Anyone who has ever tried to fully zoom into something on their phone knows that digital enhancement is fraught with issues. But at Mobile World Congress 2017, Chinese phone maker Oppo demoed a prototype featuring an astounding 5x optical zoom that could make pixelated digitally zoomed photos a thing of the past.
Traditionally, the problem with with putting a high-powered optical zoom lens on a phone is their thinness. When you only have about a third of a inch to work with, there's only so much you can do before you need to create bulky zoom modules like the ones you get on the Asus ZenFone Zoom or the Panasonic CM1.
However, by using a mirror to bend the light and a series of lenses that are oriented width-wise on the body of the phone like a periscope, suddenly there's a lot more room, and that's pretty much what Oppo did on its prototype phone at MWC.
This could be a real revelation for the smartphone industry, which has recently begun putting two cameras on the back of the phone to allow for optical zoom. Unfortunately, the best today's phone can do, which include handsets like the iPhone 7 Plus, LG G6 and Huawei P10, stands at just a 2x optical zoom.
I got a chance to check the prototype out for myself, and the results were quite impressive. Even at a full 5x zoom, the picture was tack sharp, and when combined with Oppo enhanced OIS (optical image stabilization), there was a noticeable difference between its prototype and a standard phone.
Now, some of you might be wondering why you should care about a company that only really makes phones sold in China. The big reason is because Oppo is also the owner of OnePlus. And last year, after demoing its Super VOOC fast charging tech at MWC 2016, those innovations found its way onto the OnePlus 3 via its Dash Charge system,
As someone who loves the flexibility that a zoom lens offers on a big camera, Oppo's 5x optical zoom is something I'd love to have on my phone, Now we just have to wait for the company to put it in a handset we can actually buy.