Selfie help

Israeli innovation transforms phone camera imaging

Tel Aviv-based photography startup Corephotonics aims to raise smartphone shots to compact-camera quality — yes, selfies too

Yifa Yaakov is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

A family take a selfie on the Tel Aviv beach boardwalk. (illustrative photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash 90)
A family take a selfie on the Tel Aviv beach boardwalk. (illustrative photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash 90)

An Israeli startup based in Tel Aviv aims to transform smartphone camera imaging by bringing photo quality up to par with that of compact zoom-lens digital cameras.

The company, Corephotonics, has developed a dual-lens phone camera that can produce crystal-clear images even when the zoom function is used. Because the parallel 13-megapixel lenses also have their own sensors, the camera boasts improved low-light performance, producing cleaner images with less noise.

According to a review on Engadget, which awarded the technology 9.2 points out of 10, the use of two lenses also provides “a degree of depth analysis,” meaning that the camera can automatically blur backgrounds in portrait shots and autofocus more quickly.

The dual-lens system uses a platform manufactured by American semiconductor company Qualcomm, which has offices worldwide.

Some tech experts say Corephotonics’ zoom technology is particularly innovative, so much so that it could revolutionize phone photography and make the “megapixel war” — the rush to produce phone cameras boasting higher image quality than the competition — obsolete.

A review on CNET said the startup, which is just two years old, may change the way we take pictures with phones — although it has yet to announce any involvement with major smartphone manufacturers.

The Corephotonics smartphne zoom camera. (photo credit: Corephotonics)
The Corephotonics smartphone zoom camera. (photo credit: Corephotonics)

According to the company’s website, its zoom technology is based on a “hybrid approach” wherein a dual aperture camera is combined with an “image fusion library.”

Essentially, by using two lenses with two different focal lengths, the phone camera is able to combine two simultaneous images into a high-quality image — much clearer and crisper than images produced with the digital zoom technology used in most smartphone cameras today.

In other words, when a user takes a photo, the phone camera actually takes two shots: one with a wide angle lens, and one with a fixed-focus telephoto lens, both designed by Corephotonics. Using an algorithm developed by the company, the images are then fused into one crisp, clear photo that could well have been taken with a higher-end 20-megapixel smartphone camera — or even a compact digital camera.

An image showing a photo taken without the zoom technology developed by Corephotonics, left, and with it, right. (photo credit: Corephotonics)
An image showing a photo taken without the zoom technology developed by Corephotonics, left, and with it, right. (photo credit: Corephotonics)

“Corephotonics’ Image Fusion Library is a cutting edge processing solution which produces superb image quality. The effective resolution at all magnifications transcends even that of mechanical optical zoom,” read a statement on the company’s website.

Mechanical optical zoom, as opposed to digital zoom, is a feature not available on most smartphone cameras today, as it  requires the bulky addition of a moving part — a zoom lens — to phone bodies that are constantly getting slimmer and sleeker. While mobile phone cameras do have a digital zoom option, zoomed images usually come out blurry.

“The absence of optical zoom in compact camera is a major photographic handicap when comparing camera phones to digital stills cameras. During recent years, true optical zoom had not become widely available due the cost, size, volatility and quality of existing solutions. Therefore a truly viable optical zoom will have great importance for camera phone photography,” the company said.

The Corephotonics team. (photo credit: Facebook)
The Corephotonics team. (photo credit: Facebook)

The technology developed by the Corephotonics to address this problem not only promises to generate high-quality zoomed images, but also to improve their resolution beyond that of mechanical optical zoom cameras — in other words, allowing smartphone users to take zoomed photos that are of an even higher quality than photos taken with point-and-shoot digital cameras.

This may mean that rather than carrying both a smartphone and a camera when traveling, vacationers may opt to carry just the phone, revolutionizing the pocket camera market and providing serious competition for the popular brands that manufacture such cameras.

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