Camera modules in smartphones have rapidly improved over the past few years. Thanks to advances in sensor technology, optical image stabilization systems, faster apertures and clever software algorithms, smartphone image quality can rival and in some instances even surpass consumer level compact cameras.
However, when shooting scenes that require a longer focal length, for example sports or wildlife, the lack of optical zoom on smartphone cameras becomes a real limitation. There is simply no space for zoom lenses in today's super-thin smartphone bodies. While most models offer a digital zoom alternative, the image results tend to be dismal (with the notable exception of a couple of Nokia PureView devices).
Technology startup DynaOptics wants to change this and is developing new optical zoom technology that would fit into even the very slim bodies of current high-end devices. To achieve this, DynaOptics does away with the conventional zoom setup, which involves lens elements moving along the optical axis to change focal length. Instead, it uses a new system that achieves the same effect with aspherical lens elements moving laterally on a micron-scale.
Currently, the technology only exists in prototype format and the next challenge will be to miniaturize it further and get it ready for mass-production. DynaOptics has raised $2 million in funding and counts on its staff a team member who previously worked on camera modules for Foxconn, an Apple supplier. Considering this, the task should be a little easier and DynaOptics is planning to provide first engineering samples to smartphone manufacturers in the first quarter of 2015. You can read more about DynaOptics on the company website.
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