Future iPhones To Take ‘Super-Resolution’ Photos Using Optical Image Stabilization

A new patent application by Apple was published today, showing off a new method of producing “super-resolution” images using optical image stabilization (OIS). This new technology would allow future iPhones to take images with higher resolutions than what the camera hardware is limited to.

According to the patent, the camera would include an optical image stabilization module that is capable of taking multiple images in very quick succession, with each capture offset by a small amount. These images are than stitched together in an image-processing engine, resulting in one extremely high-resolution photograph.

“A system and method for creating a super-resolution image using an image capturing device. In one embodiment, an electronic image sensor captures a reference optical sample through an optical path. Thereafter, an optical image stabilization (OIS) processor to adjusts the optical path to the electronic image sensor by a known amount. A second optical sample is then captured along the adjusted optical path, such that the second optical sample is offset from the first optical sample by no more than a sub-pixel offset. The OIS processor may reiterate this process to capture a plurality of optical samples at a plurality of offsets. The optical samples may be combined to create a super-resolution image.”

The Oppo Find 7 uses a similar image-processing engine to create 50-megapixel resolution photos with its 13-megapixel camera, but the smartphone doesn’t have optimal image stabilization. With OIS included, the next generation iPhones may truly be some amazing shooters.

The iPhone currently includes software-based image stabilization to remove the effects of device shakiness while taking photos. However, reports suggest that Apple is looking to take image stabilization to the next step with the technology embedded directly into the hardware. A number competing flagship smartphones actually already have OIS, including the HTC One, LG G2, Nexus 5, and some of the higher-end Nokia Lumias.

While Apple may not be the first smartphone maker to pack optical image stabilization into its cameras, the new technology mixed with some intelligent software tricks may make the next iPhone camera one of the best available on the market.

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