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SWick Zoom


Traditional zoom imaging requires the mechanical movement of two or more optical elements along the optical axis, as is done in 35mm cameras or conventional, variable-power riflescopes. Adaptive zoom is a revolutionary method whereby true optical zoom is accomplished by cooperatively varying the focal lengths of multiple active optical elements in the system. Sandia has demonstrated and patented this using various optical elements, including liquid crystal (LC) spatial light modulators, adaptive lenses, and deformable mirrors. This technology is ideal for any imaging system that requires extremely fast, variable magnification but is limited by size, weight, and power (SWaP) constraints.


Rapid Adaptive Zoom has been investigated for medical imaging devices (ophthalmoscopes, laparoscopes and endoscopes), surveillance systems (UAV and security cameras), and even cell phones.  Most of the recent work has been focused on the development of a riflescope. The U.S. Military requested a compact zoom riflescope, capable of rapidly toggling between magnification at the push of a button without changing the grip on the weapon or losing sight picture. The Adaptive Zoom Riflescope filled this request, with its ability to zoom in milliseconds and perform 10,000 actuations on two AA batteries. The weight, power, and speed requirements for mechanical zoom make them prohibitive. The Rapid Adaptive Zoom allows target engagement at diverse ranges and provides several distinct advantages including speed and high resolution at varying distances.

The Adaptive Zoom Riflescope, and its component lenses, are market leaders from a performance standpoint. The variable-focal length lenses we developed, and which are the heart of the Adaptive Zoom concept, have the following distinguishing characteristics, relative to similar lenses:

  • Mil-Spec Shock/Vibration/Temperature (per MIL-STD-810G)
  • Largest Dynamic Range (Diopters/Focal Length)
  • Largest Usable Clear Aperture (Actuated)
  • Largest Clear Aperture/Outer Diameter Ratio
  • Temperature Compensation (Focal Length vs. Radius of Curvature)
  • Best Image Quality (Wavelength Error - WFE)


Rapid Adaptive Zoom can reduce the size, weight, and power requirements of a traditional zoom imaging system, providing instantaneous, push-button magnification in a compact form factor.

Applications and Industries

  • Rifle scopes
  • Medical imaging
  • Surveillance systems
  • Any imaging system requiring variable magnification but is limited in size, weight, or power

Additional Information

SWick Zoom Video

Intellectual Property

ID Number
Patent Number
Active optical zoom system 7582.0 6,977,777 12/20/2005
Development StagePrototype - Sandia estimates this technology at a Technology Readiness Level 6. Representative of the deliverable demonstrated in relevant environment.AvailabilityAvailablePublished06/09/2014Last Updated08/29/2016