The days of the Polaroid are way behind us, but apparently, so are the days of top brands cameras like Canon or Nikon. At least for the average folk who has refocused the interest onto something more functional and less complicated. According to some data gathered up by Flickr, photography enthusiasts chose Apple’s iPhone 4S camera as their preferred tool for image capturing, with more than 51 million users using it.
iPhone’s Camera is The Most Popular on Flickr
On the second place, at the time of this writing, comes iPhone 4, being very close with iPhone 4S’ position. If Apple’s smartphones will remain that popular (unless we boycott their products), then the next iPhone might soon take over the first place. Basically, right now, the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4 beat the consecrated choices like Canon EOS Mark, Nikon D90, Canon EOS REBEL and many others. Of course, the iPhone 4S camera is even better and more accurate than its predecessor.
There have been countless posts online that compare the picture quality of the original iPhone, 3G, 3GS, 4, 4S plus some professional camera like the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. While the iPhone 4S pictures look absolutely breathtaking, we can’t help but wonder whether or not their quality will remain the same once mounted up a decent desktop monitor. Probably not. But they will still keep an aspect that will please the majority of users. Weight also plays a very important role here, since your iPhone is much more lighter than a stand-alone camera and also acts as an universal all-in-one device.
Current Camera is Already Impressive Enough
The iPhone 4S’ camera sports a resolution of 2,364 x 2,448 pixels and moves way faster than its predecessors ever did with an image sensor. It gets backside illumination, thus allowing 73% more light to flow in, making photos taken without a perfect lighting seem pretty decent. It also comes packed with a five element lens that help produce a cleaner picture. But surely, there is a lot of room left for improvement here. If the leap in iPhone 4S’ camera was so big that it managed to become the most used camera on Flickr, how popular will next iPhone’s camera be?
A report coming from the 9to5mac publication claims that Apple might adopt in the future a super advanced technology that is capable of snapping pictures in an instant, while absorbing all the light available to give you the best picture ever imagined. Sounds familiar? Yes, Samsung Galaxy S3 is already capable of that, so there’s hope that the sixth-generation iPhone’s camera will come with some impressive features. Before judging a camera’s capabilities, don’t get fooled by the added amount of pixels, and we explained in our digital camera buying guide why that’s actually a myth.
How Could Next iPhone’s Camera be?
In his book – Steve Jobs’ biography, Walter Isaacson says that Steve Jobs “had three things that he wanted to reinvent: the television, textbooks and photography”. The Apple TV, if we judge by the increasing amount of rumours, seems to be a reality. iBooks seems to have solved the textbooks item. We are left with photography. Looking at iPhone 4S’ camera capabilities:
- facial recognition
- 8 MP sensor
- HDR photo taking
- 1080p video recording
- advanced device photo editing
Instant Photo and Lytro Technology
one might say that this already represents the peak of what mobile photography can offer. But meanwhile, a product like Nokia’s PureView has appeared to suggest us that even more is possible. While next iPhone’s camera doesn’t need that much megapixels packed inside (unless Apple wants it to look like a little monster), there’s evidence that it might sport something different than its competition. In his book, “Inside Apple”, Adam Lashinsky, tells how Steve Jobs has met with Ren Ng, the CEO of the photography company Lytro:
The company’s CEO, Ren Ng, a brilliant computer scientist with a PhD from Stanford, immediately called Jobs, who picked up the phone and quickly said, “if you’re free this afternoon maybe we would could get together.” Ng, who is thirty-two, hurried to Palo Alto, showed Jobs a demo of Lytro’s technology, discussed cameras and product design with him, and, at Jobs’s request, agreed to send him an email outlining three things he’d like Lytro to do with Apple.
Lytro’s photography technology is so special because they can make “living” photos. You can actually focus the images after they’ve been made! Take a look here to understand what I’m talking about. Besides that, Lytro’s technology can provide the instant photo technology without even comprosing the weight factor. And this is something that consumers will be interested in – low weight and increased performance.
More Pixels, Much Better Sensor?
Apple might also add some extra pixels to keep up the tradition of doing so in its precedent models. But just adding some megapixels doesn’t automatically mean users will be getting better pictures. In order for the teak to work, one must also increase the size of the sensor chip so that it is possible to gather up more information. If that doesn’t happen the exact opposite will turn up: a low quality picture. They could also maintain the actual number of megapixels and go for a better sensor.
OmniVision, who’s a well known sensor supplier, announced one of its latest portfolio additions: the OV16820 and OV16825 which are 16-megapixel CameraChip sensors and are able to capture 4K2K or Quad Full High Definition (QFHD) video at 60 frames per second. Can you imagine the quality of your pictures with this technology? Could such a sensor power the next generation iPhone? We should be able to find this out in autumn.
Improved Color Filters, LED Flash
How about a different filter array pattern for the sensors? Most digital cameras or camcorders use the Bayer filter mosaic which is a color filter array that arranged RGB color filters on grids of photosensors. The standard filter pattern is usually set to 50% green, 25% red and 25% blue. But this system isn’t exactly perfect since there are more green grids than there are red or blue. So far, Fujitsu has tried its hand at building and alternate pattern but the result isn’t exactly brilliant, as it brings about side effects such as reduced false color.
What about the flash department? Is there room to intervene in there? Sure, says the rumor mill. In fact, Edision Opto, a company that specializes in the production of high-power LEDs, has been said to have already begun shipping LED flash products, and could attract Apple’s interest in doing so. Flash isn’t something that most professional photographers would use, but let’s face it, we are not all pros, and in some cases, the flash use just can be of great help. If the next generation iPhone could pack an 8 megapixel sensor with a dual-LED flash, we might actually experience improved quality.
Super Resolution to Your iPhone’s Pictures
A better resolution might improve iPhone’s camera as well. A technique called “super resolution” might be worthy of attention. There are two types of super resolution: single frame and multiple frames. The multi-frame super resolution usually employs the sub-pixel shifts between multiple low resolution images of the same screen, while single-frame super resolution zooms in images but putting aside the added blur. So far, there’s an iPhone 4S ready app called Cortex Camera that operates with super resolution techniques in order to alleviate noise and to increase sharpness.
But judging by the fact that Apple has a lot on its plate right now, trying to design a visionary next generation iPhone that will answer the calls of all Apple fanboys, it might choose to focus on other aspects of the device, putting off the camera makeover for a time in the future. But, as you can see, they have plenty of options. I didn’t mention anything about 3D technology, because I seriously doubt Apple will go that far. Will a revolutionary camera matter for you? How much of iPhone’s camera are you using? Let us know in the comments section.
[photo credits]: Scott Pennington