Almost all smartphone camera lenses are plastic

Nokia XR20
Nokia XR20

Marques Brownlee did a short review of the Sony Xperia Pro-i smartphone that houses a 1-inch camera sensor and revealed one fact I also wasn’t aware of. Basically, almost all modern smartphones use camera lens elements made of plastic materials instead of glass. This piece of knowledge is a bit of shocking revelation since I took for granted that all camera lenses, whether those from handheld cameras or smartphones, are made of super-polished glass.

A logical thing was to reach Zeiss and ask them to elaborate on the lens manufacturing process, and ask if Nokia devices are also using plastic lens elements. Well, Zeiss confirmed that (I’d share a screenshot of the answer but haven’t got authorization from Zeiss to do that).

Zeiss revealed that today’s smartphones require extremely complex high-resolution lens elements which need to be crammed into a very small space to create sharp images. To manage this, double-aspherical lens elements need to be manufactured, and that is not possible to realize from optical glass. Because of that, the camera modules of today’s smartphones are using moulded plastic materials.

But, Sony managed somehow to use true glass lens elements for its Xperia Pro-i camera to make it the best in the smartphone world. That made Xperia Pro-i a superb device that costs up to 1800 USD.

This doesn’t surprize me that much and I believe that those plastic materials have great light diffusing properties which make shots crisp and clear as they are.