Apple’s upcoming iDevices – like the rumored iPhone 6 and future iPads – could sport super-resolution cameras that feature built-in image stabilization and don’t need any more megapixels than the 8 the iPhone 5s already employs.
That’s because Apple today has published with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office a patent application on a super-resolution camera engine based on optical image stabilization.
According to the application’s abstract: “In one embodiment, an electronic image sensor captures a reference optical sample through an optical path. Thereafter, an optical image stabilization (OIS) processor to adjusts the optical path to the electronic image sensor by a known amount. A second optical sample is then captured along the adjusted optical path, such that the second optical sample is offset from the first optical sample by no more than a sub-pixel offset. The OIS processor may reiterate this process to capture a plurality of optical samples at a plurality of offsets. The optical samples may be combined to create a super-resolution image.”
By taking a series of images, each slightly offset from the other, and then combining and realigning them, the new camera engine can produce high-resolution images. This can be accomplished without adding megapixels to the device’s camera. And since it incorporates image stabilization, it has the added benefit of offering photos free from camera shake effects.
And this is not Apple’s first invention of an OIS system for a camera.
In January, a patent application by Apple was published covering an OIS and improved autofocus system for its upcoming iPhone. The patent, called “VCM OIS Actuator Module,” notes that Apple plans to use voice coil motor actuators to improve the iPhone 6’s autofocus and add OIS.
Like the iPhone 5s, the upcoming iPhone 6 is expected to have an 8 megapixel camera. But if Apple incorporates this new system and its various other patents for OIS and resolution, the cameras in the new devices should outperform cameras from other phones with twice as many megapixels. Apple apparently has always believed in improving the camera’s functionality without adding megapixels. While the iPhone 6 is expected to have an 8 megapixel camera, other smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 sport 16 megapixel cameras.