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No more notches: Oppo and Xiaomi reveal under-display cameras for phones

No more notches: Oppo and Xiaomi reveal under-display cameras for phones

Camera phone technology may be about to change forever, thanks to the latest innovation that's been revealed by Oppo and Xiaomi: under-display cameras. 

"For those seeking the perfect, notchless smartphone screen experience – prepare to be amazed," posted Oppo on Twitter, sharing a Weibo video by VP Brian Shen. "You are taking a very first look at our under-display selfie camera technology."

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The video shows a prototype Oppo handset flat on a table, with a full-coverage screen and no visible notch or punch-hole camera. When the camera app is launched, a camera embedded beneath the phone's screen becomes active – though it only showed an image of the ceiling and a finger passing in front of the lens, leading to some scepticism over the quality (and even authenticity). 

"At this stage, it's difficult for under-display cameras to match the same results as normal cameras, there's bound to be some loss in optical quality," Shen said in a follow-up Weibo post, as reported by Engadget (opens in new tab). "But, no new technology jumps to perfection right away."

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Not to be outdone, Xiamoi followed up with a video of its own under-display camera – this time with a much more impactful and impressive demonstration of the technology.

"Do you want a sneak peek at the future?" the company tweeted, resharing president Lin Bin's Weibo video (recorded back in May) with curiously reciprocal timing. "Here you go...introducing you to Under-Display Camera technology!"

Unlike Oppo's laggy, low-res demo of a ceiling and a finger, the Xiaomi video depicts a user wielding a pair of Xiaomi Mi 9 (opens in new tab)s – one a conventional model with a notch, the other a prototype with the concealed camera.

After scrolling through screens and activity the camera app, the user then takes a selfie with the phone – suggesting that Xiaomi's tech is in a far more advanced stage than Oppo's.

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Xiaomi says that the cathode and anode panels of the screen are transparent in the area around the camera, ensuring that light can be received by the lens and sensor.

According to The Phone Talks (opens in new tab), Xiaomi filed a patent for photosensitive screen function in November last year that uses two separate screen display portions to alternately facilitate the passage of light to the camera. 

It remains to be seen whether Shen's concerns, regarding under-display cameras not yet being able to achieve the same results as conventional cameras, are limitations of the technology's first generation or limitations of the technology as a whole. 

However, should it perform as well as it appears in Xiaomi's video, it looks like the world of notches, punch-holes, pop-up cameras, and even wraparound screens (opens in new tab) could be made redundant. 

Read more: 

The best camera phone (opens in new tab) in 2019
Hands-on Oppo Reno review (opens in new tab)
Xiaomi Mi 9 review (opens in new tab)

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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 Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine (opens in new tab)Digital Photographer (opens in new tab) and Professional Imagemaker, as well as hosting workshops and demonstrations at The Photography Show (opens in new tab). An Olympus and Canon shooter, he has a wealth of knowledge on cameras of all makes – and a fondness for vintage lenses and instant cameras.