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Second report says 2022 iPhones could offer up to 10x optical zoom

A second report says that Apple is working on using periscope lenses in future iPhones, which could enable up to 10x optical zoom without increasing the thickness of the phone or the size of the camera bump.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo first saw supply chain indications of the plans last summer, predicting that the technology would be used in 2022 iPhones

Kuo details Apple’s plans for its iPhone camera suppliers. Kuo believes that Semco and Sunny Optical (the ‘best’ Korean and Chinese lens suppliers respectively) are joining the iPhone supply chain this year […]

In 2022, Kuo believes the iPhone will feature periscope telephoto lenses manufactured by Semco.

A paywalled Digitimes report backs this report, with TNW even making the unlikely suggestion in its headline that we might see periscope lenses used in next year’s iPhones – though it does walk back this idea in the copy.

The next iPhone may include a Samsung periscope lens.

Digitimes reported that Apple is looking to improve the camera set-up of its next devices — and the way it wants to do this is by beefing up its phones’ zooming capabilities.

It appears though that rather than build this functionality by itself, Apple is looking to partner with South Korean companies in order to make it a reality. And, although nothing has been finalized, Apple may use a Samsung periscope lens.

Periscope lenses offer up to 10x optical zoom

We previously explained how periscope lenses work. The key principle is that longer lenses sit sideways inside the camera body, rather than needing to stick out.

You may not be familiar with periscopes unless you’re a submarine fan or old enough to have had one as a childhood toy. Essentially it’s a tube with two 45-degree lenses mounted at either end of them. You look into one end and can see an image reflected from the other end.

A periscope lens uses the same principle, but with just a single mirror, to bend the light 90 degrees.

[This allows] greater optical zoom. How much optical zoom is an open question. Although the periscope design means Apple doesn’t have to worry about the thickness of the iPhone, it does still have to find room inside the casing for whatever physical lens length the company chooses. Component space is at a premium inside the case, so there are still limits.

However, Samsung’s Galaxy S20 Ultra uses a periscope lens to provide a 10x optical zoom, so that is clearly practical in a modern smartphone

Check out our explainer, with video, to get a better handle on how this works.

Given that next year is likely to be an S year, whatever naming convention Apple chooses, it’s unlikely that we’d see such a fundamental design change to the interior layout of the phones. That means that Kuo is likely correct that we won’t see periscope lenses until 2022.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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