The Oppo Find X3’s microscope camera is the kind of gimmick I’m here for

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Not a year goes by without a phone maker trying some kind of gadget with the camera system. But Oppo’s new Find X3 Pro has a gadget that’s actually pretty awesome: a camera that’s practically a microscope.

Well, Oppo calls it a ‘Microlens’ camera, but whatever you call it, it’s capable of magnifying objects up to 60x. This places it more in the territory of a basic microscope (40x, 100x, and 400x are common magnifications) than, for example, the tacky macro lenses of some cameras, where it is often better to crop to a higher resolution. Of course, it’s not enough to fix the problem in the cells, but it will still bring you some pretty cool close-ups.

To use some Oppo samples, here are some algae:

Interesting, I guess. Here is now a close-up with the microlenses:

Woah!

Sure, these are pretty, but even the photos we’ve seen of journalists with access to phones are already way more interesting than what you usually get with gadget cameras. Here are some examples of YouTuber Mr. Mobile:

Here are some examples of Andy boxall from Digital Trends:

Granted, these aren’t the highest quality images in traditional terms – the camera is a measly 3 megapixel, after all. And it must be difficult to keep objects in focus with such a shallow depth of field and the shaking of those high magnifications. Still, these are images you just don’t get on other devices, and at least Oppo includes a ring light around the lens to help keep subjects lit up.

You might think this is just another fad, like the novelty optics seen in so many phones. And who knows, maybe the Microlens camera will be gone in a year or two. But unlike, for example, a monochrome or depth camera – or even a traditional “ macro ” lens – the Oppo Find X3’s microlens actually allow you to capture images that you couldn’t otherwise.

This is how you make a gadget: Give away something that people have never seen before and can’t easily emulate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see others copy it down the line; maybe 5 years from now we will all have proper microscopes in our pockets.