There could be a new feature added to the cameras on future iPhones. Patents submitted and granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office seem to point to a telescopic lens. There are two patents that show multiple lenses in front of an angled mirror. A configuration like this allows for better telephoto optics without having to increase the camera bump size.
Apple camera patents
The two patents that have been granted are for a folded lens system with multiple refractive lenses. The first patent uses five refractive lenses and the second one has three stacked lenses. These are stacked in front of an angled mirror, similar to a telescope.
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Stacking the multiple lenses this way within the body of the smartphone means the camera lens doesn't need to protrude out to get a telephoto shot. This configuration has actually already been used on a smartphone. The Huawei P30 Pro is able to do a 5x telephoto zoom due to stacked lenses and an angled mirror.
The Apple camera 5 lens version will be able to offer a 35mm focal length with a range of 50 to 85mm. On the three-part lens you will get a 35mm focal length with a range of 80-200mm. The configuration will be good for both wide-angle and telephoto shots.
Due to stacking the lenses horizontally down the phone body rather than horizontally, Apple can put more lenses in without having a bulky camera module on the back of the phone. Adding more optical zoom is always welcome as the digital zoom doesn't deliver the same results.
The patents being granted means that we could be seeing this new tech on the latest iPhone models. Whether it can be perfected in time for the iPhone 12 is not known. It might not be included in the 2020 iPhone but maybe a later model.
As this configuration has already proved successful in a Huawei device we may see other manufacturers jumping on this bandwagon too. For now, Apple looks to be chasing Huawei in a bid to compete for the best camera phone moniker.