If you had to name the most important feature of your smartphone, what would it be? For many of us, a good camera is toward the top of that list, and smartphone makers are well aware. One of the iPhone 7 Plus’s hallmark features was its dual-lens camera, while Samsung seriously improved its camera game with the Galaxy S7 last year (and is expected to build on that with the soon-to-come-out Galaxy S8, too).
But while those two brands are perhaps the most well-known in the smartphone space, there’s actually another smartphone maker that may be building the best smartphone camera out there: Oppo. Oppo is a Chinese smartphone manufacturer that first started making phones in 2008. As of June 2016, it’s actually the #No . 1 smartphone brand in China, and the company is finally gaining recognition elsewhere around the globe—particularly for its camera technology.
The latest, announced at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this week, is the company’s “5X” camera technology. This is a dual camera system—a wide angle and telephoto lens—with an unusual periscope-style construction. Instead of light traveling straight through the lens to the image sensor (like this), light is refracted off of a prism onto a telephoto lens set at a 90 degree angle. This allows the camera module to deliver 5x optical zoom with an “unprecedented level of clarity,” according to Digital Trends.
This design also allows the company to achieve a high zoom level without a super bulky camera module. Measuring 5.7mm thick, it houses more than 50 components, including a new image stabilization solution that improves over its last generation tech by 40 percent. (Image stabilization is especially important when you’re zooming in that much, otherwise, every little vibration or wiggle from your hands will result in a blurry, out-of-focus image.)
Apple made a similar focus on camera improvements with its iPhone 7 and 7 Plus late last year, but the iPhone 7 Plus, by comparison, only includes a 2x optical zoom. While Apple could build on that capability, some of the biggest rumors for this year’s iPhone center around Apple adding the ability to detect depth in photos, much like a Microsoft Kinect. Samsung is rumored to improve on its camera’s autofocus abilities, and could also update the rear-facing camera on its flagship handset to a dual-lens system, like Apple, Oppo, and other phone makers.
Oppo’s 5X Precision Optical Zoom, while groundbreaking on the smartphone front, isn’t built into any phones from the company yet, but will be in the future. Android Authority has some sample images of exactly how powerful that 5x zoom is, but otherwise, we’ll have to wait till a phone ships with this technology to see how it fares against other leading smartphones.