internally. Apple may ask Samsung to supply the periscope system, but chances are that the Koran tech giant will not cooperate. This to keep competitive advantage; the Galaxy S20 Ultra, for example, already has such a periscopic lens.
We are not hearing the rumors for the first time. In March of this year, Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo already predicted that Apple will release an iPhone with a periscope lens in the future. He does expect it to take a while; Apple would have it planned for the flagship of 2022.