LG, a South Korean multinational conglomerate that was once a major player in the smartphone market. However, the company announced in 2020 that it would be discontinuing its smartphone business due to intense competition and declining profits. Despite this, LG has continued to operate in other areas, such as home appliances and electronic components. In fact, the company is still a major supplier of smartphone components to other manufacturers, including displays, chips, and camera modules.
Their LG Innotek arm is even going to unveil a new Telephoto Zoom camera module at CES 2023. What’s so special about this module? Well, it is likely the first smartphone camera module offering true and continuous optical zoom.
In many smartphone cameras, the telephoto lens offers a fixed level of magnification, such as 3x zoom. Before reaching this level of magnification, the camera may use digital zoom to enlarge the scene. Digital zoom is a technique that involves cropping and enlarging the center of the image, rather than physically adjusting the lens to change the focal length. While digital zoom can be useful for getting a closer look at an object or scene, it often results in a loss of resolution and image quality.
This is why, the new LG Innotek camera module is a game changer, as it actually offers a moving zoom actuator to offer seamless 4~9 times magnification.
Zoom actuator is a key component of the camera module that has definitive impact to the image quality. To obtain the high-definition filming material, the zoom actuator must move the lens quickly and accurately to set the focus. Especially, the ‘Optical Telephoto Zoom Camera Module’ has long lens moving distance (length of the lens moving section), so controlling the moving distance accurately is very important.
The zoom actuator developed by LG Innotek not only provides accuracy compared to the existing component, but also high moving speed and durability with less battery consumption. LG Innotek’s zoom actuator is also added with the control technology of moving the lens precisely in micrometer (㎛, 1m per 1 million) unit.
The new camera module also comes with OIS. Optical image stabilization (OIS), especially an important feature for telephoto lenses because it helps to reduce camera shake and blurry images when taking pictures at longer focal lengths. Telephoto lenses have a narrow field of view and a longer focal length, which means that they magnify the subject more than a wide-angle lens. This can make it more difficult to hold the camera steady, as even slight movements of the camera can result in blurry images.
The Sony Xperia 5 III, released earlier this year, actually had a very similar mechanism for its zoom lens. While the phone didn’t feature a free-flowing focal length change, it did switch between multiple focal lengths by shifting the lens slightly between two positions. Other manufacturers are also working on continuous optical zoom with moving lens, for example OPPO showcased an 85-200mm telephoto lens, which would largely eliminate the use of digital zoom for a wide range of focal lengths.
When are we seeing it on phones?
According to the press release LG Innotek will also closely work with QUALCOMM to optimize the software for optical continuous zoom on the Snapdragon® 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform. This could mean moving lens telephoto modules could be seen on smartphones as early as next year.
Although, given the company’s present focus on the flagship Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 platform, the module will mostly likely be seen on flagship phones. And that’s expected given such a ‘Optical Telephoto Zoom Camera Module’ would be more expensive to manufacture than traditional modules with fixed lens.
In particular, LG Innotek and Qualcomm Technologies are working closely to optimize software for optical continuous zoom that will be applied to the new premium Snapdragon® 8 Gen 2 Mobile Platform. It will enhance the image tuning custom for the optics, which includes Auto-Focus, Auto-Exposure, Auto-White Balance, lens shading correction and much more. Users will be able to focus quickly. And the photos and videos will have stunning image quality.
Starting with the release of products at CES 2023, which will be held next month, LG Innotek and Qualcomm Technologies plan to speed up joint promotions for global smartphone manufacturers.