The two biggest rivals of the smartphone industry, Samsung and Apple, are expected to implement a dual-camera setup in their upcoming flagships, but Apple is one step ahead.
Although there is little information on the specs and functionality of the new camera system, the Cupertino-based company lately filed a patent application in the United States.
Apple's patent, entitled "Mobile Camera System," appeared in the files of the United States Patent and Trademark Office and shed some light on the rumors that Apple tinkers with the dual-camera setup technology.
To summarize, Apple patented an optical zoom for its upcoming smartphones. The solution to turning this idea into reality is to have a two camera setup on the handset, each set with different focal lengths.
There are some other pluses to the camera, such as taking two different pictures at a time and combining them afterwards.
Read on to see what Tim Cook's company has in store.
Photography enthusiasts know that optical zoom is found exclusively in point-and-shoot and DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras.
The latter, which is also known as "digital SLR" or just "DSLR," is a digital camera that integrates the mechanisms and optics of a single-lens reflex camera with the advantages of a digital imaging sensor. The fact that the image forms on the digital sensor sets it apart from photographic film cameras, where the image takes shape directly on film.
In comparison with DSLRs, the cameras on handsets today can only deliver digital zoom. It should be noted that zooming digitally acts more like a cropping mechanism. The consequence of this is that when you use your 12-megapixel handset camera to zoom in, you virtually get a 5-megapixel image after digitally zooming.
On the other hand, optical zooming guarantees that you get a closer look at your photo subject without losing resolution quality. A 12-megapixel camera that packs optical zoom capability will deliver a zoomed-in photograph at precisely 12-megapixel.
Apple's patent promises that the two-rear cameras will offer even more neat features. For example, users may record videos at two different speeds, simultaneously. Merging a video shot in slow-motion with the normal speed variant could yield promising results. It may not win you the next Cannes award, but it will certainly poll more likes and shares than your standard clips.
Did you ever consider taking a photo and record a video, at the same time? Apple did, and although the option exists on current iPhones, the manufacturer wants to take it up a notch.
Thanks to the dual-camera setup, users will be able to snap full-res photographs with two different focal lengths.
Apple's patent even explains how this feature can come in handy. Say you are at a baseball game and one of the two rear cameras captures a wide shot of the batter, while you assign the second rear camera to zoom in and catch the batter in full swing. How cool is that?
If dual-photography is not your thing, you might enjoy the possibility to take videos with one camera while you snap pictures with the other.
The patent promises some future-proof video recording options. If you want, you can simultaneously record videos in two different resolutions. Whether you do it so you can re-watch the Little League on your new 4K TV, or you want to have a smaller file that's easily sharable via social media, the dual camera setup is there to get you through.
According to sources, Apple, Samsung and various other OEMs in China placed orders for components that are found exclusively in dual-cameras. Fans of high-resolution time-lapses can expect future handsets to sport a lot more RAM memory too, so that the complex images taken with the dual camera setup will be processed at a click's speed.
Samsung is also said to implement a similar technology in its flagship handsets, but not as soon as the South Korean OEM hoped.
An important mention has to be made: not all patents end up under the hoods of the end products, and Apple might just be testing the waters here.
However, the company made a name for itself for being constantly innovative, so there is a high chance that we will see the dual-camera setup on the next generation of iPhones.