Not a year goes by that a phone maker doesn’t try some kind of gimmick with the camera system. But Oppo‘s new Find X3 Pro has a gimmick that’s actually pretty rad: a camera that is practically a microscope.

Well, Oppo is calling it a ‘Microlens’ camera, but whatever you call it, it’s able to magnify objects up to 60x. That puts it more the territory of a basic microscope (40x, 100x, and 400x are common magnifications) than, say, the cheesy macro lenses on some cameras, where you’re often just better off cropping a higher resolution. Sure, it’s not enough to resolution peer into cells, but it’ll still net you some pretty cool closeups.

To use some samples from Oppo, here’s some seaweed:

Interesting, I guess. Now here’s a closeup with the Microlens:


Of course, those are prettied up, but even the shots we’ve seen from journalists with access to the phones already are way more interesting than what you usually get with gimmick cameras.  Here are some samples from YouTuber Mr. Mobile:

Here are some samples by Andy Boxall from Digital Trends:

Granted, they’re not the highest quality images in traditional terms — the camera is a measly 3 megapixels, after all. And it must be tricky to keep objects in focus with depth-of-field so shallow and the shakiness of such 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 illuminated.

You might be thinking 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, say, a monochrome or depth camera — or even a traditional ‘Macro’ lens — the microlens in the Oppo Find X3 actually lets you capture images you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

This is the way you do a gimmick: deliver something that people haven’t seen before and can’t readily imitate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see others copy it down the line; maybe in 5 years, we’ll all have proper microscopes in our pockets.