Evidence has been mounting in respect to Apple working on an advanced mechanical zoom or telephoto lens system for future iDevices. On February 12, we posted a patent application report titled "Apple Reveals a Zoom Lens Breakthrough for Future iDevices." Then on March 24, 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 a new patent application from Apple was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office titled "Small Form Factor Telephoto Camera." The patent applies to all of Apple's iDevices, MacBooks and a possible future standalone camera. Apple's invention describes a new lens system that could include as many as five lens elements with refractive power.
Apple's Patent Background
The advent of small, mobile multipurpose devices such as smartphones and tablet or pad devices has resulted in a need for high-resolution, small form factor cameras for integration in the devices. However, due to limitations of conventional camera technology, conventional small cameras used in such devices tend to capture images at lower resolutions and/or with lower image quality than can be achieved with larger, higher quality cameras. Achieving higher resolution with small package size cameras generally requires use of a photosensor with small pixel size and a good, compact imaging lens system. Advances in technology have achieved reduction of the pixel size in photosensors. However, as photosensors become more compact and powerful, demand for compact imaging lens system with improved imaging quality performance has increased.
Apple Invents a Small Form Factor Telephoto Camera System
Apple's invention generally relates to camera systems, and more specifically to high-resolution, small form factor telephoto camera systems.
A camera is described that includes a photosensor and a compact telephoto lens system. Embodiments of a compact telephoto lens system are described that may provide a larger image and with longer effective focal length than has been realized in conventional small form factor cameras. Embodiments of the telephoto camera may be implemented in a small package size while still capturing sharp, high-resolution images, making embodiments of the camera suitable for use in small and/or mobile multipurpose devices such as cell phones, smartphones, pad or tablet computing devices, laptop, netbook, notebook, subnotebook, and ultrabook computers. In some embodiments, a telephoto camera as described herein may be included in a device along with a conventional, wider-field small format camera, which would for example allow the user to select between the different camera formats (telephoto or wide-field) when capturing images with the device.
Embodiments of a compact telephoto lens system are described that include five lens elements with refractive power. In addition, embodiments of a compact telephoto lens system are described that include four lens elements with refractive power. In embodiments, at least one of the object side and image side surfaces of at least one of the lens elements is aspheric.
In embodiments of the compact telephoto lens system, the lens element materials may be selected and the refractive power distribution of the lens elements may be calculated to satisfy a lens system effective focal length requirement and to correct chromatic aberrations and the field curvature or Petzval sum. The monochromatic and chromatic variations of optical aberrations may be reduced by adjusting the radii of curvature and aspheric coefficients or geometrical shapes of the lens elements and axial separations to produce well-corrected and balanced minimal residual aberrations, as well as to reduce the total track length (TTL) and to achieve quality optical performance and high image resolution in a small form factor telephoto camera.
Apple's patent FIG. 13 illustrated below is a cross-sectional illustration of an example embodiment of a compact telephoto camera including a compact telephoto lens system that includes five lens elements with refractive power in which the aperture stop is located between the first and second lens elements.
The patent figure noted below is from a Granted Patent that we covered last month. Note the "zoom lens" area in the figure below compared to the new patent figure above and see the similarities of a true zoom lens system is in the works. The latest invention shows that the lens system has advanced to providing more lenses.
Apple's camera related patent is very complex and not easy reading for the general public. The details of the patent application may appeal to camera buffs and/or engineers. The invention covers the following: Small Form Factor Telephoto Camera; Compact Telephoto Lens System; Example Lens System Tables; and Example Computing Devices. To review this patent application, click here.
Apple credits Romeo Mercado as the sole inventor of patent application 20150116569 which was originally filed in Q4 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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