Apple granted patent for periscope camera module that would give future iPhones 3x optical ‘zoom’: Digital Photography Review

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Apple a patent relating to a periscope camera system that we could one day see inside an iPhone.

UPSTO patent number 11,061,213 lays out the framework for a folded camera system that uses a pair of prisms, a lens array and an image sensor to create a telephoto-style camera system, complete with autofocus and/or optical image stabilization. This kind of ‘periscope’ camera module is nothing new in the smartphone world as Samsumg, Xiaomi, Vivo and others have developed similar mechanisms. But we believe this to be the first granted patent from Apple showcasing the schematics and description for a folded camera module.

A chronological breakdown of how an image capture using the periscope camera module would work.

Within the ‘Summary of Embodiments’ section of the patent, Apple says the lens would provide a ‘low F-number (e.g., <=2.4), 3 times optical zoom, and high resolution imaging.’ Since the ‘3 times optical zoom’ is usually relative to the standard camera module on a smartphone, if we assume Apple uses the same 26mm (full-frame equiv.) main camera found in the iPhone 12, we could expect this camera module to be somewhere in the range of 75–85mm (full-frame equiv.).

As with all patents, there’s no knowing when, if at all, Apple will release an iPhone with a periscope camera module, but newer leaks and rumors regarding the next-generation iPhone models does suggest the camera array will be even larger than that of the iPhone 12 lineup. Could that extra size be needed for a folded optic camera module? We’ll just have to wait and see.

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