Is the future of camera phones retractable lens technology?

(Image credit: Xiaomi)

The more things change, the more they stay the same, right? Xiaomi has recently announced that it has developed retractable lens technology for its camera phones – which sounds eerily familiar to the compact camera tech that camera phones are often considered to have "killed off". 

With modern phones packing such powerful cameras, comparatively bulky compact cameras with their sole function couldn't compete with the multi-faceted tools that phones supply. However, as smartphone technology has progressed, it has continued to chase after achieving excellent image quality without compromising the slim profile of its handsets.

• Read more: Best camera phone

It's therefore not overly surprising to see camera phone manufacturers experiment with traditional camera and lens designs. Xiaomi has developed its new Retractable Wide-aperture Lens Technology, which consists of a compact optical structure inside the camera phone that can be extended.

Xiaomi stated, "this design allows the retractable telescopic camera to have a larger aperture to increase the amount of light input by 300%, as well as showcase better performance in portrait photography and night photography compared to currently-used camera structures." 

When a lens can extend and retract from a body, it allows for a versatile halfway house where the body can remain compact when not being used, while also being able to take advantage of better optical quality when in use. It'll be interesting to see whether Xiaomi's new experimental technology will make it into an upcoming product – and when this groundbreaking camera phone could potentially arrive…

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Louise Carey

With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine and  Digital Photographer. Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.