Canon registers patent that may revolutionize smartphone cameras

Canon has registered a new patent for a way to use all of a smartphone’s cameras at the same time. If it comes to market, this could change the way we use our smartphone cameras.

Before we start

The original patent was published in Japanese so we used Google Translate to help understand what it says. However, this isn’t always the best, especially with a technical document such as a patent. We are also working from the patent’s summary only, so we don’t have the full text. However, it does give us some insight into what new technology Canon is proposing.

What do we know?

The Japanese website Asobinet first published details of the patent, reference number JP,2023-160089,A. Canon in Japan applied for it in April 2022 and the document was made public on November 2. The patent describes a new imaging device for smartphones and its control method. It also explains a new technique for switching between cameras without interrupting your recording.

What does the patent say?

According to Google Translate, the synopsis of the patent is: “When capturing images in parallel in a plurality of imaging modes, the angle of view can be seamlessly switched from wide-angle to telephoto without interrupting the imaging.” The patent also summarizes how smartphones use multiple imaging units and lenses with different focal lengths to switch the angle of view.

Capturing stills and video

The Canon patent states that you can currently capture still and video at the same time, using a different imaging unit and lens for each imaging mode. However, if you want to switch the lens for video to the lens used for still images, you must first stop using the imaging unit for still images. This means it is difficult to seamlessly adjust the angle of view without interrupting imaging.

A solution from Canon

The patent references first and second imaging modes which we presume to mean stills and video. The document also appears to describe using a built-in buffer so that you can switch between lenses without stopping your recording. It doesn’t seem to say that you can record still and video on one camera at the same time. However, it may be that when you switch the video from wide to tele lenses, the still imaging swaps the other way.

What we think

It’s often difficult to get a clear understanding of a new technology from a patent as they are highly technical documents. This situation isn’t helped when a patent has to be translated as well. However, the ability to potentially shoot video and stills at the same time, and be able to switch focal lengths, is exciting. It’s important to remember that a patent is a means for a manufacturer to protect their ideas. A lot of patented technologies never come to market. However, in June 2023 the Canon Rumors website claimed that Canon was looking to partner with a smartphone manufacturer. Maybe this patent is the reason why.

Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies
Pete Tomkies is a freelance cinematographer and camera operator from Manchester, UK. He also produces and directs short films as Duck66 Films. Pete's latest short Once Bitten... won 15 awards and was selected for 105 film festivals around the world.

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