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Home » Opinion

Musings: Leaked iPhone: Awesome Camera?

Submitted by on April 21, 2010 – 1:02 pm 8 Comments
iphone 4G iPhone HD leaked photo gizmodo

New iPhone camera (?), showing LED flash. Image credit: Gizmodo

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I rarely like to report on rumors and speculation, but this genie is already out of the bottle.

It looks like those leaked photos and details over at Gizmodo of a possible next-generation iPhone prototype (the iPhone HD perhaps?) are probably genuine. When Apple goes after leaked info or devices, it’s usually a good indication that the item in question is the real deal and yesterday, they asked Gizmodo for their property to be returned.

If it’s real — and I think it is genuine — it’s a beautiful device. It’s almost enough to draw me away from T-Mobile and their relatively inexpensive all-you-can-eat plans and drink the much pricier AT&T Kool-Aid.

The goods on the rumored new camera is below. Read on….

iphone 4G iPhone HD leaked photo gizmodo with 3GS

New iPhone (?) next to iPhone 3GS. Image credit: Gizmodo

I don’t think the new phone will be called the iPhone 4G. Although it will be the fourth generation of iPhone (original 2G, 3G, and iPhone 3GS), the term 4G is more widely recognized as identifying the network, not the device. Here in the U.S., AT&T’s 4G network won’t be commercially available until at least 2011. Because of the rumored higher screen density of the device and it’s rumored higher resolution camera, I favor iPhone HD, the other name that’s heard a lot. My personal favorite and a name I came up with is the iPhone 3GX, where the X stands for XTREME.

It would surprise me if the next generation iPhone that we see in June looks much different than this model. I, of course, haven’t had hands on with the device, but it looks to me like a very late prototype of a genuine Apple product. There may be a few minor cosmetic changes for production, but I think we’ve gotten a very in-depth look at the new iPhone.

The new cameras and screen should be of the most interest to iPhoneographers. The new display is greatly improved, possibly with 640×960 resolution (the current iPhone screen resolution is 320×480). There is an additional front-facing camera. I suspect is probably very similar in function and specs to the iPod Nano camera, which is just a VGA camera with 640×480 resolution better suited for video chat than photography.

If the speculation holds true, the new camera should be a huge improvement over what’s currently available, even the 3.2 MP camera of the 3GS. The new camera looks to have a larger lens than current iPhones, indicating that Apple has gone with a different sensor than OmniVision’s OmniPixel3 3.2 megapixel sensor paired with a true autofocus lens which is currently in the 3GS.

Signs point to Apple using OmniVision’s OV5650 5.0 megapixel sensor. It’s a drop-in replacement for the current camera but with significant improvements. The sensing array size is 2592×1944 pixels. The dynamic range — the camera’s ability to capture shadow detail and highlight detail at the same time — is rated 69 dB, a big improvement over the 59.5 dB of the iPhone 3G and a modest improvement of the 66 dB dynamic range of the iPhone 3GS. This camera has improved low-light sensitivity. The larger lens should allow the camera gather even more light.

A photographer doesn’t usually associate mobile phone cameras and quality images in low-light conditions at the same time, but the new camera should perform even better under low-light conditions. The new camera may have a 35% improvement when in low-light situations — 1300 mV (lux-sec) vs. the current 960 mV (lux-sec). Translated from geek, this means better shadow detail and less noise in dark areas of the image. And this is without a flash.

The sensor has a “rolling shutter” which means it retains the ability to create cool motion effects. And the new iPhone will probably have an LED “flash” — basically, an LED flashlight which illuminates the subject and can also add fill light. While not ideal, having an LED flash can save many snapshots.

From everything I’ve read about OmniVision’s new camera sensor, the new iPhone will have a significantly upgraded camera — even more so than the 3G to 3GS camera upgrade. Add higher resolution and greater dynamic range to the auto-focus and color capability of the current 3GS camera and you have a mobile phone camera that is approaching — or under many circumstances –  meeting the image quality of digital point-and-shoot cameras.

What does this mean for iPhoneography? Even better quality raw images than are currently available. This puts further distance from the digital lo-fi qualities of the 2g and 3G cameras that many iPhoneographers like. It puts the onus on developers in many ways. Most importantly, output resolutions will need to be increased in order to take full advantage of the new camera’s capabilities. Apps will become even more important in “degrading” an image in order to give it a digital lo-fi look.

If the camera in the leaked iPhone is genuine, and from all I’ve read I believe it is, it’s going to be an amazing new device. I’m excited by the new specs and I’m counting down the days until I get my hands on one.

=M=

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Gizmodo, OmniVision, Die Ideenecke, and Ars Technica were are used in the research for this story.

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Marty Yawnick

Marty is a self-employed graphic designer in the Fort Worth/Dallas Metroplex. He is an avid Rangers baseball, Chicago Cubs, Packers and Highbury Arsenal fan. In addition to capturing random moments with whatever camera is close by (usually his iPhone), his other interests include coffee, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.

  • Nelson

    I hope (and think) you're right all around on the camera upgrade. We should just be prepared for the excrutiating lag time it will take developers of all of our favorite photo apps to upgrade their apps to utilize the new (higher rez) camera. Hell, the 3GS has been out for nearly a year and there are still too many lazy developers out there not fully using its camera.

  • http://span.posterous.com/ K. Baker

    We should also be prepared for the inevitable chasm that will develop between iphoneographers who tend to define the art based on the limitations of early iPhones and those that will now be possible with the 4x version when it comes out. I think it's a fair enough discussion to have, but don't look forward to the online discourse that will no doubt get in the way of our just going out there and snapping great pics.

  • Edgar_C

    Does "drop-in replacement" mean you can remove the current camera in your iPhone and plug and play the new camera unit that will be on the next gen iPhone? That would be awesome if possible…

  • MartyNearDFW

    That'd be cool if an iPhone camera upgrade were that easy. In this case, though, a "drop-in replacement" means the new 5.0 MP sensor is the same physical size as the 3.2 MP sensor. More pixels, same space. It means Apple wouldn't have had to do a major redesign of the iPhone to include the improved camera. If the Gizmodo iPhone prototype is real, it looks like Apple did anyway.

    =M=

  • Pingback: Great article on the new iPhone camera @ Life In Lofi | Pixels At An Exhibition—The Art of the iPhone

  • Edgar_C

    Thanks for the explianation Marty!

  • Nelson

    @Ken Baker…

    I don't disagree, and I like you don't intend to let a new iPhone keep me from using the one I already have. But it's not inherently a bad thing to want a more capable camera in the iPhone. The reason lofi-style photography is so hugely popular now can be largely attributed to the fact that the very modest 3mp camera is so well suited for, well, low fidelity images. Wanting a camera that moves us closer to hifi iPhoneography doesn't mean we have to abandon our artistic tendencies. It certainly won't offend my creative sensibilities to have more pixels and the ability to take more detailed images.

  • http://span.posterous.com/ K. Baker

    @Nelson

    I'm right there with you!

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