LG teases a smaller smartphone camera module with true optical telephoto zoom

LG may not make smartphones anymore, but it’s still building components for them. The company’s LG Innotek arm just unveiled a periscope-style true optical zoom camera module with a 4-9 times telephoto range. That would allow smartphone cameras to retain full image quality through the entire zoom range, while potentially reducing the size and number of modules required.

Samsung developed a similar camera module, also known as a “folded” lens, with a four times zoom first used in the Galaxy S20 Ultra smartphone. LG Innotek provided a previous version of its zoom module to Sony for the Xperia 1 IV smartphone.

Most smartphone cameras use hybrid zoom setups that combine digital zoom and multiple camera modules. Certain zoom ranges (typically 2x, 3x, 10x, etc.) use individual cameras, with a digital zoom to fill in between those (2.5x, 4.5x, etc.). As a result, sensor resolution and thus detail can be considerably reduced.

LG’s “Optical Zoom Camera,” however, contains a zoom actuator with movable components, similar to what you’d see on a zoom lens in a mirrorless or DSLR camera. It operates quickly and precisely down to the micrometer, according to LG, while saving battery life. It also has a built-in optical image stabilizer to reduce blur, something that can be a problem for telephoto lenses that magnify hand movements. (iFixit shows exactly how such modules work here.)

With the module installed, a sensor would retain full resolution through the entire 4-9x zoom range, providing more detail on telephoto shots. LG also pared down the module’s thickness to reduce the size of the camera bump.

The company partnered with Qualcomm to integrate the tech in the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform. “It will enhance the image tuning custom for the optics, which includes Auto-Focus, Auto-Exposure, Auto-White Balance, lens shading correction and much more. Users will be able to focus quickly. And the photos and videos will have stunning image quality,” LG wrote.

The new module will appear in smartphones announced at CES 2023 starting January 3rd. LG didn’t reveal any brands or models, but there are a number of smartphones coming soon with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset that could potentially use it. Those include the OnePlus 11 series, Xiaomi 13, Motorola X40 and Oppo Find X. Apple is also a large customer of LG Innotek and could use the zoom module in next year’s iPhone 15 series, according to previous reports.

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