Newly-revealed plans detail how Apple could strike back against the latest flagship smartphones from Samsung and Huawei.

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Apple’s iPhone flagships come with impressive cameras, but still lag behind the best of the competition when it comes to Zoom performance. Now, a new patent filing details Apple’s plans to fight back with a potentially superior, periscopic zoom lens design.

Compact telephoto lenses, such as those found in smartphones, typically sacrifice quality in favor of small size. Apple’s new patent focuses specifically on mitigating such sacrifices through the use of various combinations of lenses, mirrors and prisms in order to capture high-brightness, high-resolution images with optical image stabilization.

Periscopic, or ‘folded’, telephoto lenses have already found widespread use in rival flagship smartphones, such as those from Huawei and Samsung, but Apple is yet to join the party despite having filed a similar patent of its own back in 2015. This new patent, however, places considerably more emphasis on image quality, which bodes well for future iPhone cameras.

According to the patent text, Apple aims to achieve wide apertures in the range of F2.8 to F3.5 (lower numbers are better) along with 4-6x optical telephoto and high-resolution imaging. 

This could give future iPhones optical performance in the same ballpark as rivals such as Samsung’s S21 Ultra, which instead offers twin telephoto lenses delivering 3x telephoto at F2.4 and 10x telephoto at F4.9 respectively.  If this is the case, Apple looks set to close that final camera performance gap once and for all. This, coupled with Apple’s recently revealed external camera technology suggests an exciting future for the iPhone camera.

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