Apple’s iPhone is just about the best smartphone camera you can get, but a new patent application provides a good indication of how it could get even better. The patent is for a “small form factor telephoto camera (via AppleInsider) and describes how the company might make a camera with a narrower field of view, but a much higher magnification factor, as well as how such a camera might be paired with a wider angle unit like the one that’s already used in your current iPhone to give you a range of options on a single smartphone device.
The patent describes the mechanics behind creating a small lens suitable for use in a device like the iPhone, or the iPad and mobile Macs. In one version, the small camera would be built in such a way that you could adjust zoom using different focal ratios for true optical magnification. Apple’s current iPhone camera uses digital zoom, but this results in far more degradation of quality versus true optical magnification like those found in DSLR telephoto lenses, and compact cameras with traditional zoom lenses.
Apple’s patent application document mostly dives into the nitty gritty around how it would achieve different magnifications and what materials it would use, along with specific dimensions needed to construct the proper lenses involved in the system.
The most interesting piece may be that Apple includes a provision that would allow this new telephoto lens to be used right alongside the kind of general-purpose, wide-angle camera that’s currently found in the iPhone, which gives a much more expanded field of view suitable to more general everyday photography.
The patent application is a relatively new one, first filed in October 2013. On paper, it seems like a very worthwhile thing to pursue for Apple, since it would provide a significant lead in the mobile photography arena where it already has a reputation for outshining its competitors.
Two factors that might affect whether or not we ever see it actually implemented include component cost, and space within the case. Here’s hoping they do eventually ship it, or something like it, since built-in telephoto would pretty much eliminate any need I have to carry a dedicated camera.
Photo: Olloclip third-party accessory.