A new photography patent has got tech enthusiasts extremely excited for the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S21. That's because the patent shows an advanced new phone with a moveable six-camera rear array.
The patent, uncovered and mocked up in the accompanying images by LetsGoDigital, shows how six smartphone cameras could work in tandem to provide an effect we’ve never seen before on any phone. It is the sort of genuinely new tech that, if realised for the Galaxy S21, would definitely fire shots across the Apple iPhone 12 bow.
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The array features six cameras: five wide-angle lenses and a single higher resolution lead telephoto sensor. At a basic level they can work together to provide higher resolution images and more frames in videos by pooling their collective resources and stitching their captures together.
More innovatively, each one can tilt within its housing to offer different styles of photography. For example, the side sensors could tilt to look in opposite directions allowing for a panoramic shot with a blurred background – something the patent slightly cringely refers to as a “pano-bokeh” shot.
There are a couple of downsides to this, of course. Firstly, moving parts require sizeable housing to store them in. Given the Galaxy S20 Ultra already has a fairly hefty camera bump, you might find that future Samsung phones are even less willing to stay flat on the table.
More importantly, moving parts are just risky from a design point of view, as they’re vastly more likely to break. Smartphones with pop-up camera mechanisms only guarantee a maximum number of uses, and you worry this might have a similar footnote in Samsung literature. Still, it wouldn’t be the first time Samsung has put such caveats in place: the Galaxy Fold only guarantees it’ll last for 200,000 openings, after all.
Finally, the usual sense check regarding patents applies. Companies patent technology all the time, and not all of it arrives in commercially available devices. Case in point, Samsung filed over 2,000 of them in 2019 alone. Hopefully this one will see the light of day, as it certainly sounds interesting, but there are no guarantees.