Each update of the Apple camera has been an improvement over its predecessor, despite the shorter focal length required by ever-slimmer iPhones. As recently reported by AppleInsider, Apple has recently applied for a patent which would offer a significant bump in camera quality — by putting the guts on its side.
This new patent seeks to help with image stabilization using an array of mirrors and several lens assemblies. The entire camera unit is L-shaped with a mirror mounted on a tiny mechanism that would compensate for user hand motion while capturing an image. Currently, only the iPhone 6 Plus has hardware-assisted image stabilization.
The new camera concept also includes a tiny array of physical zoom lenses, which would offer a huge improvement in sharpness and clarity over the current software-based digital zoom.
The entire unit, if it were produced as designed, would just about quadruple the iPhone camera’s 4.15mm focal length, which would also help reduce the amount of focal length distortion that’s been my biggest complaint about recent iPhone cameras as Apple tries to capture more image in a smaller amount of space. In real English — you know how you sometimes take a group shot of your friends and the ones on the outside of the photo look weird and distorted? This would help that.
Over the years, Apple has applied for many smartphone camera patents and so far we really haven’t seen any of them applied in the real world. some of them have left me scratching my head as to their real-world viability. Others, like this one, make my say “Cool! I want this camera now!”
Apple doesn’t manufacture its own camera modules. It buys them from a number of suppliers who often sell the same camera modules to other smartphone manufacturers. It’s unclear to me how this new patent would find its way into iPhones given the current supply model.
I really hope the technology from this idea is applied to iPhones sooner rather than ‘someday.’ Looking into its potential, this would make a pretty exciting upgrade and would help Apple yet again raise the bar on mobile photography.
Check out Neil Hughes’ original post on AppleInsider for more details on the patent.