technology

LG presents a true optical zoom module for smartphones


LG is making headlines again in the telephony sector. While the Korean brand stopped marketing smartphones under its own brand in 2021, it nevertheless produces some of the components found in our current devices. And in 2023, it could well establish itself as a major player in mobile photography.

Before the CES, LG has indeed announced the upcoming availability of a photo module with continuous zoom for smartphones. The Optical Zoom Camera, of its small name, is able to provide a magnification of x4 to x9 with a single photo module. To understand why LG is so proud of its invention, you have to understand how zooming works on smartphones.

Smartphones don’t really zoom

On most current mobiles, zooming is done in two ways. Either in a purely software way, by cutting out part of the photo (and therefore losing quality), or by switching to a second photo module. Smartphones that offer a 2x, 4x or 10x zoom do not, most of the time, really move the lenses of their objectives as on a reflex camera. They just switch to a module with a higher focal length, but still fixed. This is the reason why manufacturers are multiplying photo modules on the back of smartphones.

LG’s module actually moves the lenses within the module, and can therefore use a single sensor with different zoom levels. This allows you to invest in a single very good photo sensor rather than multiplying the lower quality sensors of the secondary photo modules. Thus, photos with zoom can benefit from the same rendering quality as “standard” shots. LG promises that the module is able to move its lenses with micrometer precision. Optical stabilization is obviously part of it.

LG wants to eliminate the photo block

This is not the first time that a manufacturer has offered a module that is truly capable of zooming. Sony has used a similar module on its Xperia 1 IV, and Samsung uses a similar technology on some of its ultra high-end mobiles (you can see how such a module works in this video from iFixit.). But where LG wants to make a difference is in the thickness of its component. The Korean manufacturer indeed promises that its module is thin enough to eliminate the famous photo bulge that abounds on our current smartphones.

Without giving more information, the firm explains that it has “innovated on lens design and module structure” to achieve a zoom module that does not protrude from the body of the smartphone. LG has also worked hand in hand with Qualcomm to improve support for zoom modules on Snapdragon chips. The first devices with the LG module should land at CES 2023. Among LG’s customers, there is a certain Apple, which could well integrate this small module into its next iPhone.

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