Folded Camera Lens

By Evan Ackerman

Sure, having a camera in your cell phone is neat and all, but nobody?s getting fooled into using camera phones as digital camera replacements. Cell phones pride themselves on small form factors, and there?s just no way to squeeze quality camera optics into a space with the approximate thickness of a McDonald?s milkshake. Unless, of course, you fold them up first.

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have origami-ized a typical 35mm camera lens down to 5mm by getting light to bounce around folds inside a focusing crystal, instead of passing straight through as with conventional camera optics. Changing the number of reflective surfaces and the distance between them lets the lens zoom and focus. Their next prototype is already 5 times smaller still, while retaining the quality of a 35mm lens.

Until these hit the cell phone market (no timeframe yet and DARPA is first in line), I?m going to keep using my regular digital camera. My cell phone camera is relegated strictly to emergency pictures, like alien abductions.

VIA [ Applied Optics ]