Most smartphones currently only have four rear cameras, although there are exceptions like the Nokia 9 PureView, the first smartphone with five rear cameras. However, with so many cameras, it becomes difficult to install all the sensors on the back of the phone. In the case of this patent, it seems that Samsung is targeting a horizontal camera bump, similar to that used on the Galaxy S10 series, except with double the number of sensors and double the height. We cannot say that we find this interesting.
The cameras themselves are five wide angle cameras, all identical or with a higher resolution “master” sensor, and a single telephoto camera. Besides the large amount of cameras, these sensors are unique in that they can be tilted in their casing to provide unique effects.
For example, the sensors on either side could be arranged to look in opposite directions to allow what the patent describes as a “pano-bokeh” – a panoramic shot with the blurred background, as well as others photo effects that are currently impossible on phones.
More generally, cameras can work together to create better focused, higher resolution images and high frame rate videos to capture fast moving objects by stitching their outputs. This could prove to be more versatile than a single sensor with equivalent resolution.
Although the depth of the relief of the camera is quite large, there is also a good reason for this. The patent also describes an exit mechanism that would allow cameras to enter and exit the phone body. This is not only to facilitate storage, but it could also help change the focal length of the sensors, which would help in focusing and zooming.
Samsung has a bit of history when it comes to adding mechanical components to its cameras. The Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S10 both had variable apertures mounted on their main sensors. However, for now, Samsung has adopted a strategy of using larger camera sensors for its cameras, such as the Galaxy S20 Ultra’s 108MP main sensor.
This patent points to a pivot (excuse the pun) for adding new features rather than growing pixels. This is a good idea because you get diminishing returns the higher the resolution of the sensor.
Apple has avoided the megapixel race with its iPhone cameras, sticking to a decent 12MP for several years while making other upgrades. It costs too, with the iPhone 11 Pro being one of our best camera phones alongside the Galaxy S20. We don’t expect the iPhone 12 to change much, apart from the iPhone 12 Pro with LiDAR depth sensor and 3x telephoto zoom.
We may have to wait a bit. The Galaxy Note 20’s next line of cameras follows the Galaxy S20 series, with the Note 20 Plus / Ultra apparently adding a dedicated focus sensor. Therefore, the sooner we see the camera network described in the patent will be on the Galaxy S30 from 2021. However, given another rumor, we could see a 150MP camera on the S30, maybe Samsung not finished with the search for the highest possible resolution.
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