Dual-lens camera promises better smartphone photos


May 12, 2014

Close-ups taken using a regular smartphone camera's digital zoom (left), and with the Corephotonics system (right)

Close-ups taken using a regular smartphone camera's digital zoom (left), and with the Corephotonics system (right)

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Although people may speak about zooming in with smartphone cameras, what they're doing isn't actual "zooming" in the telephoto-lens sense of the word. That's because almost all phone cameras just have a digital zoom, meaning that in order to get in closer on the subject, the phone just enlarges the pixels from the middle of the frame. The result is a grainy, crappy photo. While it is possible to squeeze optical zoom lenses into phones, Tel Aviv University spinoff company Corephotonics has developed a sleeker solution, that utilizes the combined output of two compact lenses.

The Corephotonics camera has one wide-angle lens and one telephoto lens, each with its own sensor. Data from those two sensors is "fused" by onboard software, to produce one composite image. More weight is given to one of the lenses or the other, depending on the zoom level chosen by the user – a maximum 3x zoom is possible when shooting stills, or 5x for 1080p HD video.

According to Prof. David Mendlovic, who co-invented the system with Dr. Gal Shabtay, the camera also offers better low-light performance and four times the resolution of a regular smartphone camera.

In order to accommodate the camera, phones reportedly require a decent amount of processing power, but nothing excessive. In fact, the system has been demonstrated with a processor "that is currently used in most high-end smartphones on the market."

Mendlovic states that a phone featuring the technology should be hitting the market in the first quarter of next year.

It should be noted, incidentally, that the Corephotonics system is unrelated to the dual-rear-camera-packing HTC One (M8) smartphone, which features one regular optical camera and one depth-sensing camera.

Sources: Tel Aviv University, Corephotonics

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth
1 Comment

I already have this dual-lens, non-extending system on a Kodak V610 camera:- two separate zoom lenses, 38 - 380mm maximum, overall 10x zoom, in a camera 2cm deep. Twin 6.1-megapixel sensors - not bad for a camera sold in 2006!

Now they just need to shoehorn the same thing into a phone, and it's surely a winner.

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