HTC One Max camera

HTC working on optical zoom smartphone

It may have only just launched its latest flagship Android smartphone, but HTC is already making the headlines with talk about what we can expect to see in future handsets. The company’s imaging specialist, Symon Whitehorn (who has always been refreshingly open with the media), has provided some very interesting insights on Vodafone’s UK blog, in which he talks about how smartphone camera technology is likely to develop in the coming years.

A key goal of HTC is to move away from digital zoom technology, which effectively resizes and crops an image in order to simulate a change in focal length. Naturally enough, this method results in a reduction in image quality, so HTC wants zooming to be achieved by the lens itself, rather than relying on image manipulation.

“Optical zooming in a smartphone is not too far off at all for HTC,” Whitehorn said. “I can’t give too much away, but within 12-18 months we’ll see huge advances in phone optics. That’s why we don’t necessarily believe in doing a high resolution, photo enlarging solution.”

The 12-18 month timeframe mentioned by Whitehorn suggests that the inclusion of an optical zoom lens in HTC’s 2015 flagship smartphone would involve meeting some pretty tight deadlines. The following year may be a more realistic target, although you can be sure that rivals will be working hard to beat HTC to the finish line – particularly in light of Whitehorn’s comments.

Last year saw the release of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom, which featured a 10x optical zoom (a 35mm equivalent of 24-240mm).

Yet the powerful zoom came at a cost, with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom having a depth of 15.4mm and weighing in at 208g. These specs do not compare particularly favourably with the standard Samsung Galaxy S4, which is just 7.9mm deep and weighs only 130g.

A quick glance at the average compact camera highlights the challenges that HTC will have to overcome.

As smartphone manufacturers compete against each other to make ever-thinner devices, a traditional optical zoom lens would add considerable bulk. Therefore, HTC will have to bring new technology to its smartphones in order to maintain the convenient form factor that we have all come to expect.

[via Vodafone UK]