There has recently been a spurt in patents relating to the camera technology from Apple hinting that the Cupertino giant may be planning something bigger for the iPhone cameras. Last month, Apple got a patent for a new True Zoom Lens system for the camera. It has also patented Mirror Tilt Actuation to get better quality photos. And now we have another patent filed by Apple for a new camera system mechanism.
A new Apple patent filing published by the US Patent and Trademark Office is titled “System and method for capturing images”. This image capture device will include two or more apertures to admit light from different directions and direct it to an image sensor. The system would use a series of electrically switchable mirrors, movable lenses and other components that will direct light from two or more apertures on to a single image sensor device.
This means that a single image sensor would be sufficient for light coming from two different apertures. Current Apple mobile devices use two cameras, the rear camera and the front-facing one which have been branded as iSight and FaceTime HD respectively in the iPhone 6. The front-facing camera uses a smaller, low resolution sensor compared to the 8MP rear camera due to space constraints. The new invention could mean that only one image sensor would be needed for both the cameras, thus saving precious space.
In the new mechanism, light will enter the device from two opposite directions like in the iphones, and then instead of falling directly on the image sensor after passing through the lenses as it does now, it will be bounced off a series of “machine controlled mirrors”. So the image sensor need not be directly behind the lenses.
The electrically controlled mirrors can switch between reflective and transmission modes when an electric current is applied to them so that they can manipulate light without moving parts. The lens apparatus is also movable to compensate for the difference in distance between the first aperture and the image sensor, and the second aperture and the same image sensor.
This new camera technology will save space and could result in smaller camera modules and consequently sleek devices without the “camera bump” which is obvious in iPhone 6 because of its slimness.
It is not clear if Apple will deploy this new camera technology in its upcoming iPhone.