Monday, October 8, 2012

iPhone 5 Camera Combines Pixels for Low Light Shots

Looks like we've found the "trick" Apple uses on the new iPhone 5 to allow picture taking in low light situations. Apple simply said that the ISO had been improved from the regular ISO 800 up to ISO 3200. That means that photos can be up to 4 times "brighter" in low light conditions when compared to the older iPhones.

But... that's something that doesn't happen by "magic", and it either involved bumping up the amplification (causing much noisier photos), or... as it was suspected, using multiple pixels to act as one, averaging the results - something called pixel binning.

This would allow for better results, at the expense of image resolution, which is exactly what we can see when comparing photos taken at ISO 800 with others taken at higher ISOs on the iPhone 5.

In any case, I think it's a suitable compromise: would you prefer to get a unusable dark photo, or a photo where you can see what you want, albeit with less detail? The only thing Apple could have done without was upscaling the end image back to its full resolution size, as you're not actually getting extra detail with it.

As an ending note: keep in mind that pixel binning has been around for quite a while in digital image sensors, and there's nothing "special" about the iPhone 5 implementation. You can see it action in many other devices, the most obvious of which is the Nokia 808 Pureview, with its 41MP image sensor.)

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