The company notes that as iPhones and other multifunction devices become common place, users are demanding feature such as zoom photography that they have been become accustomed to using in dedicated-purpose camera bodies. Typically the zoom feature in a camera requires moving mechanical parts that increase the cost and complexity of the device. Apple says it also reduces the reliability of the device and takes up valuable internal space.
Apple proposes using multiple cameras at different focal lengths to provide optical zoom:
Some embodiments include methods and/or systems for using multiple cameras to provide optical zoom to a user. Some embodiments include a first camera unit of a multifunction device capturing a first image of a first visual field. A second camera unit of the multifunction device simultaneously captures a second image of a second visual field. In some embodiments, the first camera unit includes a first optical package with a first focal length. In some embodiments, the second camera unit includes a second optical package with a second focal length. In some embodiments, the first focal length is different from the second focal length, and the first visual field is a subset of the second visual field. In some embodiments, the first image and the second image are preserved to a storage medium as separate data structures.
Apple also says that some embodiments could generate a synthetic result image at least in part from data of the first image and data of the second image. For example, the synthetic intermediate image could be generated by enhancing the first image using data from the second image.
In FIG. 4 below we see a possible user interface for a multiple camera system with zoom.
A portable multifunction device displays a first image of a first visual field captured by a first camera unit and a second image of a second visual field simultaneously captured by a second camera unit of the multifunction device. A zoom control is displayed within first image of a first visual field. In the embodiment shown, zoom control is an area of first image of first visual field, that, in response to control actuation through the touch screen of portable multifunction device, is used as a control for toggling the display mode for displaying first image of a first visual field captured by a first camera unit and second image of a second visual field simultaneously captured by a second camera unit of the multifunction device.
Notably, the iPhone 6s was previously rumored to feature a dual lens camera capable of optical zoom. Perhaps the report was based on Apple research into this patent. The iPhone was the number one camera on Flickr in 2015 and Apple likely wants to maintain its lead in this area. Hopefully, that means some kind of optical zoom for the iPhone 7.
You can learn more about the company's Mobile Camera System at the link below. Please follow iClarified on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or RSS for updates.
Read More [via PatentlyApple]