What Is Liquid Lens Technology? Will It Revolutionize Smartphone Photography?

If this takes off, you can expect lighter and more versatile cameras.

camera lens
Image: Pexels

Liquid lens technology is a promising camera technology that uses a liquid or fluid to manipulate light and click better pictures. It has recently gained a reputation as the next big step in smartphone camera evolution.

Speaking of cameras, a major requirement for clicking a good picture is to adjust the focal length appropriately. This allows us to focus our shot the right way, depending on the subject at hand.

In most devices today, this focal length adjustment happens by mechanically shifting the lenses within the camera. However, liquid lens technology plans to control a small amount of fluid stored within the camera lens. This eliminates the need for mechanical parts within a camera and carries different lenses for different kinds of shots.

Consequently, liquid lens technology saves space within a camera and makes it lighter. These two advantages, in particular, are very crucial in a portable gadget such as the smartphone. Moreover, liquid lens cameras also offer faster response times and better durability than traditional cameras.

How does Liquid Lens Technology work?

water droplet reflection liquid lens technology
Image: Pexels

Have you noticed how water droplets shimmer and shine when exposed to light? There are innumerable photos that depict this natural scattering of light when passed through a liquid or fluid medium. This shows how fluids can affect how light bends. This attribute is key for determining focal length.

In line with this principle, liquid lens cameras feature an optical fluid stored inside a transparent capsule. Certain pressure variations are applied to the fluid to change its form, manipulate light, and change the camera’s focal length. The fluid can be spread or squeezed to adjust the focus dynamically.

There are various techniques to apply the pressure used in a liquid lens camera. Lens manufacturer corning uses the electrowetting technique to manipulate the shape of the fluid in its Varioptic lenses. Another manufacturer, Optotune, uses optical fluids and a polymer membrane in its focus tunable lenses.

Coming to consumer-end products, Xiaomi’s Mi Mix Fold, the world’s first smartphone to feature a liquid lens camera, uses the company’s proprietary application of this technology.

This new way of capturing images is still changing with each new iteration. Successful mass rollout of liquid lens cameras in the future could likely help create lighter and better cameras.

If you like this simple explainer, check out our Short Bytes section. We take complex tech topics and break them into short, easy-to-understand articles.

Priye Rai

Priye Rai

Priye is a tech writer who writes about anything remotely related to tech, including gaming, smartphones, social media, etc. He prefers to be called a "video game journalist" and grimaces when he doesn't get to be "Player 1." If you want to share feedback or talk about games, reach out to @priyeakapj on Twitter.
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