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LG shows off optical zoom lens module that banishes the bump

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Today’s high-end smartphone cameras still rely heavily on computational imaging for some telephoto shots, but LG subsidiary LG Innotek looks set to change that with its new optical zoom camera technology.

Set to be officially unveiled at CES 2023 in early January but teased by the Korean company this week, the technology paves the way for improved image quality for zoom captures. The module’s compact design will also free up more space inside the phone — perhaps for a bigger battery or even a larger image sensor — and allow phone makers to banish the ugly camera bump found on many of today’s top handsets.

Most existing smartphone cameras enable optical zoom only in specific magnifications, with inferior digital zoom applied to other magnification ranges. It also means that the phone needs separate camera modules for each of those specific magnifications, resulting in the multi-lens devices we see today. LG’s module, on the other hand, zooms smoothly between the 4x and 9x range, allowing for a continuous high-quality optical image that avoids any of the degradation you get with digital zooms.

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LG says it developed the technology by integrating the telescopic camera functions found on DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

The tech company is working closely with Qualcomm to promote the adoption of its next-generation camera module, which has been optimized for the new premium Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip coming soon to flagship Android handsets. Apple is also a customer of LG Innotek and so could conceivably use the new technology for 2023’s iPhone 15.

As for the competition, Sony has already incorporated a similar technology for the 3.5x to 5.2x zoom lens on its flagship Xperia 1 IV phone, which launched earlier this year.

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