TECNO’s new mobile camera tech is extremely interesting

At TECNO’s “Future Lens” event we got to hear about some very interesting technology that TECNO hopes to someday integrate with their mobile phone cameras. There aren’t any prototypes to review or evaluate yet, and we kind of have more questions than answers at this point, but still, it will be very exciting to see what comes out of these innovative ventures TECNO is working on. Personally, I’m very much looking forward to seeing how these things will actually work in real life when TECNO gets them working in prototypes. Their previous technological first from TECNO in the smartphone camera space was last year’s wide-aperture expanding telephoto lens, which you can learn more about in our TECNO Phantom X2 Pro 5G Review. The future has even more interesting things in store!

Liquid Telephoto Macro Lens

Firstly, there’s the “liquid lens” technology in a macro telephoto camera module that TECNO is working on. If you have a current phone with a 5x or 10x telephoto camera lens, you may have noticed that it does not have a very close minimum focus distance. In other words, if you position the camera too close to your subject, it probably won’t be able to focus in order to get a sharp picture. The lens is not able to adjust its focus point enough to get close-up macro shots like that. Normally, you would need a structure for the glass elements in the lens to move longer distances in order to change the focal point properly, but that’s difficult to build into such a small smartphone camera module.

So TECNO’s solution is a lens whose shape can actually be modified like the way a drop of water can shape as it falls. A good analogy is our own human eyeballs. Those are filled with liquid, and we have muscles that can pull and squeeze the shape a bit in order to let us focus on the things we want to see.

TECNO’s liquid lens would probably be combined with a periscope-shaped telephoto lens so that you’ll have a good long focal length, and then the liquid lens would handle the focus point adjustments by warping to fit.

I’ve never heard of anyone trying to do this kind of thing before, so it’s new territory, and there are lots of unknowns still… How fast will it focus? How will this affect the light absorption speed? Will stabilization be implemented on the lens or the sensor? Will gravity cause liquid lens distortions? Again, the effectiveness is unknown at this point, but I am extremely interested in seeing what comes of this.


W shaped aperture

This one is the second most interesting innovation TECNO is announcing. When I first heard “W-shaped” aperture, I was pretty confused. Usually, the camera apertures are hexagonal and centered over the lens. Some have more blades in order to make for a smoother circle to let the light in, of course, but the point of the aperture is to change the amount of light hitting the sensor through the lens in order to have more control over the exposure than what you would get by simply changing the light sensor’s sensitivity or gain (usually labeled as “ISO” setting).

Other smartphones that do have variable apertures (rare) usually only have two options: full open and 1 stop down at some pre-determined F-stop. Those usually have only two blades that flip in to cover a certain percentage of the sensor and leave a smaller circular hole to let the light in. Real camera lenses almost always have multiple aperture f-stops that you can adjust as needed.


So what the heck is this W-shaped aperture about?

Well, there is a precedent for this W-shaped aperture in nature; the cuttlefish.

TECNO tells us that a fixed aperture is unable to balance strong and weak light, thus giving us a lower dynamic range in the resulting photo where shadow areas may be too dark or bright areas may be too bright. The W-shaped aperture is supposed to reduce glare and more precisely manage the amount of light. We don’t really have details on how exactly that will work, however, I was able to find this scientific paper from 2013 called The W-shaped pupil in cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis): Functions for improving horizontal vision – ScienceDirect, which says, “Computing a retinal illumination map shows that the W-shaped pupil is effective in balancing a vertically uneven light field: The constricted pupil reduces light from the dorsal part of the visual field significantly more than it reduces light from the horizontal band.”


So with that in mind, it sounds like this aperture shape will actually reduce light from the top part of an image… as long as the aperture is oriented correctly. What happens if I rotate the phone 90 degrees or 180 degrees? Does the aperture have to rotate, too? Perhaps yes.


Universal Tone Computation

The third innovation that TECNO announced was their Universal Tone computational photography system, which uses artificial intelligence imaging models to change the skin tones of people in your photos to hopefully make the color more accurate.


Again, it’s unclear how exactly this will work and how well it will modify skin tones. Hopefully, it can be adjusted manually as I know plenty of models who do not actually want their skin to be too accurate in some photos. However, the ability to intelligently select and modify skin tone colors is certainly very useful. I did something similar manually in the lead photo of this article as the light color temperatures on certain people were drastically different from the color temperatures on others. This made the woman on the left appear very orange because the camera can only apply one white balance setting to the entire image as opposed to what I can do in post processing software (changing white balance on specific areas of an image.) I used AI model skin selection tools for this function already in the post-processing software, but if TECNO can add automatic skin tone selection and multi-person individual white balance settings, that could be pretty excellent.



I’m honestly very impressed with these smartphone photography innovations being announced by TECNO. All of them seem potentially very useful and potentially industry changing. The only problem is that none of them are functional just yet and we don’t have a real time-table of when they will be. Personally, I want to start using them right now.


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