Camera technology in smartphones has advanced rapidly in recent years. One innovation that has emerged is the periscope lens in a smartphone.
This camera tech allows for greater optical zoom capabilities that enhance your macro photography, your low-light photography and turns your phone into a creativity powerhouse.
But what exactly is a periscope lens? And is it worth having in your next smartphone?
This article will clear all of your doubts about periscope lenses in a smartphone and whether it’s a good have or a must have. Let’s get into it!
What Is a Periscope Lens in a Smartphone?
A periscope lens refers to a type of folded telescope lens system used in smartphone cameras. It contains a system of prisms and lenses that redirect light entering from the external lens at a 90-degree angle within the smartphone’s chassis or frame.
This allows the lens and sensor to be placed horizontally rather than vertically, enabling a longer actual focal length in a slim device.
Typically, periscope lenses use concave lenses to achieve the zoom functionality.
How Does Periscope Lens Work in a Smartphone?
The periscope lens utilizes a ‘prism system’ with a primary external lens, a secondary internal redirecting lens, and an image sensor. When you engage zoom, the motors move the lenses on their tracks, adjusting the focal length and field of view.
Light enters from the external lens vertically. Then it is reflected 90 degrees via a prism or mirror into the internal lens and sensor horizontally.
This sideways redirection means the telephoto lens and sensor can extend further into the phone’s body for greater magnification in a streamlined design. Genius, isn’t it!
What is a Periscope Lens Used For in a Smartphone?
Smartphones use periscope lenses to achieve greater optical zoom capabilities from their small form factors.
Most smartphone cameras rely on digital zoom or hybrid zoom, which degrades quality. Optical zoom maintains image quality and resolution at increased magnifications.
So smartphone makers use these folded lens arrangements with longer built-in lenses to provide lossless zoom up to 5x, 10x, or even greater. Result? Better macro shots and better zoom capabilities.
This zoom performance approaches that of dedicated handheld cameras in a slim smartphone profile.
How Much Do Periscope Cameras Zoom in a Smartphone?
Zoom capabilities offered by periscope lenses in smartphones today typically range from 5X up to 10X optical magnification.
For example, the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra offers 10X optical zoom and 100X digital zoom with its periscope. While the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s periscope enables 5X optical zoom (120mm zoom) and 25X digital zoom.
So current offerings land in the 5-10x optical zoom range, with digital zoom pushing total magnification even further through AI and processing.
What are the Benefits of Periscope Lens in a Smartphone?
There are several notable benefits periscope camera lenses bring to smartphones, including:
1. Greater Optical Zoom
This is the main advantage, achieving up to 10x optical magnification versus standard 5x hybrid zoom lenses. This zoom quality is superior.
2. Larger Sensors
The extra space allowed by the sideways light path permits larger image sensors for improved overall photo and video quality in good lighting.
3. Enhanced Low Light Photos
Bigger sensors combined with wider apertures, often f/3 or wider, provide improved low light photography performance.
4. High Res Detailed Shots
Greater usable magnification lets users capture more detailed distant shots that look great even when zooming in or cropping.
What are the Drawbacks of Periscope Lens in a Smartphone?
There are also a few drawbacks or limitations to consider with current periscope smartphone cameras:
1. Increased Cost
Adding this more complex and taller internal lens/sensor arrangement demands a higher component cost that generally raises the retail price of devices somewhat.
2. Protruding Main Lens
While internal, the external lens still protrudes visibly. So devices lose some smoothness versus flush rear designs.
3. No Improvement to Main Lens
The standard wide and ultrawide lenses don’t receive upgrades apart from the zoomed lens. So standard shooting quality may lag rivals.
4. Durability Concerns
There are concerns about durability and impacts disabling the delicate optical zoom mechanisms. Manufacturing tolerances must also be ultra precise.
Is Buying a Smartphone with Periscope Lens Worth It?
If you’re planning to buy a smartphone, you might be wondering about this question. So, the answer to this lies in: it depends!
For the average casual shooter who takes mostly standard wide shots and close-range portraits, the optical zoom likely offers limited benefits that don’t justify paying such premium prices.
But for photography enthusiasts, periscope lenses provide a worthy upgrade in reach and retain quality for distant cityscapes, architecture, sports, wildlife, and moon shots.
But this doesn’t mean it’s not a good feature to have. Let’s be real – 99% of the time you won’t use it. But in 1% scenarios, you’ll realize how great this thing is! So, I’d say go for it.
Telephoto zoom up to 10x is extremely versatile. And as the technology matures and demand increases, prices should also become more affordable in the near future.
Periscope camera lenses are an intriguing innovation bringing unprecedented zoom capabilities and photography versatility to smartphone cameras.
The extended internal arrangement enables 5-10x optical as well as digital zoom ranges not possible with previous mobile devices thanks to folded optics redirecting light sideways.
And if the zoom functionality appeals to your shooting style, a periscope lens model provides optical quality that simply can’t be matched by digital means alone. This makes it well worth considering for your next device purchase if you can afford it.