Glass Imaging has developed a smartphone camera unit with anamorphic and optical periscope systems. This allows you to significantly increase the size of the matrix with the same thickness of the gadget, which in turn allows you to increase the sensitivity to light and the resolution of the camera.
The difference between the photo quality of smartphones and large professional cameras has been significantly reduced a few years ago: for example, they started shooting much better in low light and learned how to create a realistic background blur. But these successes were achieved mainly with the help of algorithms, you can read more about it in our great material “Mathematics with Vision”. The dimensions of the matrices and lenses have also increased, which is why almost all flagship smartphones now have a camera unit that protrudes from the body, but is still incomparably smaller than the matrices and lenses of SLR and mirrorless cameras. This is due to the fact that as the size of the uterus increases, it is necessary to increase the focal length of the lens, due to which it becomes thicker. Since smartphones are limited in thickness to about one centimeter for various reasons, they are actually limited in size by the matrices and optical systems of their cameras.
The solution to the problem of focal length on smartphones in 2018 was proposed by the Chinese Oppo. He then developed a periscope camera unit, in which the optical system is at a 90-degree angle to the surface of the gadget, due to which the thickness restriction actually disappears. Since then, this design has been used in mass-produced smartphones by many manufacturers. This makes it possible to apply multiple optical zooms to a thin device, but it does not solve the problem of the matrix: even in the standard 4/3, which is small by the standards of professional cameras, the height of the matrix is 13.5 mm. which is much more than the thickness of almost all modern smartphones (not to mention the fact that the case and other components do not allow the use of full thickness).
Glass Imaging proposed to complement the design of the periscope with an anamorphic lens and an elongated matrix. In classic anamorphic lenses, part of the optics of the optical system has a cylindrical design, which allows you to change the proportions of the frame and “adjust” a wide field of view on film or photometer with the usual aspect ratio of 3: 2. The horizontally compressed distorted image is then stretched backwards using a program or projector to get the familiar proportions when viewing a movie.
The company’s original camera unit uses a combination of rectangular and cylindrical lenses, but compresses the image vertically rather than horizontally. This allows the use of an elongated photometer, the elongated frame of which is stretched vertically in normal proportions using algorithms. The size of the matrix is 24 by 8 millimeters and the area is 192 square millimeters. For comparison, the area of the largest die in the iPhone 13 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra is 44 and 69 square millimeters, respectively.
The company notes that the new design will allow smartphones to use conventional-sized cameras with much higher sensitivity and resolution of light (with the same pixel size), as well as more realistic background blur without the use of computer photo algorithms. It is worth noting that the Glass Imaging approach suggests a fundamental drawback: in the size of an image, a neural network is used that increases the resolution, so in some circumstances it can produce visual artifacts. At the same time, such algorithms have been around for several years and are being developed by leading IT companies and research groups, so their quality is constantly increasing and is at a high level.
Glass Imaging plans to sell anamorphic camera units to smartphone makers, but it is not yet known when this design will appear on mass-produced devices.
Earlier, we talked about other unusual designs designed to improve the quality of smartphone downloads. For example, Xiaomi has developed lenses with a telescopic design and a liquid lens. And in the fall of 2021, Apple was the first to incorporate matrix stabilization into a mass-produced smartphone in which the matrix rotates to compensate for gadget movement.