Opcon Design Associates awarded patent for optical design of native Smartphone zoom lens


Design would allow Smartphones to have at least 3x native optical zoom capability, yielding stunning improvements in long range and portrait photography.



CINCINNATI, OH --  Melvyn H Kreitzer and Jacob Moskovich, principals of Opcon Design Associates, LLC ( http://opconassociates.com ), and holders or co-holders of over 100 US and international patents  in optics, received a patent for the optical design of a constant f-number zoom lens suitable for incorporation into a Smartphone. The company believes that this is the first such optical design that satisfies all aspects of delivering high quality zoom lens picture taking with a Smartphone, without compromising any aspects of Smartphone function, appearance and picture quality.


Modern Smartphones are capable of astounding picture quality but are invariably limited to fixed focal length cameras lenses. This not only limits the ability to take high quality images of more distant subject matter (sports and wildlife photography, for example), but also makes for unsatisfactory portrait photography, as it requires the camera to be too close to the subject, yielding unpleasant perspective distortion.


The digital zooming capabilities that are currently available on Smartphone cameras result in the employment of fewer and fewer image pixels as the zoom increases.  A 2x digital zoom, for example, employs only 25% of the original pixels and consequently delivers an image that is 25% of the original image quality.  Optical zooming, which uses all the imager pixels throughout the zoom range, however does not preclude digital zooming.  This means that incorporating a 2x digital zoom with a 3x optical zoom would yield a 6x zoom effect with the same quality of a 2x digital zoom in today’s Smartphones.


One of the current Smartphone suppliers has included a 3x optical zoom in one of its models.  However, it employs a variable f-number (f/2.7-4.8), resulting in an inherent loss in image quality due to diffraction and to a higher noise level at the long end of the zoom range. Others have provided two discrete 1x and 2x lenses, each with its own sensor, as opposed to a true optical zoom that that would offer a continuous range of focal lengths from 1x to at least 3x. Nevertheless they refer to an “optical zoom”, reinforcing the extent to which a true optical zoom capability is desired amongst consumers and manufacturers alike.


Opcon set the following criteria for a suitable Smartphone zoom lens:


1.       The lens should be capable of remaining entirely within the Smartphone through all aspects of operation and should not be of a size so as to materially affect the size and appearance of a typical modern Smartphone.

2.       Image quality throughout the zoom range should be comparable to that of current Smartphone cameras.

3.       F/number throughout the zoom range should be constant with zoom and at least f/2.8 or faster. This requirement was the most difficult challenge because allowing the f/number to get slower with increasing focal length, as is often the case with modern digital camera zoom lenses, is usually the easy way to minimize size and maintain image quality. However, Smartphones function with tiny pixels in the 1-2 micrometer size range and operate near the diffraction limit of image quality. This means that f/numbers slower than about f/3 will progressively destroy image quality because of diffraction.

4.       Ideally the lens design should result in a fixed, non-moving front optical group positioned  in a similar location as a current non-zoom Smartphone lens. The aperture stop should be of constant diameter and within a non-moving rear optical group. The moving zoom groups would be internal to the Smartphone.


As defined above, the optical design problem is formidable and until now, although attempts have been made, no satisfactory solution has been proposed.


Camera functionality is often a determining factor in consumer purchasing decisions. As such, Opcon will look to partner with a leading Smartphone manufacturer to bring its patented design to market.


The US Patent 9,479,686 can be viewed either on the USPTO or the Google Patents web sites.


About Opcon Design Associates


Opcon Design Associates is a consulting and optical design company based in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Its principals, Melvyn H Kreitzer and Jacob Moskovich are both well known in the field of consumer optical design and are holders or co-holders of over 100 US and international patents. Their experience extends from the design of interchangeable camera lenses (particularly zoom lenses) in the 1970s, to the first widely used motion picture zoom lenses for the Panavision Corporation in the 1980s and 1990s, and for the design of projection lenses for the first generation of big-screen home television sets until the advent of lensless flatscreen sets. In addition to a number of professional conference presentations and publications, Kreitzer and Moskovich are also two of the three co-authors of the Camera Lens Section of the Handbook of Optics, the premier optics publication of the Optical Society of America. Details of the company and its principals can be found at http://www.opconassociates.com/.




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