A groundbreaking new optical zoom camera module, scheduled to debut at CES in January 2023, could revolutionize future smartphone cameras for photos and especially for video recording.
Offering a smooth optical zoom capability between 4x and 9x, the newly-announced zoom camera module promises improved clarity throughout the zoom range without any jarring ‘jumps’ in picture quality. The module also incorporates optical image stabilization (OIS), and its compact dimensions allow for high magnifications without an ugly camera bump. The camera is expected to launch in smartphones featuring Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform next year.
Manufactured by LG Innotek, the camera module deploys a ‘true’ optical zoom lens – one that uses mechanical moving parts to adjust its magnification seamlessly from near to far in a similar manner to zoom lenses typically used with DSLR or mirrorless cameras.
This technique stands in contrast to typical smartphone ‘optical zoom’ cameras that use only ‘prime’, or non-zooming, lenses with fixed magnification levels. In this case, the illusion of optical zoom is achieved by using digital zoom to transition as smoothly as possible between these fixed magnification levels. The use of digital zoom, however, always results in a drop in quality which is often quite noticeable in such cameras.
True optical zoom can be particularly advantageous when shooting video, as any sudden changes in image quality will stick out like a sore thumb when zooming in or out of a continuously moving image.
LG claims ‘unrivaled’ technology in this field and hopes the new camera module will solidify its position in the global smartphone camera module market, according to its recent press release. The company is also working with Qualcomm to optimize software supporting the true optical zoom lens for the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform deployed in high-end Android handsets.
However, the new camera module wouldn’t be the first to provide a true optical zoom camera in a smartphone. That honor, aside from some early experiments that were more like pocket zoom cameras with attached phones, goes to Sony’s Xperia 1 IV flagship released earlier this year.
Apple is also said to be working on a true optical zoom camera of its own, although there’s no word on whether LG’s latest module might find its way into future iPhones. The iPhone 14 Pro Max is currently considered to offer the best smartphone camera for video, but a true optical zoom lens could give Android flagships a powerful weapon against Apple if it doesn’t come up with its own solution next year.
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