|Apple’s iPhone 12 Pro Max has a 5x ‘zoom’ camera (65mm full-frame equiv.), the longest yet used in an iPhone.|
To quote Ricky Bobby’s father, ‘If you’re not first, you’re last.’ While poignant, that mantra has never seemed to bother Apple, who has historically held off on newer technologies to ensure they’re ready for prime-time use by the masses.
The latest example of this is a new patent from Apple that details the schematics for a periscope camera module that we may one day see inside new iPhone models. Periscope cameras, also referred to as folded optics, reduce the depth of a camera module by placing the image sensor and — at least some of the — lenses perpendicular to the front optical elements and using a mirror (placed at a 45-degree angle) to redirect the light.
|Oppo’s periscope tele lens design.|
United States patent 11,092,773 was filed back on January 25, 2021 but published only yesterday, August 17, 2021. In its abstract, the patent explains the periscope camera module ‘may include one or more lens elements and light path folding elements’ and notes some versions could include ‘voice coil motor (VCM) actuator arrangements, carrier arrangements, and/or suspension arrangements to provide autofocus (AF) and/or optical image stabilization (OIS) movement.’
|An illustration from Apple’s patent showing a profile view of Apple’s periscope camera module. Click to enlarge.|
This isn’t the first periscope camera patent Apple has been granted, as just last month another patent was published detailing a similar design.
Huawei, Oppo, Samsung, Xiaomi and other manufacturers have already put this technology inside of its smartphones, but Apple has held off, for now. Past reports suggest we won’t see a periscope camera module inside an iPhone until at least 2023, but with an array of patents to choose from for its design, it’s clear Apple is in the process of going beyond the current 5x reach of its iPhone 12 Pro Max smartphone.
Update (August 18, 2021 at 11am EDT): A previous version of this article mentioned this was the first periscope camera patent from Apple that mentioned optical image stabilization. That was not the case and the article has been updated accordingly.