Early January, the company raised $15 million in a funding round including Samsung Ventures, iPhone manufacturer Foxconn and chipmaker MediaTek, all of whom with a direct interest in integrating all or part of the company’s IP. More recently, the startup announced a partnership with prominent camera module integrator Samsung Electro-Mechanics (SEMCO) to develop a complete reference design based on its dual camera IP.
Dual-camera smartphones have been around since 2014, initially to bring 3D effects thanks to the stereoscopic imaging, then leveraging more software to digitally alter foreground or background focus (using a depth map) and obtain neat bokeh effects. Corephotonics is now adding zooming capabilities, beating all digital zooms to date while keeping the tele-objective mechanics within smartphone low-profile constraints.
The dual camera zoom module, only 5.5 mm in profile, combines a vertically-mounted wide field of view (FOV) camera with a narrow FOV telephoto lens mounted horizontally and aligned with a prism (forming a folded optical path).
With this optical arrangement and proprietary image fusion algorithms, the company claims its Hawkeye camera module achieves over 3x more light than the iPhone7+ and about 30 to 35% better image resolution when zooming.
Discussing the company’s roadmap, Corephotonics’ VP Marketing & Business Development, Eran Briman said the folded dual-camera zoom was already shipping in flagship smartphones, although he declined to give names. Briman recognizes that the module is aimed at premium smartphones, yet he is confident Corephotonics will literally “own” this market since it has developed so much IP around the slim dual-camera zoom.
“All of the vendors using a combination of a wide angle camera with a teleobjective camera require a direct license from Corephotonics, for the lens hardware design and the algorithms”, Briman said, “though we don’t have an estimate about how big this market would be as it is still shaping up”.
Chinese smartphone manufacturer Oppo just made it public at Mobile World Congress that it was relying on Corephotonics’ technology for its latest dual-camera smartphone boasting a 5x lossless zoom.
Next on Corephotonics’ roadmap is the Eagle autonomous camera which is being demonstrated privately at this year’s Mobile World Congress. When asked if including Artificial Intelligence in the hardware/software mix was on the agenda, Briman declined to comment, but the next-generation camera module could reach the market by 2019.