Could Olympus’ new patented focusing tech end the DSLR vs. mirrorless debate?

olympus patents faster contrast detection 9735155 l
Yulia Zhukova
A patent made public Friday suggests Olympus is working on an autofocus system that could solve an issue that is keeping many photographers from swapping their DSLR for a mirrorless camera. According to the patent, restructuring the focusing system of the lens could put the focus speeds for a contrast detection system on par with those of a phase detection option.

Because mirrorless cameras don’t have that mirror, most rely on a contrast detection autofocus system, while DSLRs use a quicker phase detection method. While some mirrorless cameras such as the Sony A7II have managed to include phase detection autofocus, the technology, while faster, creates the need for larger, pricier lenses. While speeds have improved, autofocus is one of the sticking points for those who favor DSLRs in the mirrorless vs. DSLR debate.

Based on the patent, the potential Olympus lenses are unique in the way that they focus with fewer, simpler parts. Essentially, the lenses use the lightweight contrast detection system, but with the speed of a phase detection focus, merging the best features of both types. A single camera lens is actually made up of several lenses working together to shape the light and focus the subject. While lenses often include several pieces of glass used just to focus, the patent from Olympus uses a single focusing element.

Along with allowing the lenses to lose some weight, the system could help improve autofocus speeds. Current contrast detection lens parts have to move farther than those inside of a DSLR lens with phase detection. But, by creating a focusing unit that doesn’t require as much movement to focus, the lens could improve autofocus speeds.

The patent details six different prime lenses, all with a bright f/1.4 maximum aperture, covering the following focal lengths: 17mm, 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm. The patent also details two different 25mm lenses, both with the same aperture, but with one measuring about three inches and the other five. With lengths ranging from 2.75 inches to about five inches, the lenses are relatively compact, but not as short as some “pancake” lenses on the market.

While the focus of the patent is new focusing technology, some have interpreted the diagrams and descriptions as a set of full frame lenses. Sony is currently the only manufacturer with a full frame mirrorless system, so if Olympus is working on full frame lenses, they’ve either got a full frame camera body up their sleeves or they’re developing lenses to use on non-Olympus bodies.

Patented technology doesn’t always come to the market, but if the fast focus described comes through, the gap between mirrorless cameras and DSLRs could shrink even further.

Product Review

The gorgeous Oppo Find X plays hard to get, but is it worth the chase?

Is the Oppo Find X the most beautiful smartphone we’ve ever seen? We think it’s right up there, but because it’s an import-only phone, you’ll have to put in some effort to get one. Is it worth going the extra mile?

Sorry, DSLR, but Sony mirrorless is now the best-selling full-frame camera

Four out of every ten full-frame cameras sold in the United States during the first-half of 2018 had the Sony name. That makes Sony's mirrorless full-frame cameras the best-selling models.

From wide angle to telephoto, here are the best lenses for your Nikon DSLR

Looking for the perfect lens to pair with your Nikon DSLR? Here are Nikon's best lenses -- and a few from third-party manufacturers -- from macro to telephoto, from $220 to $2,400.

These point-and-shoot cameras make your smartphone pics look like cave paintings

If your smartphone camera just isn't giving you the results you're looking for, maybe it's time to step up your game. The latest and greatest point-and-shoot cameras offer large sensors, tough bodies, and long lenses - something no phone…

The Nixplay Iris might just make digital picture frames cool again

The digital picture frame's popularity has fizzled because of time-consuming updates and low quality -- but can a Wi-Fi connected frame change that? The Nixplay Iris is an 8-inch smart digital picture frame that wireless updates photos.

8 easy ways for you to transfer photos from an Android phone to a PC

If you haven't already, you should back up your photos to a computer. Here's how to transfer photos from an Android phone to a PC using third-party services and a wealth of storage devices.

A turn for the better: Loupedeck+ adds custom dials, more to Lightroom console

The Loupedeck+ improves on the original Lightroom console by adding welcome customization options and introducing support for Skylum Aurora HDR. What's even better is that it does this all at an even lower price.

These are the best camera straps you can get your hands on

Choosing the right camera strap for your needs can be a tough decision. To help sort through the junk, we've rounded up the best camera straps on the market for you to choose from.
Social Media

How to use Adobe Spark Post to spice up your social media images

Images are proven to get more likes than plain text -- but only if those images are good. Adobe Spark post is an AI-powered design program for non-designers. Here's how to use it to take your social media feeds to the next level.

18 seconds of fame: Giphy’s quirky new GIF film festival has a $10K prize

Have a knack for creating GIFs? Someone is going to win $10,000 for a video that's 18 seconds or less at the Giphy Film Festival. The new contest is set to recognize the top creator for the short micro-films in five different categories.

Google One subscriptions offer more cloud storage for low prices, other perks

Can't get enough storage on Google Drive, Photos, or Gmail? Google One is the new way to boost your cloud storage. But it's not just about more space -- Google One comes with a loads of benefits.
Emerging Tech

Meet the Mantis Q: A drone you can control by yelling, waving, or even smiling

"Mantis, take a picture." Yuneec's new consumer drone, the Yuneec Mantis Q, responds to voice commands along with gestures and smiles. The 4K drone also integrates several different flight modes and safety features inside a one-pound…

Capture life in every direction with the best 360 cameras

While 360 cameras are still a new technology, that doesn't mean there's not a few that are worth a look. Whether you want to shoot from the middle or just need a simple, affordable option, here are the best 360 cameras on the market.

Color grading pushes Pinnacle Studio 22 toward more pro video editing features

Designed for videographers that aren't pros but aren't basic users either, Pinnacle Studio 22 expands its advanced tools with color grading and four-point editing. The updates bring more advanced tools to the platform.