Apple likes to make big claims about the camera systems that it packs into its phones, but it often take a couple of years before the company adopts some of the latest technologies offered elsewhere.
The latest suggestion is that Apple might be looking to include periscope zoom a device in 2022 – likely something that would be reserved for the iPhone Pro Max model.
Periscope or folded zoom works by changing the light path from straight through the lenses into the sensor, bending it by 90 degrees – hence the name. That allows for a larger lens array which can be housed without needing a thick phone.
The use of this type of lens was first shown off by Oppo in 2017, but it was really the 2019 Huawei P30 Pro that used it to devastating effect, allowing clear telephoto images that had previously been impossible on a smartphone.
Subsequently many brands followed, including Samsung in 2020 with the Galaxy S20 Ultra.
For the iPhone, it would be an opportunity to bring something new to the iPhone offering, opening up longer telephoto photography, but would need a redesign of some of lens housing on the rear of the phone, something that’s unlikely to happen in 2021, due to the launch of a new design for the iPhone 12 in 2020.
Sources told Korean news title The Elec that Samsung Electro-Mechanics could supply the actuators and the lens, with LG InnoTek assembling the units into camera modules for the iPhone. The explanation for the complex supplier agreement is apparently down to patents and existing relationships.
The results, however, will be more interesting than where the camera modules come from. Periscope zoom can enable zooming above 3x, which would allow Apple to enable 5x or 10x zoom without any digital zoom needed – and increase the quality of those images.
Combined with computational photography, there’s the opportunity for hybrid zooms to give iPhone users images that are currently beyond reach.
As is always the case with Apple, we won’t know if this is actually going to happen until it gets announced. Currently the best suggestion is 2022 or 2023.