April 9, 2005: One of the factors inhibiting the mass adoption of zoom lenses in mobile phones is the size and cost of a mechanical zoom. Though Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Casio et al continue to astound us with their ability to further reduce the size of their products, the next major breakthrough in zoom lens miniaturisation will be electrowetting , a technology that enables multiple liquid lenses to combine into a zoom lens, offering significant reductions in size, cost, weight and power consumption.
Liquid lens specialist Varioptic demonstrated the world’s first zoom and auto focus liquid lens for camera phones at the CEBIT 2005 last month. Varioptic, the inventor of the liquid lens, has been working with Samsung to provide auto focus liquid lenses for camera phones, which will be commercially available by the end of 2005. Philips demonstrated an auto-focus liquid lens at CEBIT 2004, but now Varioptic has gone one better and demonstrated the world’s first liquid zoom lens.
“Because our liquid lens has no moving parts, it’s extremely durable, and tailor-made for camera phone environments, where battery power and physical space are limited,” said Etienne Paillard, CEO of Varioptic.
The company demonstrated how a combination of liquid lenses can provide a continuous 2.5X zoom capability, in a package that is less than half the size of conventional zoom lens offerings.
Varioptic’s liquid lenses act similarly to the human eye, in that they can change shape, to zoom or focus automatically, without mechanical aid. The company’s patented electrowetting technology uses electricity to distend or flatten two drops of liquid, to alter the border between the liquids, and focus the lens.
Varioptic’s newly demonstrated zoom capabilities combine multiple liquid lenses, with a driver, sensor and image processor to address magnification, change focus and control aberrations. Both Varioptic’s Zoom and auto-focus liquid lenses share the same market advantages, in terms of size, cost, speed, energy consumption, durability, and quality.