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Is the future of camera phones here? Oppo unveils its under-screen camera

Oppo under-screen camera
(Image credit: Oppo)

Oppo has unveiled its cutting-edge under-screen camera (USC) technology, which will hide the front-facing selfie camera in your smartphone beneath the screen – meaning the end of unsightly punch holes, notches and tabs that intrude on otherwise sleek displays.

USC technology debuted in 2020 with the Chinese ZTE Axon 20 5G phone, but the  quality of the screen and the photographs was said to extremely poor, thanks largely to the reduced 200ppi resolution of the area of the display above the camera.

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"Last year’s Axon 20 5G from ZTE was the world’s first commercially-available phone to put a front-facing camera underneath its display," wrote The Verge. "It was an impressive step forward for phone technology but there was one big problem: the camera sucked. It took lousy pictures and the module distorted the display in certain settings."

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Oppo under-screen camera

Oppo's new under-screen camera tech even stands up to the e-reader test (Image credit: Oppo)
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Oppo under-screen camera

(Image credit: Oppo)
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Oppo under-screen camera

(Image credit: Oppo)

Oppo's new technology addresses this issue by maintaining the 400ppi resolution of the screen above the camera – which is the same as that of the rest of the display. So, rather than reducing the number of pixels above the USC, the manufacturer has instead reduced the size of the pixels themselves. 

This means that the fluidity of the display is maintained, and distortion to screen accuracy, color and brightness is significantly reduced – even on challenging applications such as e-readers (where fine text on a bright white background proved problematic for the 200ppi USC technology). 

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Oppo under-screen camera

Sample photographs taken with Oppo's under-screen camera (albeit in very generous lighting conditions) (Image credit: Oppo )
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Oppo under-screen camera

Sample photographs taken with Oppo's under-screen camera (albeit in very generous lighting conditions) (Image credit: Oppo )

"By combining the best in hardware innovation and Oppo's AI advancements, the new under-screen camera discreetly places the front-facing camera under the smartphone display while retaining the fluidity of the screen," says Oppo. "Offering the perfect balance between consistent screen quality and camera image quality, it is an under-screen camera solution without compromise."

Obviously the proof of the pudding is in the eating – and Oppo has yet to actually put this tech into a product. However, if it has indeed found the answer to the issues caused by first-generation USCs, this could very well be the future of camera phones.

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James Artaius

The editor of Digital Camera World, James has 21 years experience as a magazine and web journalist and started working in the photographic industry in 2014 (as an assistant to Damian McGillicuddy, who succeeded David Bailey as Principal Photographer for Olympus). In this time he shot for clients as diverse as Aston Martin Racing, Elinchrom and L'Oréal, in addition to shooting campaigns and product testing for Olympus, and providing training for professionals. This has led him to being a go-to expert for camera and lens reviews, photographic and lighting tutorials, as well as industry analysis, news and rumors for publications such as Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon MagazineN-PhotoDigital Photographer and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show. An Olympus (Micro Four Thirds) and Canon (full frame) shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a particular fondness for vintage lenses and film cameras.