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How Periscope camera phones with Optical Zoom work and why you should get one

Periscope camera phones may be new, but they use a system that has been around for a while. A periscope is an optical instrument that uses a system of lenses, mirrors, or prisms to reflect images through a tube. The result is that better camera zooming can be achieved.

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In camera phones, a periscope lens achieves the same thing, making optical zooming possible on mobile devices. The difference between digital and optical zoom is that the former is in-camera image processing, while the latter is true zoom – using a system of lenses, instead of software processing.

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In terms of photo quality, the difference is huge: optical zoom produces much better results than digital zoom. Before periscope lenses appeared in mobile phones, optical zoom higher than 2x was impossible, but now, we have periscope camera phones providing up to 5x optical zooming. A combination of optical and digital zoom makes up to 60x hybrid zoom possible on some periscope camera lenses.

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oppo find x2 pro periscope camera phone

How does periscope optical zoom camera work?

When you zoom with a periscope camera, an external lens captures an image, bounces it off a mirror, and sends the image via another lens to the camera’s sensor. This sytem allows for serious zooming capabilities to be built into today’s thin smartphones.

Huawei periscope camera phone

Huawei has been a leader in the release of smartphones with a periscope . The success stories of its P-series phones will be incomplete without a mention of periscope optical zoom. Huawei P30 Pro set the ball rolling and was the top camera phone of its time, winning several awards, including EISA BEst Smartphone for 2019-2020. Its successor, Huawei P40 Pro, will feature a periscope camera as well.

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Huawei P40 Pro PE - Premium Edition
Huawei P40 Pro PE – Premium Edition – has a periscope lens camera

Samsung periscope camera phone

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra made a splash in 2020 with its 108MP quad camera, but that is not the whole story. In the camera setup is a periscope lens as well, making optical zoom possible on the device.

Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra 100x super Resolution Zoom - digital zoom or optical zoom

The S20 Ultra offers 4x optical zoom, along with “100x Space Zoom”. Don’t get too excited about the latter, as it is fancy branding for digital zoom. The ace is the optical zoom.

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OPPO periscope camera phone

OPPO Find X2 Pro was announced in March 2020 and immediately shot to the limelight and the top of camera phone rankings, thanks to its 64MP triple camera. That camera includes a periscope lens that provides 5x optical zoom and hit the top of DXMark’s rankings [1]. Another smartphone with a periscope camera lens had stolen the show.

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Are there any other periscope camera phones?

A handful of other periscope zoom phones have been announced, released, or are in the works. These include: vivo APEX 2020 and OPPO Reno2 5G, among others. One thing is sure: more phone makers will embrace the technology and release smartphones with periscope camera lenses.

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Should you get one? If zooming is important to you and you want to get the best possible images when you zoom on your smartphone, you should. Optical zoom is so much better than digital zoom that there is no contest: a camera phone with a periscope lens is what you need if zooming is important to you. As always, the best camera technology is found on the most expensive smartphones. That means, keep your eyes out for new premium flagship phones.

Eventually, the technology will become more affordable and filter down to mid-rangers, but that will take a while. For now, premium phones like Huawei P30 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra, OPPO Find X2 Pro, vivo APEX 2020, and OPPO Reno2 5G and their competitors are all you have got to pick from. The creme-de-la-creme.

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References

  1. OPPO Find X2 Pro camera review: LINK.
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