It's not uncommon for a company to patent technologies that might be incorporated into products at some point, though the company might not have any plans to use it in the immediate future. Such a business move appears to be the case with a recent Canon patent, which details the use of variable lens elements in combination with traditional glass elements. Including a variable lens such as a liquid element potentially allows for smaller zoom lenses, and lenses that maintain the same overall length as they're zoomed.

The patent includes designs for a variety of lenses, from a 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 for APS-C to a 10x optical zoom for a compact camera. The patent was first spotted over at Egami, where a few illustrations are featured alongside what scant details exist. It appears the patent was filed last year and just recently published this past August.

The patent also describes use of two different kinds of variable lens elements, including a liquid lens element as well as an elastic membrane element.  These lens elements could be used in conjunction with glass elements as detailed in several examples in the patent.

Liquid lenses are nothing new, and this isn't the first Canon patent we've seen which includes the technology. Back in May 2013, Egami found a similar patent detailing a liquid-based lens design. In that patent, Canon's design revolved around the use of electrodes in parallel around the lens' edges, making what are essentially individual pumps. Each pump can be independently used to adjust the lens' fluid levels, altering its shape. It's interesting to note that this particular patent includes a traditional mechanism for moving lens elements in addition to this variable magnification element.