Oppo’s new 5x lossless zoom dual camera technology moves the needle for smartphone photography, and will put unprecedented zoom functionality into your pocket.

Oppo has long been on a quest to improve smartphone photography, and today unveiled a new dual-camera system named “5x”, aiming to make the camera in your pocket more versatile and useful than ever before.

If you’ve ever tried zooming in on a subject with your smartphone, you’ll know that – with some exceptions – as soon as you touch that zoom control you’ve forfeited some image quality. Oppo is looking to change that, bringing “lossless” zoom to your smartphone.

Where other manufacturers have paired a wide angle sensor with a traditional configuration in a dual lens setup, Oppo is instead pairing a telephoto lens to bring optical zoom into a camera module that’s only 5.7mm thick.

Achieving optical zoom in a smartphone is difficult, though. You need a long barrel and the ability to move your lens away from and closer to the sensor, and with the ever-decreasing depth of modern smartphones there’s not really anywhere to go.

What Oppo’s done is based on a submarine’s periscope – the 5s system pushes light through a prism that bends it 90-degrees and allows that moving zoom system to be placed inside the phone’s body, perpendicular to the incoming light’s original direction.

The periscope-style telephoto zoom system provides 3x optical zoom, while the inputs from both sensors are tied together by software to produce a 5x “lossless” zoom. The name is important – it’s not 5x optical zoom (which would be the purest form of zoom), but the fusion of image data from both sensors is used to get to 5x.

Oppo says they’ve been working on 5x for over a year. With the technology, the company wants to deliver a camera that can capture landscapes, portraits, close-ups and everything in between.

The company is also taking a new approach to Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) in the 5x system, applying stabilisation to the telephoto lens setup and the prism. Both components can sense vibrations and compensate for them in real time, making for a far more stable shot when you zoom.

We’re yet to see this new camera technology in a consumer product. When asked, Oppo staff will smile coyly and tell you “We’re still working on that” – but we’ll be pretty excited to see this technology come to market.

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Before discovering the Nexus One, Jason thought he didn't need a smartphone. Now he can't bear to be without his Android phone. Jason hails from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane depending on his mood and how detailed a history you'd like. A web developer by day with an interest in consumer gadgets and electronics, he also enjoys reading comics and has a worryingly large collection of Transformers figures. He'd like to think he's a gamer, but his Wii has been in a box since he moved to Sydney, and his PlayStation Vita collection is quite lacking. Most mornings you'll find him tilting at various windmills on Twitter - follow @JM77 and say hi!
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Phill Edwards

I like the sound of that.