Purple haze? That might now also be an iPhone 5 problem.

Photo courtesy of Mashable.com

Mashable and other outlets are reporting that there may be a problem with the camera of the new iPhone 5. When pointing the camera at the sun or other extremely bright light source, a purple “haze” appears in the image around the light source.

It’s something that I missed in my review of the iPhone 5’s camera because I generally don’t point any lens at the sun. When I do, I expect (or hope for) bokeh, lens flares and other chromatic aberrations in the image.

But I’m glad Mashable does.

It’s an optical effect called purple fringing or PF. According to Wikipedia, “In photography, and particularly in digital photography, purple fringing (sometimes called PF) is the term for an out-of-focus purple or magenta “ghost” image on a photograph. This defect is generally most visible as a coloring and lightening of dark edges adjacent to bright areas of broad-spectrum illumination, such as daylight or various types of gas discharge lamps.” You can read more here, but the explanation is long and dry.

Some are suggesting that this may be the iPhone 5’s “Antennagate.” I say hooey. Weird and sometimes wonderful things happen when you aim a modern camera sensor at the sun, especially one of the small sensors of a mobile phone. This isn’t the first iPhone with a chromatic aberration. The 5MP camera of the original iPhone 4 had some great signature bokeh that would often appear when the camera was pointed at a bright light source.

I haven’t experienced the Purple Haze (on my iPhone…), but other forums are ablaze. For me, the iPhone 5 has been a remarkable camera under a wide variety of shooting conditions and has exceeded my admittedly subdued expectations.

Matthew Panzarino on The Next Web says that other cameras and phones can exhibit the same aberration, including the much-revered camera of the iPhone 4S. He has a great story on why this isn’t a story. Click to read it, “The iPhone 5?s camera “suffering” from ‘purple haze’ flaw? Not so fast”.

Looks like the iPhone 5 has it’s signature aberration….



About Marty Yawnick 1830 Articles
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, Pink Floyd, film, music, and traveling in seats 5E and 5F with his fiancé.
  • Miki

    I agree with your evaluation. These detractors calling the "purple haze" has a flaw are simply trying to compare a phone's camera lens to a much pricier DSLR lens. Just like older versions of the iPhone had the red-blobs when pointed at the sun, so this latest iteration has a purple haze.

  • Thank you for putting out your two cents on the matter and not being part of the hysteria.

  • John Driggers

    I agree, except for your use of/understanding of bokeh (as you spell it). Bokeh is the shape and character of out of focus highlights and the out of focus areas of a short depth of field image obtained when using a large aperture for a given sensor/film size. Really round aperture openings and the right lens design give the creamy/dreamy desirable bokeh that lots of people pursue. Bokeh has zip-all to do with pointing your camera at the sun or a bright light source. In fact, depth of field is so great on the iPhone (indeed, ALL small sensor imaging devices) that bokeh, when you can get it, results from shooting a subject very close to the camera phone against a background far far away. When you point your camera at the sun or a bright light source, what you get is lens flare, which may or may not be accompanied by chromatic aberration (coloured-usually purple) fringing. So, I still left with 2 questions, vis a vie the iPhone 5.

    1. How susceptible is it to lens flare generally? That is, if pointed at the sun, I know I’ll probably get flare, but off-axis with the sun in the frame, how bad is it? If off-axis flare is present, is it extreme or moderate or slight?

    2. On-axis flare shows huge amounts of chromatic aberration. How bad is the CA in off-axis flare situations and in general photography?

    I’m on the waiting list to upgrade from a 4 to a 5, so any real straightforward answers to those questions would be really useful. Since you’ve got a 5, how about some testing and a update to your great review of the 5? I know the blog is mostly app-related, but it would be very useful to those of use still waiting for the 5.

    Thanks for all your good work. Sorry if I sound pedantic about bokeh, but it remains a fuzzy concept (pun intended) in web-land.

  • kittywake

    I experienced a beautiful type of lens flare w/my iPhone 2 while shooting some large Cumulus clouds. I noticed the flares, which also deepened the sky blue, as I aimed a little too close to the late summer sun. It looked awesome and I went with it. Some of my favorite shots still, to this day! As a weather freak, the sky is one of my favorite subjects & I still will aim for some flare from time to time. So really don’t see what the fuss is all about…unless you can’t control it.
    I will also say, I love my 4S and do not plan on a 5 in my life.

  • nasir

    I agree, except for your use of/understanding of bokeh (as you spell it). Bokeh is the shape and character of out of focus highlights and the out of focus areas of a short depth of field image obtained when using a large aperture for a given sensor/film size.

  • Sam Kapoor

    You’re absolutely right I have same purple haze problem in my Iphone 5 camera. Some people said that it is due to introduction of a sapphire lens in iPhone 5 cameras but apple has refused all these issues and said that it is normal behavior of Iphone 5 camera and the lens has nothing to do with this. So I decided to find the solution on internet and I successfully got solution here http://howmobile.net/apple-iphone/2853-solution-c…. You must see these solutions. After applying these solutions on my Iphone device, my Iphone camera started working quite nicely. Hope it will also help you.