Online sources suggest the next iPhone—which is pretty much guaranteed to be almost identical to the prototype that Gizmodo paid for—will have an upgraded 5MP camera sensor along with a flash.
I personally hate the idea of the iPhone getting a flash. Camera flash is most commonly used to help bring lighting up to an acceptable level for a camera to record a better image. Most cameras don’t perform well under inadequate lighting, and tiny sensors—such as those present in mobile devices like the iPhone—don’t help. So a sensor should be a god-send for many situations, but all I can imagine are heaps of worthless pictures with painfully obvious flash-caused shadows and iPhone apps that use the flash inappropriately. The only time I think it’s appropriate to use a flash (at least the kind we’re talking about here) is when most wouldn’t think to use it, in broad daylight to take a subject’s face out of shadow. But that doesn’t mean most people wouldn’t want a flash. And I have to admit, a bad picture is still better than no picture at all…sometimes. I just hope Apple makes flash an actual option in Camera.app, because I think it would be more useful in daylight situations.
I’m also torn as to how I feel about the iPhone getting a higher resolution camera. Most of us see more megapixels (5 vs 3.2) and automatically assume better quality, but that’s not necessarily the case. The image above shows what appears to be the same sized camera lens for the next gen iPhone. This would imply the camera sensor is likely the same size as well. If it has more megapixels, that means each individual light receptor on the camera sensor is smaller, and thus collects less light. In practice, that means more noise and/or grain.
Ever notice little spots on your images that aren’t of consistent color, though they were when you looked at them? That’s a result of noise, and the effect is more pronounced in low light situations. So, while a flash may help alleviate this problem slightly by providing more light to bounce into the sensor, it’s a tough call as to whether more megapixels will actually help the quality of your images. Ultimately, I think it will probably be a welcomed upgrade, especially when you have plenty of light when taking a picture.
Who’s behind the technology? AppleInsider thinks Apple has chosen OmniVision (the current iPhone camera sensor supplier) to supply the new 5MP sensor and Philips for their LUXEON LED flash technology. And not only did Gizmodo’s iPhone clearly show a flash on the backside of the device, references have been found in iPhone OS 4.0 for camera flash functions. So I think we can close the investigation on this rumor and say that the next iPhone will finally support flash! Camera flash that is. Sorry, Adobe.
Photo from [Gizmodo]