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Next iPhone to get 5-megapixel camera?

updated 07:40 am EST, Wed December 23, 2009

OmniVision gets doubled Apple orders too

The next iPhone will get an upgrade to a 5-megapixel camera, sources said on Wednesday. OmniVision, Apple's current supplier for the 3.2-megapixel camera in the iPhone 3GS, has reportedly been given orders for its second sensor upgrade in a year with expectation that an iPhone using the higher resolution will ship in the second half of 2010. Production of the 5-megapixel sensors could start as soon as winter 2010.

Technical details of the sensor weren't provided in the DigiTimes tip, but a potential candidate is the OV5650. The sensor echoes Apple's emphasis on image quality over resolution as it should both handle better in low light and generate less noise. It will also be responsive enough to handle video recording at 1080p, but there's no signs as of yet that Apple will upgrade its video capture features.

In spite of any potential upgrades, the same purported leak also suggests Apple will be ambitious and could order between 40 million and 45 million camera sensors just for iPhones, and consequently a similar number of iPhones, through the course of the year. The tally would be more than twice the 20-21 million estimated to have shipped for 2009 and wouldn't include any cameras for iPod nanos or a possible early iPod touch upgrade, which could add another 20 million to 25 million orders to OmniVision's list.

A 5-megapixel camera would be conservative in the industry as many photo-oriented phones already have 8-megapixel or even 12-megapixel cameras, such as Nokia's N86 8MP or the Sony Ericsson Satio. However, most of these have physically larger sensors and are often bulkier or have to devote more of their space to the camera than Apple has normally been willing to provide.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. mrt2

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2009

    +3

    Winter 2010?

    Don't you guys mean winter 2009 instead of winter 2010 to begin production? Winter 2010 would suggest that no new iPhone would be produced for this early 2010 (June or July) like previous years. I don't think Apple will be waiting until 2011 to release the next iPhone.

  1. bobolicious

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2002

    +5

    MP rationale?

    Aside from cropping poor originals, my 'big' cinema display is only 4MP & HDTV is 2MP.

    If cost & fit are issues I might ask if image quality might be more important than the MP ?

    One clever manufacturer handled this in a compact camera by having both standard zoom & superwide prime lenses for example...

  1. JeffHarris

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 1999

    +5

    Megapixel Madness

    High megapixel count in a phone camera makes little sense. Good quality images for computer display, emailing and online use has more merit than does squeezing more megapixels out of a microscopic image sensor.

    I have a 10MP Olympus underwater camera and the full-res images are dreadful, so I shoot at 5MP. I shudder to think how poor the pictures coming from some of those 8MP phone cameras are.

    Apple's at least trying to do it right, but 5MP in the iPhone (and assumedly the iPod touch) makes little sense in terms of image quality, it's all about marketing. Does anyone who uses a phone camera really care much about image quality?

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999

    +1

    Crazy...

    It would be crazy for Apple to enter the megapixel race when many of the dedicated camera manufacturers are abandoning it. Canon and Panasonic seem to have settled around the 10MP mark for their premium compacts and, bar full-frame sensors, it also appears that around 14MP is the sweet spot for D-SLR's. So an extremely dense 5MP sensor would appear to be a sorry waste of time that indicates that the marketing tail is wagging the engineering dog! Woof!

  1. iphonerulez

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Nov 2008

    +1

    High MP count looks good on features lists...

    It seems that's how the industry sells things. To h*** with quality, just make sure the numbers look good on paper. I doubt if most smartphone/cellphone users give a damn about perfect picture quality. Most of my friends don't. As long as the camera captures decently enough in average light conditions, they are perfectly happy. Apple should stick with the 3.2 MP as long as most users are satisfied with it. Apple is going to have a difficult time with keeping up with competitors hardware claims since most of those companies won't be producing nearly the amount of units and will be able to constantly upgrade their products.

    Apple really does seem to want to keep the iPhone at the same size factor and will likely avoid anything that adds bulk. I'm curious to see how long Apple can keep the iPhone at the same dimensions while upgrading the internals every year.

    I'd still like to see an iPod Touch with a camera even if it just did video recording as long as it doesn't eat into battery life too much.

  1. Inkling

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jul 2006

    +2

    Don't forget touches

    Let's hope this means the iPod touch will finally be getting a decent camera. The touch is so slim, making it a bit thicker to accommodate one wouldn't be a bother. The additional space could hold a larger battery for longer video playback.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    +1

    Re: Megapixel madness


    High megapixel count in a phone camera makes little sense.
    ...
    I have a 10MP Olympus underwater camera and the full-res images are dreadful, so I shoot at 5MP. I shudder to think how poor the pictures coming from some of those 8MP phone cameras are.


    Well, it apparently convinced you to buy a 10MP camera when a cheaper 5MP would have worked just the same. So there might be reasoning behind it.

    Does anyone who uses a phone camera really care much about image quality?

    No one's using the phone camera to take amazing scenic vistas and hoping the image will be killer. But even for quick pictures, a lot of people would like them to actually be of quality, not just blurry, pixelated c***.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001

    -2

    Re: Crazy

    Canon and Panasonic seem to have settled around the 10MP mark for their premium compacts and, bar full-frame sensors, it also appears that around 14MP is the sweet spot for D-SLR's.

    Or, perhaps, they settled on the 10MP mark because they've learned from Apple. You don't put your best stuff in the low-end, because then you can't up-sell them to the high-end.

  1. komentarz

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Dec 2009

    0

    Megapixel Myth

    Technically, 6MP is the optimum number of MP for consumer-level cameras. Any higher than that and you are just adding digital 'noise' to your photos. DSLRs can go higher because they have bigger sensors. Read the following articles. The first is by professional photographer Ken Rockwell. The second gets into the technical details.

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/mpmyth.htm

    http://6mpixel.org/en/?page_id=32

  1. _Rick_V_

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2003

    +1

    more/better camera features

    The iPhone has convinced me the virtues of always having a camera with you at all times. Prior to the iPhone (and smartphones with higher quality cameras in general), I (and most people) only had a camera with them while on vacation. Now, picts are taken at company holiday parties and just about anywhere-- shots that would normally have been missed.

    So, I look forward to the cameras on the iPhone (and others) becoming better and better over time, perhaps eventually almost replacing the traditional point-and-shoot. Yes, I do realize that maybe a couple years off still; but it's certainly not inconceivable that features like image stabilization, face detection, etc should make it into something like the iPhone.

    And yes, I hope Apple continues with providing quality optical sensors over higher megapixals, if that's what it takes.

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