Apple concept would improve iPhone camera quality with use of mirrors

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited February 2015
In its quest to build smaller phones that still somehow offer better photo taking capabilities, Apple has revealed a new concept that would offer improved optical image stabilization using mirrors.




The idea is detailed in a new Apple patent application published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and first discovered by AppleInsider. Entitled "Mirror Tilt Actuation," the newly revealed filing describes an image sensor for small, multifunction devices like an iPhone that would compensate for the user's hand movement to improve picture quality.

Apple introduced optical image stabilization in its products last year with the debut of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The smaller iPhone 6 accomplishes this through software, while the larger iPhone 6 Plus also uses hardware OIS for superior image taking capabilities.

In its filing, Apple notes that OIS adjusts the direction of the field of view of the camera to compensate for user motion. This can be accomplished through "lens barrel shift," where the complete lens is moved, or "camera tilt," where the lens and image sensor are together tilted. But according to Apple, these two ways are not ideal.

"For cameras and image capture capture devices in multifunction devices, neither method is practical," the filing reads.

Apple's solution is to include an image sensor and a zoom lens with movable lens elements arranged independent of one another. The concept includes a lens and mirror assembly that would admit light into the camera.

The camera would include a "folded optics arrangement," in which light would enter the lens and mirror assembly through a first lens. The light would then be redirected with a mirror at a right angle, where it would be sent to the remaining movable lens elements.

To compensate for a user's hand movement and any jitters in picture taking, Apple's camera would include an actuator for tilting the mirror according to movement of the iPhone.




The actuator that moves the mirror inside the camera could be controlled by magnets, the proposed invention states. The actuator would be synchronized to compensate for user hand motion to stabilize images taken with the camera.

The patent application claims priority of a previous U.S. Provisional Application entitled "System and Method for Mirror Tilt Actuation," first filed in August of 2013. The new filing disclosed by the USPTO this week was issued to the office in October of 2013, and it is credited to inventors Ning Y. Chan, Richard J. Topliss, and Steven Webster.
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Comments

  • Reply 2 of 77
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,701member

    A proper zoom lens (yes, you do need moving lenses, it's about conjugation). That would be a very nice enhancement. :)

  • Reply 3 of 77
    iqatedoiqatedo Posts: 1,701member

    Thinking about it, this bears an uncanny resemblance to some spectrometry ideas, perhaps a Raman spectrometer in not only the iPhone but smaller still, in an ?Watch. That would herald a revolution in physiological sensing. Apple has stuff under their collective hood!

  • Reply 4 of 77

    Looks like an amazing idea. However, I don't see it built into an iPhone soon. Apple would have to either make the iPhone thicker to make room for the by 90° flipped sensor or make the sensor smaller. 

     

    By adding a zoom lens you lose light. Basic principle true for every zoom lens versus a fixed one. I see a whole chain of problems in this patent. On the other hand though, it's Apple. They have some pretty smart people working there and have a way of figuring out pretty clever solutions to problems of this kind.

  • Reply 5 of 77
    hill60hill60 Posts: 6,992member

    It's a periscope.

  • Reply 6 of 77
    irelandireland Posts: 17,737member
    Optical zoom and a better camera all while getting rid of that bump on the rear of the phone. I think they really need to get on with this ASAP.
  • Reply 7 of 77
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post



    Optical zoom and a better camera all while getting rid of that bump on the rear of the phone. I think they really need to get on with this ASAP.



    Throw in a 1/2 hp impact drill while you're at it!

  • Reply 8 of 77
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Ireland View Post



    Optical zoom and a better camera all while getting rid of that bump on the rear of the phone. I think they really need to get on with this ASAP.



    Is the camera lens really that big of a deal? It barely sticks out.

  • Reply 9 of 77
    muppetrymuppetry Posts: 3,328member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

     

    It's a periscope.




    Exactly. They should not be allowed to patent a periscope¡.

  • Reply 10 of 77
    As digital cameras got smaller and smaller I remember seeing one that incorporated a zoom lens using a mirror so that the zooming occurred not front to rear but side to side, internally. An extremely slim camera. Maybe someone here can remember what that model was and provide more details. I think we'd find them very interesting. I long for a zoom in an iPhone and have often thought back to that camera and wondered if Apple could do something like that.
  • Reply 11 of 77
    Ning Y Chan is obviously one smart cookie.
    As is Richard.
    And Steven ...

    As are we; we discussed this tech a few years back on this site, with a couple of people. I'll never find the thread, but I do remember it.
  • Reply 12 of 77
    irelandireland Posts: 17,737member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

     

    Is the camera lens really that big of a deal? It barely sticks out.


     

    Well if the design were even more seamless and the camera better what's to argue about? Don't you think that a good thing?

  • Reply 13 of 77
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Samsung is hyping up it's camera for the Galaxy S6. We'll see if the hype matches reality. I wonder what Apple has in store for the 6S.
  • Reply 14 of 77
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by hill60 View Post

     

    It's a periscope.


     

    There was some 2012 (?) Windows phone (?), and it had an internal periscope to facilitate an optical zoom. I can't remember what it was, but I don't see it in Nokia's history. I don't recall if it had IS also though.

  • Reply 15 of 77
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,666member
    I love they way they managed to squeeze optical image stabilization into the iPhone 6 through software .... What???
  • Reply 16 of 77
    mpantonempantone Posts: 1,530member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post

     

    Is the camera lens really that big of a deal? It barely sticks out.




    The current camera module in the iPhones does not have optical zoom.

     

    Well, if they wanted optical zoom, it would stick out a lot, hence the desire for a solution that would accommodate it in the tight confines of a smartphone chassis.

     

    For a regular camera, you don't need to worry. You just bolt on a big honking zoom lens and you're done.

     

    That's not a practical option with a smartphone.

  • Reply 17 of 77
    irelandireland Posts: 17,737member
    paxman wrote: »
    I love they way they managed to squeeze optical image stabilization into the iPhone 6 through software .... What???

    The 6+ has optical image stabilisation for video through hardware. Some previous model iPhones including the 6 have software stabilisation for video. Optical is much better.
  • Reply 18 of 77
    rs9rs9 Posts: 68member
    Samsung engineers scratching their heads. "Why didn't we think about this one!" ooooh...are those the schematics. Hmmmmm.
  • Reply 19 of 77
    supersheep wrote: »
    Looks like an amazing idea. However, I don't see it built into an iPhone soon. Apple would have to either make the iPhone thicker to make room for the by 90° flipped sensor or make the sensor smaller.

    Couldn't they use another angled lens so they can place the sensor flat again while keeping the device thin?
  • Reply 20 of 77
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 8,987member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post



    Samsung is hyping up it's camera for the Galaxy S6. We'll see if the hype matches reality. I wonder what Apple has in store for the 6S.



    Samsung is not the competitor it once was, if it ever was to begin with. So much of their supposed leadership in the market turned out to be smoke and mirrors and verbal hype. I’m wondering who is actually Apple’s competitor is these days other than the collective hive of Android which is  predominantly a conglomerate of cheap plastic and outdated versions of the operating system. 

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