Reputed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo recently issued a research note indicating that the iPhone 7 Plus may incorporate a dual camera system with optical image stabilization and zoom functionality, all based on technology Apple acquired via its $20 million acquisition of LinX about one year ago.
A deeper dive into LinX’s camera technology, however, suggests that camera quality on the iPhone may soon take a monumental step forward. LinX may not be a household name, but the company at the time of Apple’s acquisition was doing some groundbreaking research into camera technologies that might eventually find their way into future iPhone models, perhaps sooner rather than later.
Based out of Israel, LinX developed incredibly thin cameras that were able to produce impressively high-quality photographs. As the company noted on its website (before it was taken down), its mobile cameras are not only smaller than anything else on the market, they are also “leading the way to DSLR performance in slim handsets.”
Interestingly enough, John Gruber of Daring Fireball mentioned during a November podcast that the iPhone 7 would represent the biggest jump in iPhone camera quality to date.
“The specific thing I heard is that next years camera might be the biggest camera jump ever,” Gruber said. “I don’t even know what sense this makes, but I’ve heard that it’s some kind of weird two-lens system where the back camera uses two lenses and it somehow takes it up into DSLR quality imagery.”
As if that weren’t intriguing enough, let’s take a closer look at some other features LinX’s technology might soon bring to the iPhone.
Aside from being thin (reportedly 30-50% thinner than what was available on the market in the last year or two), LinX’s cameras are also capable of delivering incredible performance in a number of diverse shooting conditions, including extreme low light environments. LinX also adds that their cameras can ably capture “gorgeous photos in the most challenging environments (flares, mist, reflections, very close objects, etc).”
What’s more, LinX’s cameras also offer up tremendous improvements in color accuracy, noise levels, shutter lag, color uniformity and much more.
The company in 2014 put together a presentation about its technology that can still be found online. Therein, the company provides some photos which highlight the type of quality photographs its cameras can take in indoor environments. Seeing as how the presentation is about two years old, you’ll note that LinX pits its camera modules up against some older smartphone models such as the iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. So while these photos are admittedly outdated, it’s still instructive and interesting to see just how ahead of the curve LinX was at the time.
A closer shot reveals the stark difference in photo quality.
LinX also boasted of camera technology capable of accurately gauging depth and creating corresponding depth maps, as evidenced in the photos below.
So what are some of the practical applications of being able to measure depth?
LinX lists out a few examples:
- 3D scanning of objects
- Sizing of objects
- Refocusing: knowing the depth at every pixels allows us to apply a synthetic blur to emulate a shallow depth of Field
- Background removal and replacement
- Gesture recognition
As a final summation of LinX’s photo chops, the company in a June 2014 press release laid out a number of reasons detailing why its technology was vastly superior to traditional smartphone cameras, some of which include:
- A larger sensor requires a longer lens. Therefore, by replacing one large sensor with two or more smaller ones, we reduced the height of our device by a factor of 1.4 to 2
- Sensitivity to light increases by a factor of 3 by using a monochrome sensor
- Noise levels are dramatically lower
- The effective array camera resolution is similar to the single aperture camera in high light
- Performance and image quality in low light are extraordinary
- Allowing a fast exposure at indoor standard lighting conditions of 100-200 lux which assures crisp images free from motion blur
- The multi-aperture camera creates a real-time, high-quality distance map
- Multi-aperture LinX products open the door for real-time applications that use images and distance maps together, such as:
- Automatic background removal
- High-quality control of autofocus in video mode when one of the cameras is equipped with autofocus (range finder camera)
- Augmented reality
- 3D object modeling
- Distance and Sizing of objects
- Biometric 3D face recognition
Are all of these features going to wind up in the iPhone 7? Of course not. But given that Apple takes camera innovation extremely seriously, it’s a safe bet that Apple will be doing all it can to truly bring LinX’s impressive camera technologies not only on the iPhone 7, but to future iPhones as well.