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Phone digicams see the light

Helimorph piezoelectric actuator aids focus

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Canadian Atsana Semiconductor and UK-based 1 have pooled resources to develop a new autofocus function for camera phones. The solution combines Atsana’s J2211 media processor with 1’s Helimorph piezoelectric actuator, and, the companies say, is smaller, lighter and less power hungry than traditional alternatives.

The companies argue that camera phone picture quality will come under increasing scrutiny as higher resolution models make their way onto the market. As this happens, people will start comparing performance with that of standard digital cameras, they say, and it's quite likely that they will be disappointed.

Low light focus is a problem for all digital cameras, but mobile phones don't have the space or power reserves to use the focus assist beam common in larger cameras. Their approach is slightly different.

Their camera unit consists of the helimorph device wrapped around the lens barrel. The actuator is made of a piezoelectric ceramic material which distorts a tiny amount when voltage is applied across it, triggered by light arriving on the photocells. This change is amplified in the Helimorph device, which moves the lens moves in response to the amount of light coming in. The amount of movement is controlled by the autofocus algorithm running in Atsana’s J2211 media processor.

Auto-focus camera modules based on the solution are available now from a number of different module manufacturer licensees, and 1 is taking orders for delivery in the third quarter of this year. Atsana’s J2211 media processor is also available now for volume shipments. ®

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