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Explainer: What is a periscope camera on a phone, how do they work?

Flagship phones such as iPhone 15 Pro Max, Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, and the latest Vivo X100 Pro have periscope cameras, but are they and how do they work?

Edited By: Shubham Verma

Published: Jan 16, 2024, 04:24 PM IST

Periscope cameras are a new fad but are they anything more?
Periscope cameras are a new fad but are they anything more?

Story Highlights

  • Flagship phones from the past few months feature a periscope camera.
  • Periscope cameras have higher focal lengths and capture a lot of details.
  • You can click amazing potraits and lossless pictures from periscope telephoto cameras.

Most flagship phones today include a periscope telephoto camera in the rear system. Over the past few months, a camera that can click amazing portraits and zoomed-in photos has become a must-have, and rightly so. A periscope camera on a phone is a type of telephoto camera that uses prisms and mirrors to achieve higher optical zoom without increasing the thickness of the phone. Optical zoom is the ability to magnify an image without losing quality, unlike digital zoom which simply enlarges the pixels and reduces the sharpness. Periscope cameras allow for longer focal lengths, which means they can capture more details from far-away objects.

How does a periscope camera work?

A periscope camera is a type of camera that uses a prism to bend the path of light inside a phone. The light enters the phone through a small hole on the back and then hits a mirror that reflects it sideways. After that, the light passes through a series of lenses that magnify the image and focus it onto the image sensor. The image sensor is placed horizontally inside the phone. This way, the periscope camera can have a longer lens assembly without protruding from the phone body.

Vivo X100 Pro with a periscope camera that offers up to 4.3x optical zoom

What are the benefits of a periscope camera?

A periscope camera can offer several benefits for smartphone photography, such as:

— Better zoom quality: A periscope camera can provide optical zoom at higher magnifications than conventional telephoto cameras, which usually have fixed focal lengths. For example, some phones with periscope cameras can offer 3x, 5x, or even 10x optical zoom, while others can combine optical and digital zoom to reach up to 100x hybrid zoom. Optical zoom preserves more details and colours than digital zoom, which often results in blurry and noisy images.

— More versatility: A periscope camera can expand the range of shooting scenarios and creative possibilities for smartphone users. For instance, a periscope camera can help capture distant landscapes, wildlife, architecture, or sports events with more clarity and detail. It can also enable users to take stunning moon shots or astrophotography with the help of AI and software enhancements.

— Sleeker design: A periscope camera can fit inside a thin and compact smartphone without compromising on performance or aesthetics. Unlike traditional telephoto cameras that require more space and often create a camera bump on the back of the phone, a periscope camera can be integrated seamlessly into the phone’s design and offer a smooth and sleek appearance.

Periscope camera in the rear system of the Oppo Find X6 Pro

What are some examples of phones with periscope cameras?

Periscope cameras are becoming more common and popular among smartphone manufacturers and consumers. Some of the best phones that currently offer periscope camera hardware are:

— Vivo X100 Pro: The first flagship phone of 2024 in India, the Vivo X100 Pro, brings one of the best periscope telephoto cameras on the existing crop of phones. It clicks some amazing portraits and photos with up to 4.3x optical zoom. Apart from amazing cameras, the X100 Pro features a 6.78-inch AMOLED display with an adaptive refresh rate of up to 120Hz and a brightness of 3000 nits. This phone packs a 54000mAh battery with superfast 100W wired charging technology.

— iPhone 15 Pro Max: This is the first iPhone to feature a periscope camera, and it delivers impressive results. The iPhone 15 Pro Max has a triple rear camera system that consists of a 12MP main camera, a 12MP ultra-wide camera, and a 12MP 5x periscope camera. The periscope camera can provide up to 15x digital zoom with optical image stabilization and computational photography. The iPhone 15 Pro Max also has a stunning 6.7-inch OLED display with ProMotion technology and supports MagSafe accessories.

— Google Pixel 8 Pro: This is one of the best Android devices for photography enthusiasts, and it comes with a powerful periscope camera. The Pixel 8 Pro has a triple rear camera system that includes a 50MP main camera, a 48MP ultra-wide camera, and a 48MP 5x periscope camera. The periscope camera can offer up to 20x digital zoom with optical image stabilisation and Google’s advanced image processing algorithms. The Pixel 8 Pro also has a sharp and bright 6.7-inch OLED display with a 120Hz refresh rate and supports wireless charging.

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Author Name | Shubham Verma

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