There could be a bigger optical zoom in Apple's next iPhone 14 and I couldn't be more excited.
There's reason to believe that Apple is preparing to put an ultra-zoom-capable camera (greater than the current 3X) in the next iPhone. According to camera module maker TheElec, Jahwa Electronics, which builds modules that combine optical image stabilization (OIS) and autofocus, gave Apple a tour of the South Korean company's facility in Gumi, and Jahwa is now spending 191 billion won to build a complete system. new production line to support a new device.
Admittedly, those two - Apple Tour and a fresh install - don't necessarily equate to Apple iPhone 14 Pro ultra or superzoom, but I'm willing to read the tea leaves. And it's not just me.
9to5Mac notes that Jahwa provides camera modules to Samsung and that Jahwa technologies are often used to support a periscope camera system.
you need a periscope
An example of what you can do with Periscope Space Zoom on a Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra (Image credit: Future)
Why is the periscope so important?
With the iPhone 13 Pro, Apple ran into the physical limits of linear lens technology and only offers 3X optical zoom, while rivals like Samsung manage 10X.
The only way to get this level of zoom is to increase the distance between the lens on the outside of the smartphone and the sensor. Samsung has solved this puzzle by building a pericope design inside the phone that sends the image from the lens through a prism where it rotates 90 degrees to travel a greater distance to a sensor that points to the top edge of the phone.
Apple can't pass the 3X (or possibly 5X) optical zoom threshold without introducing similar technology. While it's not building it on its own, it makes sense for Apple to work with a third-party vendor. It's also Apple's practice to demand custom design and manufacturing from its partners, which brings us back to this new Jahwa production facility.
Can Jahwa build this factory to supply camera modules that could include periscope technology in time for the iPhone 14's expected launch in September or October 2022? Maybe not and most industry analysts, including famed industry oracle Ming-Chi Kuo, believe we won't see a Periscope iPhone until 2023.
Still, an iPhone fan can dream, and to be honest, I don't know if Apple can afford to wait another year while rivals like Samsung run away on the optical zoom front.
A larger zoom doesn't just affect optical options. As we've seen with Samsung, once you have a longer optical zoom, you can combine it with clever imaging algorithms and AI to create things like Space Zoom.
When I tested the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra earlier this year, I was amazed at what it could capture with the 30X and 100X space zoom. I don't think any of this would have been possible without the 10X optical zoom as a base. (You can see a sample image above).
Apple has a long history of industry-leading image processing. Imagine what it could do with a 10X optical zoom supported by a periscope. By the way, support for autofocus and optical image stabilization, which Jahwa brings to the mix, is crucial when you crank up the zoom level. Higher zoom, both optical and digital, means every little movement and handshake is multiplied tenfold, and without OIS and autofocus all zoomed footage could look like a blurry mess.
An Apple iPhone 14 Pro with Periscope-compatible zoom this year or next isn't a done deal, but all the pieces seem to be falling into place and, I think, Apple knows it's time to up its zoom game.