Electroactive lens may bring SLR type camera features to Apple iPhone

“A new lens based on a special elecroactive polymer may bring SLR Camera type features not seen before in smartphones to the next iPhone,” Nigam Arora reports for Forbes.

“In smartphones, image sensors provided by companies such as Sony and OmniVision are on par with low to mid-priced standalone cameras. Software for control and processing in high end smart phones is better than many low to mid-price standalone cameras. However, the biggest weaknesses of typical smart phone cameras are the lens and the shutter equivalent,” Arora reports. “There is a reason that professionals still use digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. DSLR cameras allow for control of both shutter speed and lens aperture. Compared to fixed lens cameras DSLR allows the photographer a wide aperture range. By changing the aperture, the photographer can change the depth of field of the picture.”

“The conventional SLR technology cannot be easily adapted to smart phones due to the size of the lens and associated mechanisms. A promising new technology for optics and cameras has been electroactive polymers (EAP). An EAP changes its shape when exposed to an electric field. Starting with a rubber band experiment in 1890, there has been a steady progression of innovation in EAPs. In due course EAPs have also come to be known as ‘artificial muscle’; just like a muscle, EAPs can be made to contract, expand or rotate. Using an EAP for the optics in a smart phone camera is the next frontier. With EAPs the lens and the associated mechanism can be made small enough to fit within the profile of a typical smart phone,” Arora reports. “Apple has made significant progress in using EAPs in a smart phone as a camera lens, as is evidenced by its filing with the United States Trademark and Patent Office.”

Read more in the full article here.

Related article:
Apple invents iPhone camera lens actuator made of artificial muscle – June 19, 2014


  1. I get good (excellent!) results from my iP5s, and like simplicity. In fact, the 5 is perhaps not as good as the 4s from that perspective, as it’s very easy to touch an unwanted feature into life. I asked someone to take a family snap recently, and ended up with hundreds of similar pictures on iPhoto, simply because no one realised what would happen if they kept their finger on the button.

    1. Thank you. I read the article thinking to myself, “Oh great: the must-have-feature-list-that-Apple-can’t-possibly-deliver-this-next-round-so-dump-your-stock-quick cycle gains a new addition.”

  2. I need to read more about EAPs…they sound very interesting and useful. However, this article has a bit of a “hype” tone. No matter how cool, technology cannot defeat the basic optical physics limitations of a smartphone form factor. For instance, there is no real substitute for actual aperture!

      1. I’ve seen some apps on the app store claiming to fire off-camera flashes. They all have really low ratings. I’ve googled this many times over the past couple of years. I hope they come out with a radio frequency trigger that can plug into the earphone input. The on-board flash is too weak to trigger my strobes. That said, I hope you’re right and I just haven’t discovered it yet! Thanks for sharing.

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