Oppo’s 10x Lossless Zoom – Umm… No it isn’t

At Oppo’s innovation event for 2019, they teased a few things, possibly the most exciting of which was a prototype phone with 10x lossless zoom. That’s incredible! … But is it really?

What is it?

A telephoto lens allows a smartphone to zoom much closer to a subject, without noticeable loss in quality. This allows for a photographer to take an entirely different kind of photo. Most phones, though, like the iPhone and Galaxy lineups, only use a 2x telephoto lens. The highest so far has been 3x, by Huawei. So, a 10x lens is by far the best we’ve ever seen, right? Well, simply put, yes. But, not as much as it seems.

How does it work?

Oppo achieves this incredible zoom with a periscope-style telephoto camera, which allows a larger zoom to be used, because the hardware is not positioned pointing out of the phone, but it is positioned sideways, inside the phone, to have less of a camera bump. This is truly an incredible idea, and executed very well, considering the fact that this is only a prototype of the eventual phone.

Also, the phone includes a 48 megapixel standard camera, and a 120° wide-angle lens. That is a beefy setup, and it would deliver great results even if the camera was a normal telephoto lens, so this extra is really great, there is no doubting that. However, is it really as great as it seems?

Too good to be true?

Oppo’s 10x zoom claim is based on the millimetre equivalents of the lenses, which vary from 16mm on the wide-angle, to 160mm on the telephoto lens. However, as we have learned from manufacturers such as Samsung and Huawei, the wide-angle lens is about double the angle of the normal lens. So, by that logic, if the wide-angle lens is 1x zoom, then the normal lens is 2x zoom. That is different to on nearly every other phone, in which the normal lens is a 1x zoom. Therefore, compared to other phones’ zooms, 2x on Oppo’s upcoming phone is 1x on anything else. So, because 2x=1x, 10x is actually equal to 5x. So, Oppo has developed a 5x optical zoom lens, not a 10x one.

What does this actually mean? Not much. Except that lots and lots of people will see this announcement, and think about how awesome it is, without knowing the true story. In fact, this huge announcement is only a very minor improvement over Huawei’s 5x lossless zoom feature, which relies on a combination of its telephoto lens, and its 40 megapixel lens. It is still a leap forward in technology, and opens up a great future for telephoto photography, but it just isn’t as big of a leap as they are making it out to be. Still, we’ll see the eventual quality that it provides when it launches in Q2.

So what do you think of this upcoming Oppo phone? Is 5x zoom good enough, or do you feel cheated out of 10x zoom? Let me know in the comments below.