Oppo has announced a new camera technique designed to enable 5x zoom even in thin smartphones. The company’s “5x Dual Camera Zoom” technology gets around vertical height constraints — the biggest design challenge in smartphone cameras — with a periscope-style lens array that runs horizontally along the top of the device. The system appears to be based around a secondary longer prime lens like you get with the iPhone 7 Plus — the innovation here is in shrinking the module size while increasing the degree of image magnification.
The optically stabilized telephoto lens is offset by 90 degrees, focusing light onto an image sensor after it travels through a prism. While the lens has a focal length 3 times longer than the primary wide-angle camera, Oppo claims “lossless” 5x zoom through a “proprietary image fusion technology for digital zoom,” which we’ll believe when we see. The module is only 5.7mm thick, meaning it should be possible to include on smartphones without requiring a large camera bump.
The catch is that Oppo hasn’t actually announced a device that will use this type of camera system, so it’s hard to know how it will affect the design of a real shipping phone and just how good the results will be. (Oppo released a 4.85mm-thick phone in 2014, so don’t pour one out for the camera bump just yet.) The company also isn’t providing details like specific focal lengths. But it’s a unique, outside-the-box approach to solving a legitimate phone camera problem, and we look forward to testing it out if an actual device ever emerges.