Apple has been working on a new zoom lens system for iDevices for some time now. In February we posted a report titled "Apple Reveals a Zoom Lens Breakthrough for Future iDevices," and in March we posted a granted patent report titled "Apple Granted a Major Camera Patent that could lead to a True Zoom Lens for future iDevices, Macs and TVs." Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals their work on a new dual camera zoom lens system for future iDevices and beyond.
Apple's latest zoom camera invention covers methods and/or systems for using multiple cameras to provide optical zoom to a user. Some embodiments include a first camera unit of a multifunctional device capturing a first image of a first visual field. A second camera unit of the multifunctional device simultaneously captures a second image of a second visual field. In some embodiments, the first camera unit includes a first optical package with a first focal length. In some embodiments, the second camera unit includes a second optical package with a second focal length.
In some embodiments, the first focal length is different from the second focal length, and the first visual field is a subset of the second visual field. In some embodiments, the first image and the second image are preserved to a storage medium as separate data structures.
In some embodiments, the camera system includes a processing unit configured to assign to the first image and the second image a time indexing feature for establishing that the first image and the second image were simultaneously captured. In some embodiments, the first camera unit includes a lens having a folded lens configuration with a longer focal length than a lens of the second camera unit, and the second visual field is centered on a second visual axis aligned with a first visual axis on which the first visual field is centered.
Apple's patent FIG. 3A noted above illustrates a view of an example embodiment of camera module components arranged for multiple visual fields usable for a multiple camera system for portable zoom. A portable multifunction device 3080 includes a first optical sensor/camera unit 3082 with a first focal length 3090 for capturing a first visual field 3088 and a second optical sensor/camera unit 3084 with a first focal length 3092 for capturing a second visual field 3086.
In Apple's patent FIG. 3C noted above we're able to see a depiction of a folded-optics camera configuration for use with in portable multifunction device such as an iPhone. Apple's patent FIG. 3C also shows us a cross-section through the optical stack of the camera (image capture device package 307), an image sensor substrate assembly (#327), and a lens group (#337) and a mirror (#357) which is used to fold the optics, and is, in some embodiments, nominally mounted at 45 degrees to the optical axis of all the lens elements.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4 noted above we're able to see a user interface for a multiple camera system for portable zoom. An iPhone displays a first image of a first visual field (#404) captured by a first camera unit and a second image of a second visual field (#402) simultaneously captured by a second camera unit of the iPhone (or other multifunction device).
In Apple's patent FIG. 5 we see a basic workflow chart of a method usable in a multiple camera system for portable zoom.
The new Zoom System Could also be used with an advanced Gaming Controller
Under "multifunctional devices" segment of the patent filing Apple notes that "In some embodiments, the device is a portable communications device, such as a mobile telephone, that also contains other functions, such as PDA and/or music player functions. Other portable electronic devices, such as laptops, cameras, cell phones, or tablet computers, may also be used. It should also be understood that, in some embodiments, the device is not a portable communications device, but is a desktop computer with a camera. In some embodiments, the device is a gaming computer with orientation sensors (e.g., orientation sensors in a gaming controller). In other embodiments, the device is not a portable communications device, but is a camera.
Apple patent application 20160007008 was filed in Q2 2015. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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