Periscope lens: What is it, how does it work, and will it come to Apple’s iPhone 14 Pro?


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Apple is holding a special launch event on September 7, where the company is expected to announce its new iPhone 14 lineup. In typical Apple fashion, the tech giant didn’t say much in its invitation about its iPhone 14 event. The invite describes the September 7 event as “Far Out” with a graphic depicting an Apple logo floating in space, hinting at improvements made to the iPhone’s camera. The teaser words “far out” could mean anything, but it opens up possibilities of a periscope lens on at least one of the high-end iPhone models slated to launch in 2022. But what is a periscope lens, and why the time has come for Apple to increase zoom capabilities on the iPhone?

Optical zoom vs digital zoom

A lot many times companies rely on digital zoom, a software technique that crops and scales an image. This is an easy route to improve the picture quality without needing to adjust the camera optics but often leads to blurriness and pixelization despite the use of computational photography techniques. However, in the case of optical zoom, the camera’s optics are used to adjust the image to a higher optical resolution. The disadvantage is that fitting an optical zoom in a smartphone can make the device bulky and heavy. Remember the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom? It had a 10x optical zoom but the real optical zoom lens made the device extremely heavy. Also, the implementation of an optical zoom lens was a bit off.

The iPhone 7 Plus was the first iPhone to feature a 2x optical zoom. On the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, users get 3x optical zoom in and 2x optical zoom out when shooting photos (totalling 6x optical zoom range). Remember putting a high optical zoom lens in a device as slim as an iPhone is a lot difficult. This is the reason why the current-generation iPhone models are limited to 2x optical zoom. A periscope zoom lens can change the zoom capability of a smartphone.

A pericope lens means greater optical zoom for the iPhone. (Image credit: Anuj Bhatia/Indian Express)

What is a periscope lens?

To understand this concept better, think of how periscope – the word associated with submarines – works. The…