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The expected periscope camera system in a future iPhone could include actuators, allowing the lens to move for autofocus and optical image stabilization applications, without requiring a massive camera bump increase.
Apple’s use of a triple camera system in the iPhone 12 Pro gives a wide optical zoom range to its users. The use of three camera sensors is needed in such cases, as there’s not enough thickness in the device to enable a zoom lens to be used.
One way around that is a concept that has started to surface in some devices, referred to as periscope cameras and folded cameras, as used in Samsung’s Galaxy S20. These systems rely on an arrangement of lenses that reflect light at an angle, taking advantage of the width of the smartphone rather than the thickness.
Apple has been rumored to be working on a form of folding camera, intended for use in a future iPhone model.
While doing so can enable extremely long focal lengths, it does still rely on other elements to function. Chiefly, to allow for a range of focal lengths, the lens arrangement must be able to move, which entails creating a way to mount the lenses and to shift them around.
In a newly granted patent titled “Folded camera with actuator for moving optics,” Apple comes up with a number of ways to include folded optics and lens-shifting capabilities in a device.
In various embodiments, Apple suggests that the system could consist of two prisms, with a lens group of multiple elements between the pair. The prisms divert light along an axis to an imaging sensor, while the lens group handles various optical functions.
The lens group could be held in an inner carrier structure, which itself is connected to an outer carrier structure. Both structures can be moved, with one moving at right angles to the other, allowing for a lot of changes in angle and placement of the lens arrangement.