Patently Apple has discovered that Apple has been granted for a folded camera system, often referred to as a ‘periscope camera’. In the simplest sense, this type of camera system works by incorporating light folding components, also known as ‘prisms’.
The prisms provide a “folded” optical axis for the camera, for example to reduce the Z-height of the camera. The lens system includes a lens stack including one or more refractive lens elements mounted in a lens barrel, and an aperture stop located at or in front of a first lens element in the stack. A first prism redirects light from an object field from a first axis (AX 1) to the lens system on a second axis (AX 2). The lens element(s) in the lens stack receive the light through the aperture stop and refract the light to a second prism that redirects the light onto a third axis (AX 3) on which a photosensor of the camera is disposed. The redirected light forms an image plane at or near the surface of the photosensor.Patently Apple
Such a system aims to enable enhanced optical zoom capabilities with longer distances and higher image resolution for distant subjects. It’s perhaps unsurprising that Apple is working on such a feature. Samsung and others have implemented similar systems in their respective devices and have heavily marketed these capabilities.
Apple has been quite conservative in regards to some of its camera technology. In particular image resolution and optical zoom. Apple prefers to use sensors with bigger pixels rather than more pixels (or higher megapixel count in basic terms). This has the benefit of allowing more light to hit the sensor and provide enhanced low light performance. But perhaps Apple now feels confident that folded camera technology will enable them to have both large image sensors with greater optical zoom, but with higher pixel counts
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