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Ralf Jurrien : March 9th 2007 - 19:49 CET

Focus and Zoom technology


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NewsFocus and Zoom technology : Over the past ten years, photographic cameras have almost completely transitioned from silver halide film to electronic sensors. But the other key component - the lens - has remained largely unchanged... until now. The mobile phone industry, with its huge demand for embedded cameras, is driving a broad set of new requirements for miniaturized, rugged, low-cost, low-power, high-performance lens and actuator combinations. As they come to market, the superior value proposition of those optical assemblies will threaten to displace traditional optics in cameras of all types. As a result, the business of designing and making lenses is undergoing its most fundamental upheaval since the Renaissance.
Focus and Zoom technologyCMOS sensor - Focus & Zoom
CMOS sensor developers have responded to consumer preferences for slimmer handsets by shrinking their chips so that more pixels can be squeezed into an ever-smaller footprint. As pixel sizes shrink, standard fixed-focus lenses found on most camera-phones cannot pass the test of focusing light onto these tiny pixels. This presents a growing challenge - and an opportunity - to optical assembly designers and component suppliers to supply lens and actuator combinations that can provide both focus and zoom in smaller and smaller footprints.

Next generation Focus & Zoom technology
“Reinventing the Lens: Next-Gen Focus & Zoom Technology,” a research study just published by the author, the leading independent center of expertise on the convergence of imaging, technology, and business, and host of the 6Sight Future of Imaging conference, investigates the next generation of technologies being deployed to provide focus and zoom to the tiny cameras found in mobile phones and a wide variety of other applications such as medical research and robotics. “At our 6Sight conference last October, industry players were nearly unanimous in forecasting that top tier camera-phones would need auto-focus and optical zoom to meet consumer expectations. To deliver that DSC-like functionality, systems that can move or reshape lenses are required. The companies we analyze in this report are at the forefront of the drive to provide those capabilities.”

Focus & Zoom technology - CMOS image sensor
The 53-page report with 32 illustrations looks first at the changing requirements for mobile camera modules brought about by changing consumer preferences, including the latest developments in CMOS image sensors and explains why these changes require a new approach to the ‘traditional’ focus and zoom technology found in DSCs. The author conducted a survey and follow-up interviews with four of the leading vendors of next-generation focus and zoom technology: Artificial Muscle, Inc. (AMI), Nanomotion/Johnson Electric, New Scale Technologies, Inc. and Varioptic SA. All four vendors and their solutions are profiled. The study concludes with the author’s analysis of the competing solutions and the outlook for their success.





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