The camera on the first iPhone way back in 2007 was a mere 2 megapixels. And it only had a rear camera; there wasn’t even a front-facing selfie shooter. Today, you’ll find multiple cameras on the front and back of phones—some of them with sensors as large as 108 megapixels, like the biggest camera on Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra.
But while the sensor size and megapixel counts of smartphone cameras have increased considerably in the past decade—not to mention improvements in computational photography software—the lenses that help capture photos remain fundamentally unchanged.
A new company called Metalenz, which emerges from stealth mode today, is looking to disrupt smartphone cameras with a single, flat lens system that utilizes a technology called optical metasurfaces. A camera built around this new lens tech can produce an image of the same if not better quality as traditional lenses, collect more light for brighter photos, and can even enable new forms of sensing in phones, all while taking up less space.
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