Startup develops optical zoom lens for smartphones

The company has already had interest from Apple, Samsung, Sony and others

The Alvarez lens that sits at the heart of the smartphone optical zoom unit being developed by DynaOptics

The Alvarez lens that sits at the heart of the smartphone optical zoom unit being developed by DynaOptics

A Silicon Valley startup is developing an optical zoom lens unit that's thin enough to slip inside of a smartphone and won't protrude when used.

DynaOptics has spent two years working on the device, which is based on an Alvarez lens, a uniquely shaped lens that produces optical zoom through lateral movement of two lens halves that sit together.

Optical zoom produces a better-quality image than the digital zoom used on phones today, but its inclusion in smartphones has been hampered by the bulky lenses required.

The lenses are big because the zoom is produced when the perpendicular distance between lenses is altered, as can be seen in a compact camera when the length of the lens changes with the zoom. While that movement isn't a problem in a camera, it isn't suitable for use in a thin smartphone. Several companies have tried to commercialize smartphones with larger lenses, and all have failed.

"We're bringing you optical zoom so that it will fit into your phone," said Li Han Chan, co-founder and CEO of DynaOptics, in an interview at Start X, the Palo Alto startup accelerator that's helping the company get off the ground.

She demonstrated the technology with a unit that jumped between no zoom and three-times zoom with the flick of a switch. The resulting image was a little bit blurry, something that will disappear as the technology for producing the lenses improves, Chan said.

The company is also working on finer control of the lens position to make variable zooming possible.

DynaOptics is working fast toward its release of engineering samples, currently scheduled for March 2015. Those samples will allow for evaluation of the unit ahead of mass production, which is scheduled for late next year, Chan said. If all goes according to plan -- and phone makers bite -- the first handsets packing the technology could be on sale some time in 2016.

The company said it's already had strong interest and has signed more than a dozen agreements to share the technology with the likes of Apple, Sony, Samsung, LG, Huawei, HTC, Nokia, BlackBerry, Lenovo and Asus so it can be evaluated.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags consumer electronicsDynaOpticssmartphones

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Matthew Stivala

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

The HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer is a great device that fits perfectly into my fast paced and mobile lifestyle. My first impression of the printer itself was how incredibly compact and sleek the device was.

Armand Abogado

HP OfficeJet 250 Mobile Printer

Wireless printing from my iPhone was also a handy feature, the whole experience was quick and seamless with no setup requirements - accessed through the default iOS printing menu options.

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?