OnePlus 12 rumor suggests incoming periscope telephoto lens

OnePlus 11 camera
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

OnePlus has been making huge progress with its phone cameras in recent years. The OnePlus 11, in particular, is one of the best camera phones around. The OnePlus 12 might be taking things a little further and adding a long-awaited piece of camera hardware: a periscope lens.

This rumor comes from a Weibo post (via PhoneArena), claiming OnePlus is testing a new periscope lens to improve the optical zoom capabilities of the OnePlus 12. Considering the OnePlus 11’s telephoto lens currently offers 2x optical zoom, that upgrade would be long overdue. 

The leaker claims that Oneplus and RealMe “both have periscope arrangements. They are currently testing on the SM8650 product line.” SM8650, as PhoneArena notes, is the expected codename for the upcoming Snapdragon 8 Gen 3. That would line up with this being a OnePlus 12 feature, since the chip isn't due until later this year and the OnePlus 12 won't be arriving until early 2024.

Other phone companies are fast increasing their phones’ level of magnification, so this is a feature OnePlus can’t afford to ignore — not like it’s sort of done with wireless charging. Even Apple, a company that also doesn’t rush to offer new hardware features is said to be adding a periscope lens to the iPhone 15 Pro Max — and potentially even the iPhone 16 Pro next year.

The thing about telephoto lenses and optical zoom is that they need space — and the higher the magnification the more space is required. Keeping a traditional horizontal lens naturally limits how much magnification you can offer, because going too high inevitably increases the thickness of the phone. And if there’s anything modern smartphone companies hate, it’s unnecessarily thick phones.

If there’s anything modern smartphone companies hate, it’s unnecessarily thick phones.

The periscope lens helps solve that problem, by bending the light 90 degrees into a vertical telephoto lens setup. Just like the periscope of a submarine. Storing the lens vertically means there’s a lot more available space to exploit, allowing phones to offer much higher levels of magnification without altering the exterior design too much.

We declared the OnePlus 11 as the best value flagship Android phone in our OnePlus11 review. The camera was particularly noteworthy, especially given OnePlus’s now-long-running partnership with Hasselblad. It’s not enough to seriously compete with better camera phones, like the Pixel 7 Pro. 

The 2x telephoto zoom was a particular let down, especially after the 3,3x optical zoom of the OnePlus 10 Pro. Here’s hoping that this new periscope camera can fix that problem, and offer some serious magnification on the OnePlus 12. And hopefully for a similar kind of price to the OnePlus 11.

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Tom Pritchard
UK Phones Editor

Tom is the Tom's Guide's UK Phones Editor, tackling the latest smartphone news and vocally expressing his opinions about upcoming features or changes. It's long way from his days as editor of Gizmodo UK, when pretty much everything was on the table. He’s usually found trying to squeeze another giant Lego set onto the shelf, draining very large cups of coffee, or complaining about how terrible his Smart TV is.