Prior to its event at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday, China’s Oppo — currently the fourth largest smartphone maker in the world — promised to shake the world of smartphone photography with its “5x” technology.
Now, we know what Oppo was referring to: A 5x lossless zoom, previously unheard of on a smartphone (unless it had a huge, bulging lens on the back).
Oppo’s technology consists of two lenses. One is fairly standard, and another is what Oppo calls a “periscope” lens — a horizontally-positioned telescope lens that gets its light through a prism, similar to the way a submarine periscope works. The entire setup is only 5.7mm thick, meaning it could easily fit on a smartphone with a tiny bump.
The 5x zoom, which Oppo does not call “optical” but claims is “lossless,” is not the only breakthrough here. The other tech is a new optical image-stabilization feature, which Oppo says will achieve 40 percent better performance than “previous solutions.”
In practice, this should result in a phone camera that can zoom in far beyond even the iPhone 7 Plus’ 2x secondary camera and get non-blurry photos even if your hands are shaking. That’s important, because every little movement will be picked up at that magnification level.
Oppo claims it filed more than 50 patents for this technology, which took more than a year to develop.
But while the company had a non-branded device showcasing the tech, there were no announcements as to when we’ll actually see it in a phone we can buy.
If it works as advertised, it’ll be an interesting development for smartphone photography. Lack of optical zoom has long been one of the bigger differentiating factors between a smartphone camera and a standalone camera; with Oppo’s tech, point-and-shoot cameras might just die out completely.