A few years back, I decided to ditch my trusty DSLR and take an entirely different approach to digital photography. I wanted something that didn’t feel like a chore to haul around but could still take respectable images.

The camera itself wasn’t so much the problem; it was the lenses. With rare exception, the heavier a camera’s lens, the better its quality (and the higher its price). Smartphones didn’t offer the image quality I was after (they still don’t) so that was out of the question.

I ended up going with a micro four thirds system and haven’t looked back although recent developments at Harvard may one day change my mind.

Researchers there have developed a lens built of transparent quartz that’s coated with millions of microscopic titanium dioxide towers arranged in specific patterns to focus light. The end result is that light focused through a 600nm “metalens” can achieve the same resolution and magnification as a traditional 5-6cm glass lens.

Best yet, metalenses are far cheaper to produce than traditional glass lenses and are fully compatible with silicon chip technology. Once researchers focus the entire visible spectrum into the same focal length using metalenses, they’ll be able to place them into smartphones, microscopes, DSLRs or any other imaging devices.

Assuming everything pans out, we could see smartphones with DSLR-quality cameras arrive sooner than we think.