Smartphone photography is getting better every year with top brands leading advancements in smartphone photography, particularly in flagship devices from Apple, Google, and Huawei. While sensors have been improving in size and processing abilities have advanced, the lenses in front of the sensors have remained the same, for the most part.
A few Chinese phone makers have already stepped ahead to improve how far cameras can see, like with the Oppo Reno 10X Zoom and the Huawei P30 Pro. These devices use a periscope setup where the array of lenses is positioned perpendicular to the back of the phone.
In the latest couple of camera patents granted to Apple, the company plans to further improve the image quality of future iPhones. Both patents carry the name “Folded lens system” with either three or five “refractive lenses”. These patents show lenses that reflect through a prism, so they do not need to be positioned straight out of the back of the phone.
Apple iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max
By positioning lenses this way, phone makers can make the distance between the sensor and the lenses longer while reducing the size of a camera bump needed to support all the necessary hardware including an optical image stabilizer and autofocus assemblies.
The three-element setup could offer between 80mm and 200mm focal length (35mm equivalent) and a field of view between 18 and 28 degrees – making this ideal for a telephoto camera. Meanwhile, the five-element setup can be used as standard “wide” camera with a focal view between 28 and 41 degrees with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 50mm to 85mm.
Patent diagrams for three and five-lens cameras
As we mentioned earlier, other companies have already been using side-mounted camera arrays, but primarily for long zoom applications. Apple wants to incorporate a similar concept for its standard and telephoto cameras, at least from what we can see with the patents. Remember, just because a company patents something, doesn’t always mean we’ll see it become a reality.