in Waardevol

Liquid lenses

There is a lot of innovation going on. A camera will be more and more part of phones and other devices. So making it small but good is quite the challenge and not to forget lucrative.

Smile, You’re on Liquid Camera

Sunny Bains – 13 april 2005 – link

Why do good cellular telephones fall for bad digital cameras? Blame the lenses. Unlike the optics on a full-featured camera, phonecam lenses are static, shoved into a product with neither the space nor budget for variable focus or zoom. Unless your subject is in the camera’s sweet spot – the distance at which its focus is fixed – your picture will be blurry.

Now, thanks to cell phone makers’ insatiable desire for more attractive features in their handsets, the race is on to build usable liquid lenses. To make an electro wetting lens powerful enough for real applications, Bruno Berge and his team at Varioptic in Lyon, France, combined salt water and an oil with the same density but different optical properties. The oil forms the lens; the water changes shape to control it. Meanwhile, Philips Research in the Netherlands is aiming its FluidFocus lenses at higher-end applications, like optical zooms for digital cameras. In a typical camera, a zoom is a kind of telescope: lenses at each end with a variable distance between them. Philips instead assembles three lenses, two plastic and one liquid with a glass core. The core doesn’t change, but the liquid can alter the overall lens shape dramatically. Result: a miniature, high-powered zoom.

Either way, industry analysts say the global market for camera phones will be upwards of 300 million next year. With that many customers, cell phone makers should soon see their way clear to building a better snapshot.


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