Apple has begun looking for suppliers of “folded cameras” in order to strengthen the optical zoom feature of its iPhones, according to Korea IT News.
A folded camera refracts light like a periscope and has lenses and sensors placed horizontally and not vertically. Korea IT News says that Apple plans to introduce triple cameras to its smartphone line. If a smartphone has a such a lens, it can provide a hybrid zoom range of 10X or even higher depending on the tunnel length and lens element arrangement.
Periscope lenses allow for greater optical zoom by bouncing light inside the phone off a mirror before passing it through another smaller lens which can be moved closer and further away from the sensor, amplifying the light even more.
Apple has been granted for periscope lens over the years. For example, in 2015, it was granted a parent for “Mirror Tilt Actuation” (pictured above) for an assembly the includes a folded optics arrangement such that light enters the lens and mirror assembly through a first lens with an optical axis of the first lens orthogonal to the plurality of moveable lens elements.
And last year the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple two patents for a periscope camera lens. The first was a “folded lens system with five refractive lenses” and the second patent was for “three refractive lenses.”