A newly-discovered Apple patent hints at the company’s plans for iPhone cameras – and they’re very smart indeed.
The document describes a camera system that uses optical image stabilisation in a novel way. Traditionally, OIS is used to automatically offset the movement of the photo-taker’s hands through clever shifting of the optical elements inside the camera, reducing blur in the picture. What Apple’s system does is combine OIS with multiple exposures, using the technology to take several shots, each at a slightly offset angle. The image processor then stitches these shots together to create a patchwork “super resolution” image.
That means the camera is capable of turning out pictures at a much higher resolution than its sensor – because the sensor is being used multiple times. It’s a different approach than we’re seeing from any other smartphone manufacturer at the moment, and could allow Apple to stick with relatively low-resolution image sensors (like the 8MP sensor on the iPhone 5s) and yet still keep pace with its rivals. That’s assuming, of course, that the system delivers good results.
The patent was filed in 2012, so should we expect to see a super resolution camera on the next iPhone? We think it’s unlikely, but as for the iPhone after that? Don’t rule it out.