Canon patent shows zoom lens with variable liquid element

by Felix Esser

posted Monday, October 27, 2014 at 3:35 PM EST

Liquid lenses are nothing new, the concept has been around for a while and has been proposed for use in smartphone cameras in the past. The advantage that a liquid lens has over a lens made of solid glass is that its shape can easily be changed, altering its refractive properties. This allows for both zooming and focusing without physically moving elements inside a lens.

Canon has now patented a DSLR zoom lens that makes use of a liquid lens element, according to a report by DPReview. The lens is allegedly a 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 zoom for cameras with an APS-C-sized sensor, and it makes use of one liquid element, although it's not entirely clear from the description whether it'll be used for focusing or for zooming. Dpreview notes, however, that the patent also mentions a traditional mechanism for moving individual lens elements which is used in conjunction with the liquid element.

Image via Egami

In theory, the incorporation of liquid lens elements into traditional designs could allow for much smaller lenses, as one liquid element would be able to replace, for example, a more complex traditional focusing or zooming lens group. Currently, however, the technology doesn't seem to be up to a point where it can be implemented in actual photographic products. While manufacturers such as Varioptic already offer smaller liquid lenses with AF capabilities, these are meant for industrial and other purposes and work only with small sensors.

It is very likely, though, that liquid lenses will find their way into smartphones very soon, as they would provide an actual benefit in the small camera modules that most mobile devices come with. Ultimately, it can be expected that they will also make it into full-fledged digital cameras -- but at this point there's no way of telling when that will be.

(via DPReview)