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The iPhone 12 premiered with an improved camera system, but 2021’s iPhone 13 is predicted to take mobile photography to the next level with three major camera hardware improvements.
The iPhone 12 lineup offered a range of significant camera improvements, with a larger aperture on the wide-angle lens and an improved, seven-element lens assembly, and Sensor-shift optical image stabilization and a deeper telephoto lens on the 12 Pro Max model. There was also a number of computational photography improvements, such as the introduction of Apple ProRAW, Night mode portraits, Smart HDR 3, HDR video recording with Dolby Vision, Night mode Time-lapses, and Night mode and Deep Fusion on the front-facing camera. Next year, the iPhone 13 is expected to focus on three main areas of improvement: the Ultra-Wide lens, sensor size, and sensor-shift stabilization.
Ultra-Wide Hardware Improvements
Supply-chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo expects the aperture of the ultra-wide angle lens on the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max to increase from ƒ/2.4 to f/1.8, with a new six-element lens assembly. This would allow for a shallower depth-of-field and much more light to enter the lens, leading to significantly improved images with the ultra-wide angle lens.
Larger Sensor Size
The iPhone 12 Pro Max gained a 47 percent larger sensor, but well-connected display analyst Ross Young predicts that the camera sensor size of both the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max will increase. Although Young doesn’t state which of the three cameras will gain a larger sensor, a larger sensor would, in turn, have larger pixels. This means that the sensor could collect more light, resulting in materially better image quality.
Expanded Sensor-Shift Stabilization
Kuo also expects sensor-shift stabilization to be expanded to the smaller iPhone 13 Pro model, introducing improvements to low light performance and stabilization by reducing camera shake.
The iPhone 12 Pro Max is the first iPhone to gain sensor-shift stabilization. Apple says that its new sensor-shift image stabilization technology is capable of stabilizing an image more than 5,000 times per second. This is 4,000 more times per second than its regular optical image stabilization system. Sensor-shift stabilization also affords the camera a higher ISO sensitivity by over 87 percent, enabling the camera to handle low-light situations better. Expanding sensor-shift stabilization across both Pro models would allow the smaller 6.1-inch iPhone 13 Pro to also benefit from these improvements.
While Young expects both iPhone 13 Pro models to retain the LiDAR Scanner on the rear, it is unknown whether the feature will come to the non-Pro iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini models. Regardless, he expects general camera improvements will trickle down across the lineup.
Although Apple’s iPhone 12 lineup did not launch in September as expected due to production delays, the 2021 iPhone lineup will likely be unveiled in the fall of 2021, with the company likely aiming to return to its traditional September launch timeline.