iphone 5S

AppleInsider is reporting that Apple has opened up at least 24 new positions for their in-house camera hardware and software engineering teams. This further illustrates that Apple takes iPhoneography seriously and how the iPhone and other mobile devices have changed photography. This also indicates the weight Apple gives to how we capture images and further illustrates their commitment to stay on the leading edge of mobile phone photography.

Apple does not manufacture the camera sensor units itself. Recent iOS camera sensors have have been manufactured by Sony, LG Innotek, and Omnivision. But Apple works with the manufacturers as the sensors for iOS devices are developed, helping to customize the modules for the unique characteristics of iOS devices and the Apple user experience.

Many of the other iPhone camera features were developed by Apple, including the the native Camera app (of course) and the unique 5-lens optics in the iPhone 5 series.

Apple has been quietly (and sometimes not-so-quietly been acquiring mobile camera-related companies and technologies. A recent acquisition was SnappyLabs, the developer of SnappyCam which had the fastest refresh rate of any full-res burst mode camera in the App Store. Even on a speedy iPhone 5S, the refresh rate of SnappyCam was about half the time of the native Camera’s Burst Mode. Another company and technology recently acquired by Apple is the 3D imaging company PrimeSense, a company that creates sensors, specialized silicon and middle-ware for motion sensing and 3D scanning applications.

In addition, Apple has quietly applied for patents ranging from new, more efficient camera sensor technology, interchangeable lenses for a mobile device, refocusable light-field modules similar to Lytro’s light field technology.

Overall, Apple has quite a collection of cool, camera-related technologies and patents from which to build.

Many of these patents and acquisitions may never be realized. There’s just not a lot of space inside an iPhone and future models will most likely get flatter and sleeker. These new positions are telling in that Apple is not content to merely coast on the the art from it practically invented and is seriously exploring new technologies to change not only what we shoot with our iPhones, but how we shoot it and what the end result could be — all from a camera that’s less than 10mm thick.

The expansions of the camera hardware and software engineering teams may yield few short-term goodies, but in the long term, this is excellent news for iPhonegraphers and has great potential to yield some pretty cool new features down the road. While not possible yet with current hardware, the idea of shooting and sharing a 3D image with the ability to adjust a true focal point sounds pretty cool.