It seems that Apple is going all out with the performance of its cameras for its future smartphone. Earlier, we had reported that the iPhone 14 Pro would be getting a completely new 48MP sensor for its primary camera, along with a couple of other cameras. We had also reported that the front-facing camera would be an autofocus one.
Now, it seems that Apple is considering taking things up a notch by giving users an improved zoom system, thanks to an all-new lens technology that Apple has recently patented. Note that the new iPhone 14 lineup will not get this new tech.
The patent, which PatentlyApple first spotted, showcases a new folded telephoto lens with a novel single-prism design. Folded lenses typically use complex systems of prisms and mirrors to reroute light sideways within a smartphone’s housing. However, light refracts or diffracts, depending on the visual elements involved when light passes through an optical element. This means that the more features that light has to pass through, the worse becomes the final picture quality.
In very rudimentary terms, Apple’s prism system can deploy several configurations of reflective surfaces, anti-reflective surfaces, and aperture masks to produce the desired result without needing as many optical components. Sure, you’re losing out on light and hence will need higher ISOs or wider apertures, but the light the sensor receives will be largely unrefracted or diffracted.
A telephoto lens that can be used in a smartphone without adding too much thickness to the smartphone’s body is notoriously tricky to make and even more difficult to calibrate. On top of that, the image we get from these lenses can hardly hold a candle to the photos taken from the regular, primary camera.
Suppose Apple indeed manages to get their new system working. In that case, iPhones of the future will have the best overall camera systems that, apart from shooting great images just from the primary camera, will also be able to shoot some stunning photos with the telephoto lens. It will also help Apple develop a much-needed, all-new digital zoom system for the cameras.