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How Oppo fit a 10x zoom camera into its 5G phone

In 2015, Israeli-based Corephotonics — which was reportedly acquired by Samsung earlier this year — approached Oppo with a cunning concept consisting of a normal camera plus a 3x zoom periscope. This “folded camera optics” solution boosted the overall zoom range to a more practical 5x, yet it was able to maintain a slim component height as the telephoto lenses could stick to similar diameters.

Li was convinced, and by the end of 2015, his team pulled some resources together to start designing a new camera based on Corephotonics’ solution. The first component samples came out in mid-2016, and these would eventually evolve into the demos shown at MWC 2017. As to why this wasn’t commercialized soon afterwards, Li explained that there were still many hurdles surrounding the optics assembly method, optical stabilization in the periscope and lossless transition between the two cameras.

Most interestingly, Li confessed that the periscope’s prism in the original design was prone to detachment, and this was partly due to the prism’s single-axis stabilization. Consequently, a revised design swapped things around: The prism was tasked with dual-axis stabilization, whereas the group of telephoto lenses only had to deal with autofocus. Problem solved. In fact, dual-axis stabilization is actually easier to apply to the prism than the much heavier set of lenses, anyway.

Oppo Reno 10x Zoom

Fast forward to today, Li’s team boosted the hybrid zoom range once again to 10x using a more powerful 5x zoom periscope, while achieving an impressive f/3.0 aperture thanks to two large D-cut lenses. To put things into perspective, the P30 Pro’s telephoto camera has a slower f/3.4 aperture. The downside is that this new camera module comes in at 6.76mm thick instead of the old 5.7mm, but given how it’s vertically aligned down the middle of the Reno 10x Zoom (and Reno 5G, for that matter), I’m OK with that so long as it delivers.

Understandably, Li refused to comment on the competition, so it’ll be interesting to compare the telephoto modes and low-light modes on the Reno 10x Zoom and the P30 Pro. The pre-production Reno 10x Zoom I’ve been given still packs non-final camera firmware (plus a China version of ColorOS 6, based on Android 9), so I’ll save the camera shoot-out for another time.

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