Apple has recently been granted a patent for its new camera invention having a real zoom lens system that we may see in future iDevices such as the iPhones, Macs and TVs. In order to bring a true zoom lens mechanism with moveable lenses to iDevices, a new type of light splitter has to be integrated inside the iSight camera.
The light splitter was invented by Apple back in 2011 but the company has got patent for it only recently. The new digital camera system includes a light splitter cube. This cube splits the incident light falling on it from the camera scene into 3 color components which are picked up by 3 image sensors so positioned, that each sensor receives 1 color component. The color splitting cube helps to improve contrast and enhance the visibility of the subject, giving good images even through fog, clouds, rain or smoke.
This highly technical camera mechanism also consists of a folding mirror that acts as a deflector. This mirror can be tilted or rolled by an automatically controlled actuator. This is a part of the Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) mechanism present in current iDevices. In this system, the deflector mirror is moved instead of moving the sensor or lens as is done in the traditional system.
Such an OIS system has been implemented in the new iPhone 6 Plus. OIS works with an A8 chip, a gyroscope and a M8 motion co-processor that measures the motion data and causes the lens to move precisely, compensating for the hand shake in low light. The long-exposure and short-exposure images are fused together which helps to reduce movement of the subject and give great images even in low light.
The third feature of the camera system is the true zoom lens. In the image below, we can see the deflector #20, the zoom lens #21 and the light splitter #2 which are housed together inside a camera module.
The zoom lens consists of one or more moveable lenses whose position is controlled automatically by a motorized actuator. This may be a true zoom lens that maintains focus even when its focal length or magnification is changed. Apple is still working to build a high quality true zoom lens system.
According to Apple, such a camera module could be fit into iDevices and other portable wireless gadgets including PCs and TV monitors. Well, we certainly hope to see this new camera technology in iDevices soon.