Liquid Lenses to Make All Cameras Smaller, Faster and Lighter

Posted May. 15th, 2012 by Daniel J. Cox

I’m not sure how many years ago it was that I read about liquid lenses for the first time; it might have been fifteen, probably twenty. The article was an syndicated story in my local hometown paper the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, most likely from the Associated Press, on how all the major players in the camera world were lining up to purchase licensing rights from NASA for what they were calling liquid lens technology. From what I recall the article mentioned all the big players including Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus and others. Some of you who have traveled with me know I’ve mentioned this story more than once over the years.

Giulio Sciorio, respected commercial shooter talks about his change to lighter, smaller cameras for his professional work. Click on this image to read his Blog

What caught my attention was the reduced form factor of a liquid lens compared to its equivalent counterpart made of glass. From what I remember the basic overall reduction in size and weight was about 40% for both. Additionally, the resolving power was dramatically improved. Even twenty years ago I was was yearning for smaller, lighter and better image quality. Obviously I was a much younger man then, but even at that time I felt the pain of schlepping camera equipment such as a 300mm F/2.8, a 600mm f/4 and others from one destination to another. Liquid lenses sounded amazing as far as I was concerned. “Can’t wait to get my hands on one,” I thought out loud.

Well many years have passed and throughout that time I’ve only heard of a liquid lens once. It was an article about a cell phone maker, I think it was Nokia, changing their camera lens in their phone to the new liquid variety. A few months ago, November of last year, my favorite website devoted to Micro 4/3’s posted an announcement that Olympus was filing a patent for a liquid lens. Just four days ago another blog I follow, Canon Watch, announced Canon was also in the process of applying for a liquid lens patent.

It all looks like smaller, lighter and better quality is coming down the pike. I can’t wait. Bring it on. Can you imagine the benefits of combining mirror-less cameras with liquid lenses? Maybe this is where the big camera makers will gain the advantage while at the same time keeping a larger digital sensor. Right now mirror-less cameras such as the Panasonic/Lumix GX1 is smaller and lighter than lets say my Nikon D700. But as good as the image quality of the GX1 is, it doesn’t hold a candle to the D700, especially in low light. The D700 has the advantage of a larger sensor  which allows for larger pixels spread out over more space; which in turn reduces heat and electronic noise. The future of smaller lighter cameras is just on the horizon.

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  1. Erik KerstenbeckOn May. 17th, 2012


    Great article – I am looking forward to this technology along with Nokia Purview and Lytro…exciting future indeed!

    regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

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