Oppo ups the game in camera technology

Smartphone makers have turned their focus on camera technology in a bid to retain consumer interest. Last year, both Huawei and Apple took a dual-lens set-up to include optical zoom capabilities for their smartphones.

But, at this year's Mobile World Congress, Oppo is taking a similar yet slightly different approach with its upcoming dual camera zoom technology.

At the annual mobile industry event, the Chinese smartphone maker showcased a prototype device that uses a wide-angle and telephoto lens to achieve 5x optical zoom.

But in the case of the latter, it is done through a periscope-style structure to divert light through a prism and into a telephoto lens, thus delivering a lossless optical zoom.

In doing so, Oppo has devised a new camera module measuring just 5.7mm, a far cry from thicker devices that stack multiple lenses together.

An illustration showing how Oppo devised the 5x optical zoom with its dual-lens system.Photo: Oppo

The solution also departs from the norm, opting to couple the telephoto lens with an optical image stabiliser to keep zoomed images free from blur.

The challenge, according to Oppo's hardware director Dr King Bai, was to ensure the module could withstand up to 40,000 drop tests from different distances.

"We need to calibrate the cameras and test their axis to withstand the drops without affecting the prism placement," said Dr Bai.

The camera has become an essential smartphone feature, used to snap selfie shots and Instagram-worthy food photos for bragging rights and holiday photos.

This trend, according to Gfk Asia's senior director of technology retail tracking Gerard Tan, means smartphone buyers tend to make camera technology one of the main criteria when deciding which model to purchase.

"Camera technology is the only area that is constantly pushing forward due to the stagnation in the development and innovation of other smartphone features," said Mr Tan.

The challenge, he added, is maintaining an affordable pricing within reach of the average consumer.

Mr Luke Tan, who is an avid photographer, constantly tests his smartphone's photography limits.

To him, the inclusion of optical zoom finally closes the gaps between phones and cameras.

"I can now get up close for events like sports matches and concerts, animals at the zoo, exhibitions at a museum," said Mr Tan.

He also said that such zoom capabilities, combined with low shutter lag, fast auto-focus, and good image stabilisation, make the perfect smartphone for him.


This article was first published on March 1, 2017.
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