Forward-looking: LG is no longer manufacturing branded smartphones, but the South Korean tech giant continues to develop components for other handset makers. Its latest creation won't be fully unveiled until the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next week but we already have a good idea of what to expect.

The optical telephoto zoom camera module, or simply the optical zoom camera, from LG Innotek will deliver true optical zoom capabilities across the 4-9x telephoto range thanks to an internal zoom actuator that physically moves the lens.

For comparison, most modern smartphones utilize multiple fixed camera modules at different focal lengths and fill in the gaps using less desirable digital zoom.

LG's solution will work in conjunction with an optical image stabilizer and should reduce both the number of individual camera modules on the back of flagships and the size of the camera bump. More free space inside a smartphone could allow for larger batteries.

The Korean electronics specialist didn't come outright and say it, but their new optical zoom camera sounds as if it'll feature a periscope-style design. It has also already picked up a CES 2023 Innovation Award, and LG has partnered with Qualcomm to optimize tasks like auto-focus, auto-exposure and auto-white balance when paired with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 mobile platform.

Unsurprisingly, LG Innotek CEO Jeong Cheol-dong believes the next evolution of smartphone photography will involve enhancing mobile cameras' optical zoom. Handset makers have already made great strides with regard to things like sensor technology and AI, so it only makes sense to focus on this area next.

At this rate, it might not be too much longer before we see smartphone cameras start to rival digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras. That's especially true considering big names like Nikon and Canon have already pivoted to focus on smaller mirrorless cameras.

It's unclear which devices will be the first to utilize LG's new optical zoom camera, but the company said we can expect to see new products packing it at CES.

Image credit: Omar Houchaimi, Matthias Oberholzer