Samsung could be working on a smartphone with six rear cameras. According to a recently published patent, the company is looking to fit five wide-angle cameras and one telephoto lens on at least one of its upcoming smartphones.
The electronics giant filed for the patent, titled "Apparatus and method for operating multiple cameras for digital photography," at the World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO) back in December 2019. The patent was published earlier this month.
While a six-camera module is striking, Samsung has an even interesting take on this setup. The company is making the cameras tiltable, with each sensor being able to tilt independently of the others. Now that's a fascinating new vision for smartphone cameras.
Samsung smartphones could feature six cameras with a tilting mechanism
Smartphone cameras have evolved greatly over the past few years. Not only pixel counts but phone vendors have also been increasing the number of camera sensors with each passing generation, offering a variety of photography functionalities on their handsets.
While a quad-camera setup is a norm these days, HMD Global's Nokia 9 PureView arrived last year as the world's first smartphone with five cameras on the back. So six cameras wouldn't be such a big jump this year, or next year, for that matter.
By the looks of it, Samsung, a global leader in the smartphone image sensor industry, could be among the firsts to launch such a smartphone.
According to the patent documentation, this Samsung smartphone uses five wide-angle cameras with a focal length of 28mm. Normally, these cameras face the forward direction. However, the device could optimize the array configuration using special image processing algorithms.
The cameras can tilt both horizontally as well as vertically. This enables them to achieve a greater focal length, which may further help to produce a better image quality than if the sensors were immovable. The sensors can work together to deliver a sharper focus, higher dynamic range (HDR), and better low-light pictures.
As LetsGoDigital points out, this also enables the possibility of a bokeh effect on panoramic images. This feature is not yet available on any Samsung smartphone. Panoramic shots can also be captured without moving the device itself.
Samsung could design one of the sensors in this setup as the master camera. The other sensors would work with the master camera so that lower resolution cameras can also capture more details.
Tilting camera array could be a reality in a few years
As much as this sounds interesting, this form of array cameras may not arrive in a real device anytime soon. It has a high production cost, higher power consumption, and, of course, a big size.
Samsung, however, does have plans to minimize some of the shortcomings of this system. In the patent documentation, the company talks of using a pop-up mechanism in order to reduce the space occupied by the array inside the smartphone. The tilting cameras could pop-out and tilt freely in any direction.
As always, patent filings are never a confirmation that such a device is in the works. While we might soon start to see six cameras on the back of a smartphone, this tiltable technology may take some time to arrive. Perhaps, it's one for the future.