Thanks to a seemingly countless array of reports, analyses and "leaked" specs and iPhone prototypes coming out of Foxconn, we had a pretty good idea of what features we'd see in the iPhone 5's unveiling in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon. Yet, one feature largely left out was the change, if any, to the cameras in the iPhone.
At the iPhone 5 event, Apple unveiled that the camera infrastructure in its sixth-generation iPhone has been given some slight tweaks from previous models, and promises to be the best photo-capturing and sharing experience on an iPhone yet.
In the iPhone 5, Apple has taken all of the same features from the iPhone 4S and improved upon them. Users can still edit their photos on the fly like they could in the iPhone 4S, but photos automatically look better since the iPhone itself has 44 percent more color saturation.
The new iPhone 5 camera infrastructure contains the same 8-megapixel sensor with a hybrid infrared filter, a five-element lens and a f/2.4 aperture. The camera itself is 25 percent smaller, but the iPhone 5 can also take HD quality images thanks to its smart filter, next-generation ISP, and faster photo capture -- photos are taken almost 40 percent faster. The camera is also significantly better at low-light performance, and it's been enhanced with precision lens alignment and sapphire crystal.
"The ocean looks bluer, kids look happier, and the world is a more beautiful place," said Apple's VP of marketing Phil Schiller.
The iPhone 5 also takes advantage of its taller form factor, allowing the user to shoot panoramic photos. The new Panorama mode can capture up to 28 megapixels in a single photo. By taking a picture and moving the camera, the iPhone 5 "creates seamless transitions between these photos," which is a big achievement for Apple's iPhone software team.
The frontside FaceTime camera can still shoot 720p HD photos and video, and users can also engage in FaceTime over cellular -- a feature promised in iOS 6.
The iPhone 4S contained an 8-megapixel iSight camera, built with a custom lens and a large ƒ/2.4 aperture. Apple also equipped its backside camera with an illumination sensor, advanced color accuracy, and face detection, and the camera software itself promised "excellent white balance" and reduced motion blur. The iPhone 4S camera also let users edit their photos for the first time without the help of a computer. The software let users crop, rotate and enhance their photos, and even remove red-eye on the fly.
The new camera system, which has a/the new/same 8 megapixels and ƒ/2.4 aperture, can also xx.
The news is only slightly different from what was originally reported from KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who said in June that Apple would make significant improvements to the entire camera infrastructure in the iPhone 5, all while decreasing the overall thickness of the phone.
From Kuo's report (via MacRumors):
"[A] number of components have required a slimdown," Kuo said. "The component that will undergo the most dramatic makeover is the rear camera. Our research shows that iPhone 5 will feature the first-ever slimmed rear camera of all iPhones, in an effort to deliver an ultra-slim iPhone 5."
Kuo's research note also included a table of iPhone models -- past, present and future -- comparing the specs of each phone and camera infrastructure. Compared to the front-facing VGA camera and the 8-megapixel rear camera in the iPhone 4S, the iPhone 5 will reportedly feature an HD front-facing camera and the same 8-megapixel rear camera. However, the camera hardware will be made much smaller: The iPhone 4S measured 9.3 mm deep, but the iPhone 5 will only measure 7.9 mm thick.
The "significant improvements" Kuo referred to mainly relate to the size of the infrastructure. Kuo said the iPhone 5's rear camera would still be 8 megapixels but that the aperture would be increased from f/2.4 to f/2.2. Kuo said Apple was happy with the performance of the camera in the iPhone 4S, but the challenge was to make the camera parts thin enough to fit inside a thinner smartphone.
"The reduced thickness means even greater challenges for lens design and assmebly, as not only the lens, but also the voice coil motor (VCM) and CMOS image sensor (CIS) need to be slimmer," Kuo said. "Finally, the compact camera module (CCM) supplier, responsible for the terminal assembly, will be confronted by assembly yield."
Kuo originally said the front-facing camera would also be vastly improved, optimized and rebuilt to take pictures with a 16:9 aspect ratio, as opposed to the 4:3 aspect ratio of the VGA-quality FaceTime camera in the iPhone 4S. Since the iPhone 5's screen is reportedly bigger, Apple needed to change the aspect ratio anyway, but the FaceTime camera will now reportedly take HD photos, as well as more centered images.
The iPhone 5, the first Apple smartphone with a new four-inch screen size, is also the first iPhone to feature the high-speed Long-Term Evolution network, also known as LTE. The phone also features a new quad-core A6 processor, as well as the heavily-rumored new mini dock connector.
Apple plans to sell the new iPhone 5 at the same starting price as last year's model. In other words, the new iPhone will start selling for $199 for 16GB, $299 for 32 GB, and $399 for 64GB. Since we believe Apple will also sell the new iPhone with LTE, we believe Apple will sell those models for $329 for 16GB, $429 for 32GB, and $529 for 64GB. These figures are based off the difference between Apple's new iPad models with and without LTE.
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