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Oppo introduces true continuous zoom lens for smartphones

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Plus a new stabilization system and sensor

Oppo has held a “Future Imaging Technology Launch Event” online today to make some camera-related announcements, following the reveal of its “next-generation” under-display selfie camera earlier this month.

Oppo is known for demonstrating camera tech in prototype form long before it hits the market. The company was the first to demonstrate periscope telephoto cameras and under-display cameras, for example, both of which are increasingly common on high-end devices.

The first new announcement is a telephoto lens with continuous optical zoom. Unlike periscope telephoto lenses used today, the lens elements move throughout the 85-200mm-equivalent zoom range meaning that the images should be crisp at every focal length without the need for digital zoom, cropping, or artificial sharpening.

Vivo announced a similar product for its Apex 2020 concept phone, but the range was a lot more limited — roughly 130-195mm-equivalent. This Oppo module starts at 85mm, a common focal length for portrait headshots, which should make it a lot more versatile. Oppo points out that using one camera across more focal lengths ensures more consistent performance in terms of color and white balance, too.

Unfortunately, Oppo isn’t saying when it might ship this camera on a commercial device.

The next announcement is a five-axis optical image stabilization system that makes use of both lens-shift and sensor-shift techniques as well as movement data from the phone’s gyroscope. Lens shifting is used for more gradual stabilization, while sensor shift is applied in more dramatic situations, and includes the ability to roll the sensor as well as along the X and Y axes.

Oppo says this allows for three times better stabilization than you can achieve with regular OIS camera modules, which is also what Vivo says about the gimbal-style systems it’s been shipping since last year. Unlike the zoom lens, though, Oppo is confirming a release timeframe for the OIS system — it’ll start appearing in Oppo phones in the first quarter of 2022.

Oppo’s last major announcement is a new image sensor that uses an RGBW sub-pixel layout, adding extra white subpixels for what the company claims is a 60-percent increase in light sensitivity.

Oppo acknowledges that earlier attempts at RGBW sensors had their limitations, but it thinks the new effort should make a big difference due to more advanced manufacturing processes and improved demosaicing algorithms. It’ll be available pretty soon, too — the company says it’ll appear in phones shipping in Q4 2021.