Oppo has revealed impressive new technology that hides a smartphone’s selfie camera beneath the display itself — taking its devices another step closer to providing an entirely unspoiled and completely immersive viewing experience. The company showed its Under-Screen Camera, or USC, for the first time at MWC Shanghai 2019, and explained some of the technical challenges around making it.
Many will be concerned about the camera’s ability to take good photos when set under the screen. Oppo took steps to make sure the sensor gets enough light, but the transparency of the screen itself introduced problems with glare, haze, color inaccuracies, noise, and diffraction. To combat this, Oppo has made the section of screen above the camera from a custom piece of highly transparent material, then redesigned the pixel structure to ensure none of these light problems are encountered.
Next, Oppo decided on a bigger sensor with a larger aperture, and bigger pixels, so the camera could make best use of the light it gets. Software in the phone deals with some of the harder problems: a haze-removal algorithm increases sharpness, a new HDR algorithm balances exposure, and a special white balance algorithm keeps the colors in check. The camera will take photos worthy of any other selfie camera, says Oppo, and adds that it will have a portrait mode, a beauty mode, and different filters as you’d expect.
This no-compromise approach is to be expected; but Oppo also mentions an interesting side benefit of the USC — a higher degree of water resistance, due to the USC allowing a complete, true unibody design. Using a USC also means the notch, hole-punch camera, or pop-up cameras are no longer the only solutions to retaining a selfie camera on bezel-less smartphone designs.
The Under-Screen Camera is the result of several years hard work at Oppo. The project began in 2017, with development officially starting in May 2018, and now with the official reveal in Shanghai, it has become the first company to demonstrate what’s expected to become an industry trend. Xiaomi is already hot on Oppo’s heels with in-display camera tech, and we expect others to show off similar tech too.
When will you see the first Oppo phone with a USC? Oppo says it will release a phone with the camera in the near future, but has not been more precise. Oppo sells smartphones in China, other parts of Asia, Europe, and in the U.K.. It does not sell smartphones in the U.S.