Smartphone camera with optical zoom? This technology can help!
Corephotonics demoed us their new camera technology; it is not yet available in a phone, but we wanted to show you what the future may bring. In order to add high quality optical zoom and avoid having a huge camera module, Corephotonics have created a system that uses two different optics - one wide lens and one narrow (zoom) lens - paired to a couple of identical sensors. The two image streams are then processed by a couple of image signal processors (ISP) and are combined to get one final photo/video. Interestingly, the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor family has dual ISP built-in, and that's probably why Corephotonics partnered with Qualcomm for developing this product.
What are the benefits? Combining the two streams, you get real optical zoom with full resolution photos. So if you have 13MP sensors, the final image is 13MP even if the zoom was used. In our case, the lens had up to 3x zoom in in 13MP photo mode and up to 5x in 1080p video mode. You should also get better detail and less noise, as you actually have twice the image sensor area compared to a single sensor. Focus speed can also be better, as the processor can use data captured by both sensors and calculate the distance to an object instead of only relying on traditional contrast detection technology. By calculating the distance to objects, augmented reality can also be improved.
The drawbacks? Of course, it is slightly bigger than just a single camera. The prototype we saw was about 6.5mm deep, so if you have to integrate it in a phone, it can't be the thinnest one without having a camera bulge. It was interesting for us to see this new technology, and whenever it is available in a commercial phone, we'd be happy to test it out.
reference: Core Photonics