This year, smartphone manufacturers started the second round of their camera technology competition.
Smartphone industry sources said on Jan. 31 that Samsung Electronics would strengthen the camera functions of the Galaxy smartphone by acquiring Israeli camera start up Corephotonics recently. Earlier this year, LG Electronics also set up a camera research lab.
Last year, manufacturers focused on increasing the number of front and rear cameras. Experts predict that smartphones coming out this year will have products that enhance shooting convenience, such as a 5x optical zoom function in addition to various angles of view.
Samsung Electronics recently acquired Corephotonics according to major foreign news outlets such as Forbes. By taking over the start-up, Samsung Electronics can either improve product performances or secure related patents. Corephotonics is well known for having a patent for camera optical zooms. The optical zoom function enlarges the size of an object by placing two or more lenses at appropriate intervals. The slimmer a smartphone is, the more difficult it is to widen the gap between lenses. For this reason, the optical zoom of most smartphones is only two to three times. You can enlarge a photo ten-fold with a digital zoom that enlarges only image pixels, but its picture quality deteriorates.
Corephotonics has patented x10 to x20 optical zoom technology. The company also has multi-camera technology to take pictures by combining two or more cameras. Foreign news media outlets are predicting that the Galaxy S10 that Samsung Electronics will unveil in San Francisco on Feb. 22, will also be loaded with Corephotonics technology. They say that the the Galaxy S10 will have two cameras on the front and three cameras on the back.
Corephotonics is also well known as a partner of Chinese smartphone maker Oppo. In 2017, the company filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that Apple infringed upon its optical zoom and telephoto lens patents. In the same year, Corephotonics took the wraps off its 5x optical zoom smartphone technology at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) by cooperating with China's smartphone maker Oppo. The company now has 10x optical zoom camera technology at the commercialization level.
"Samsung's acquisition of Corephotonics will enable Samsung to load innovative camera technology into smartphones," Forbes said. "This will sharpen Samsung’s competitiveness not only against Chinese manufacturers, but also against Apple’s and Google's smartphones."
LG Electronics set up a camera research lab earlier this year as a unit directly under the head of the MC Research Center. LG Electronics introduced its premium smartphone V40 with three cameras on the back for the first time in Korea last year.
LG Electronics will launch the G8, the sequel of G7 which upgraded its camera technology to a new level through the camera research lab. In the smartphone industry, LG Electronics is expected to load smartphone cameras with time of flight (ToF) sensors powered by 3D recognition technology. ToF sensors recognize distance and space by measuring time when a light source returns to its subject. Apple is also considering putting more than three cameras and a ToF sensor on its next smartphone.
"Smartphone makers focused on increasing the number of pixels of smartphone cameras in the early stage of smartphones, then turned to angles of view. But now, they are highly likely to have stiff completion in 3D sensor and optical zoom," a smartphone industry official said. “As it is impossible to differentiate smartphones with displays, batteries and storages, cameras are emerging as more important technology."