Canon Designs Way to Use a Smartphone’s Whole Camera Array Simultaneously

Smartphone camera array

Canon has developed a method that allows smartphone users to control multiple cameras in an array simultaneously which would, for example, allow them to record a video with the wide-angle camera while shooting photos with the main camera at the same time.

If there was any doubt that Canon was not paying attention to the smartphone market before, that notion can be quickly discarded as the company has filed a new patent that would enable shooting capabilities that have thus far not been possible on the handheld devices.

Spotted by Asobinet, in a patent filed earlier this year and published today (JP,2023-160089,A), Canon describes a method by which a photographer or filmmaker would be able to independently control and use all of the cameras in a smartphone’s array at the same time.

Canon Smartphone patent

Canon says that while shooting photos and videos on all sensors in a smartphone’s array is currently possible, doing so requires a user to stop capturing photos if they want to shoot a video and vice versa. While it doesn’t appear as though the patent would allow photos and videos to be recorded at the same time on the same sensor, what Canon has proposed allows a lot more image data to be shot than is presently possible and will utilize all the cameras in a smartphone array simultaneously.

Canon Smartphone patent

While the language of patents is already difficult to parse when it is written in a native language and that’s exacerbated by machine translation from Japanese to English, it sounds as though Canon also wants to make it possible to swap between the cameras seamlessly.

“To seamlessly switch an angle of view from a wide angle to a telephoto without interrupting imaging when imaging is performed in parallel in a plurality of imaging modes,” the patent application reads.

Canon Smartphone patent

The core of this capability is, unsurprisingly, linked to processing. Canon describes a “reception unit” — probably a dedicated chip — that is configured to receive the signals of all of the cameras in a smartphone’s array that not only allows each of the feeds to be operational at the same time but also allows them to record photos or videos. That is to say, the wide-angle and telephoto cameras could be shooting photos while the main camera could be shooting video — all at the same time.

While this is just a design patent and actually making such a technology would require managing data streams through a pretty powerful processor as well as sinking the heat associated with that kind of processing, it does show that Canon is paying attention to the smartphone market. This technology has no application in Canon’s typical single-sensor camera products and while the company could very well be working on its own smartphones, the more likely situation is that it hopes to make passive income by licensing its patents to smartphone manufacturers.