Vivo X50 Pro to float Samsung's new 50MP camera sensor on a gimbal


The Vivo and Oppo brands have been at the forefront of phone innovation in the last few years, introducing dual-screen phones, pop-up and "shark fin" cameras, half-screen fingerprint readers, and plenty of other forward thinking experiments.

For Vivo, said experiments are usually test-driven first with its Apex series of concept phones, and the Apex 2020 that was previewed back in February showed what may be in store for Vivo's flagships this year. 

Besides the impossibly curvy screen sides and the under-display front camera wishful thinking, the Apex 2020 concept featured a "48MP gimbal camera," and that new image stabilization idea is now likely to make it in a commercial device.

First in line to receive it is rumored to be the Vivo X50 Pro that is about to be announced on June 1. It, however, will get something else entirely, not the 48MP sensor of the Apex 2020. The "50" in the title doesn't denote 5G connectivity, albeit the phone will have one, given that it could be powered by Snapdragon 865 but it could click in with the eventual 50MP Samsung sensor that will be on the X50 Pro.

The latest rumors peg it to be none other than Samsung's brand new ISOCELL GN1 that is the company's first sensor that allows Tetracell (four physical 1.2 micron pixels make one virtual 2.4 micron unit) pixel-binning AND Dual Pixel phase-detection autofocus. The 108MP sensor of the Galaxy S20 Ultra has Nonacell (9-in-1) binning, but it is struggling to focus from very close distances, and Samsung may remedy that with the new GN1 sensor technology.

Indeed, Samsung mentioned in its press release yesterday that it has started mass production of the 50MP GN1 this month, which would make sense if a phone with it is about to be announced on June 1, but that's not even the most interesting part about the eventual Vivo X50 Pro camera.

That "gimbal camera" will be the showstopper when the phone gets announced in the next two weeks or so, as it will allow the lens to basically float around a single axis for unprecedented stabilization while shooting video, or focusing during stills. Here's how it will work, according to the teaser that leaked on Weibo. 

While detailing the Apex 2020 concept, Vivo advised that the gimbal approach can improve lens fluidity with up to 200% compared to the more orthodox optical image stabilization solutions that are in phones now. 

Color us intrigued, especially if this thing is mounted on a flagship phone with all the bells and whistles that Chinese companies put in there - big batteries, copious amounts of storage, and ultrafast charging times, both wired and wireless.

In addition to the gimbal thingy, the Apex 2020 concept smartphone presented something called Continuous Optical Zoom, in a world's first. The idea is to continuously zoom between 5x and 7.5x thanks to a “4-group lens combination” with two fixed lenses and two movable ones. It still has the periscope zoom design seen on recent 5x-10x optical zoom cameras, and maintains a thickness of only 6.2mm, ensuring it easily fits inside the smartphone.

While it is not clear whether the Vivo X50 Pro features Continuous Optical Zoom, the print on the phone's camera island says it covers 16mm-135mm equivalents, and the square lens below the huge 50MP gimbal-ed sensor looks suspiciously like a periscope zoom lens, so there is hope. As for the other goodies that the Apex 2020 concept promised, like 120 degree display curves, or under-screen selfie cameras, Vivo's production devices will probably have to wait much longer than the X50 Pro to implement those. 

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