HP develops folding lenses for slimmer cameras

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HP develops folding lenses for slimmer cameras

Improved digital camera lens technology helps reduce drop damage.

Hewlett-Packard is developing folded lenses for its compact digital cameras, in an effort to make them ultra-slim yet still have large telephoto zooms.

As it finds itself under pressure to create smaller compact cameras for the consumer market, HP is focusing on improved lens technology. As the most expensive component of a digital camera, the lens plays an important part in image quality and performance.

Speaking at its HP Labs event in Disneyland, Paris, the company said smaller cameras present a number of problems: their lenses are more prone to damage through being dropped, they have a limited wide angle and it's hard to keep them telecentric.

HP's new lenses can be used in very thin cameras, despite having a larger volume than sliding lenses. Folded lenses are more complex to produce but their simpler mechanical design helps reduce drop damage.

Development of mobile phone lenses and plastic optics has also attracted major investment as phones increasingly come with cameras as standard.

"The biggest driver of the compact camera market is mobile phones," said Kevin Matherson, optical scientist at HP.

HP claims its Anti-Shake image-processing technology, which prevents blur in low light, is superior to generic optical image stabilisation techniques. It tackles the problem of subject motion as well as managing shutter speed to correct for the effects of camera hand shake.

The company is also developing technology to improve pre-capture abilities in the next generation of digital cameras. The processing power of cameras is increasing and HP said future cameras would use more sophisticated algorithms for auto-focusing, automatic white balance, contrast perception and preventing colour shading.

HP's latest cameras will also include various post-capture improvements. Foremost among them is the 'Instant Advice' feature, which scans a photo for defects and immediately provides suggestions for improving picture quality.
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