Possibilities of a Triple-Lens iPhone Camera: Improved 3D Sensing, Zoom, and Low-Light Photos

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Following in the footsteps of Huawei and likely Samsung, Apple is widely rumored to release at least one new iPhone model with a triple-lens rear camera in 2019. That model is now believed to be the next generation of the iPhone XS Max.

    A render of the alleged triple-lens design has even surfaced this week, complete with what would surely be a polarizing design:


    If the rumor proves to be accurate and depending on the implementation, there are several potential advantages of the third lens, including advanced 3D sensing, increased optical zoom, improved low-light performance, and improved photo quality in general thanks to the collection of more light and color data.

    Advanced 3D Sensing

    Apple has repeatedly expressed a profound interest in augmented reality. The release of ARKit instantly made augmented reality accessible to hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads, but Apple is just getting started in this area.

    A third lens would likely result in significantly improved 3D spatial recognition on the iPhone, with a report last year suggesting that the rear-facing sensing capabilities will be even more advanced than the front-facing TrueDepth system on the iPhone X. This would open the door to several augmented reality use cases.


    The same report claimed the triple-lens camera array will be capable of stereoscopic imaging, in which two of the sensors would be able to capture images of a single object from different angles. A triangulation method would then be used to obtain the distance between the iPhone and the object.

    Back in 2017, Bloomberg News reported that Apple aimed to include rear-facing 3D sensing capabilities in its 2019 iPhones. But, at the time, the report said Apple was evaluating a time-of-flight approach that calculates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off surrounding objects to create a 3D image of the environment.

    Whichever implementation Apple uses, the third lens would no doubt improve the iPhone's augmented reality capabilities. And that, in turn, could lay the foundation for the rumored launch of augmented reality Apple Glasses in 2020.

    Increased Optical Zoom

    A third lens would likely enable 3x optical zoom on an iPhone for the first time, enabling users to magnify the image in the viewfinder by up to 3x without a blurry reduction in quality like digital zoom.

    By comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max feature 2x optical zoom.

    Huawei P20 Pro

    Huawei's P20 Pro smartphone was the first with a triple-lens rear camera system, including a 40-megapixel lens, a 20-megapixel monochrome lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom.

    Improved Low-Light Performance

    A third lens on the iPhone, if a traditional sensor, would draw in additional light for improved low-light performance.

    Apple is certainly heavily invested in computational photography. On the latest iPhones, for example, Smart HDR results in photos with more highlight and shadow detail, while Depth Control significantly improves Portrait Mode.


    Google's new "Night Sight" mode on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL sets the bar for low-light photos, however, by using machine learning to choose the right colors based on the content of the image. The result is much brighter photos in low-light conditions, without having to use the camera flash.

    With a third lens, and improved machine learning, perhaps Apple can come out with a feature to rival Night Sight in 2019.

    Article Link: Possibilities of a Triple-Lens iPhone Camera: Improved 3D Sensing, Zoom, and Low-Light Photos
  2. msama macrumors member

    Jun 9, 2017
    Hey doc, I think my iPhone came down with something, can you cure it?
  3. MattMJB0188 macrumors 68000

    Dec 28, 2009
    Not interested until they move forward with the iPhone 8 design again.
  4. dannyyankou macrumors 604


    Mar 2, 2012
    Scarsdale, NY
    Can’t wait for the 20 lens iPhone XX with 20x optical zoom.

    Seriously, Apple is running out of ideas.
  5. darksithpro macrumors 6502a

    Oct 27, 2016
    That camera lens on the back looks like a cancerous growth. Down right ugly.
  6. sza macrumors 6502

    Dec 21, 2010
    I am sure the new iPhone with 3 cameras will be another $150 expensive starting at $1149.
  7. Braderunner macrumors 6502a

    Oct 2, 2015
    "I bought a 3 lens camera that has a phone attached"!
  8. Razeus macrumors 603

    Jul 11, 2008
    And yet Google does all of this with one lens and AI.
  9. HJM.NL macrumors 65816


    Jul 25, 2016
    Huawei won the implementation and design crown here. It’s also a lot cheaper as Apple’s offerings. And Apple still thinks it’s because china’s economy is slowing down?

    For me it’s proof how far Apple’s staff has come from reality and customers.
  10. unibility macrumors 6502a

    Apr 6, 2012
  11. skadd macrumors regular

    Mar 5, 2010
    Google night sight seems amazing. I want it on my iPhone.
  12. 69Mustang macrumors 603


    Jan 7, 2014
    In between a rock and a hard place
    Not gonna lie. I thought that Google "Night Sight" was some BS "images may be simulated" marketing. I even told my buddy he fell for Google's okey doke. Then I got to see it. Ate my words. Apple definitely needs something like that. If it takes 3 lenses, so be it. The feature is that good.
  13. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    At first, I thought about 3D. But then discounted that idea because of the small baseline. The distance between the camera needs to be greater for 3D to work. If 3D were the goal they would place the camera on opposite ends of the phone. They would need at least a few inches distance between the left and right camera.

    OK, you can do 3d with a short baseline but the system would only work for VERY close subjects, about up to arm's length distance. Not good enough.
  14. Scottsoapbox macrumors 6502a


    Oct 10, 2014
    Better low light > better zoom > better AR.

    At least based on how most people use their phones.
  15. bruno7 macrumors member

    Mar 10, 2008
    OK, I've said it in another thread but it fits here perfectly, too. :)

    I guess I'll skip this year's model.

    I'll wait for the one with 17 cameras, 8 microphones and 6 flashes - all of these arranged into the first letter of my name.

    And I don't mind paying 4786 bucks for that.

    But the bump must be at least the same thickness as the phone itself otherwise I'm not buying!
  16. cbcasas macrumors newbie


    Oct 9, 2017
    funny that the Pixel only uses 1 camera lens to do what Apple can (maybe) do in 3
  17. 19callum93 macrumors regular


    Sep 20, 2012
  18. 69Mustang macrumors 603


    Jan 7, 2014
    In between a rock and a hard place
    People take pictures in all sorts of lighting conditions. Varying shades of darkness included.
  19. The Game 161 macrumors P6

    The Game 161

    Dec 15, 2010
    Better low light? A big win for me...ugly or not if it does what google phone does then that’s only a good thing
    --- Post Merged, Jan 11, 2019 ---
    Not even in the dark something as simple as taking pics in your lounge in the evening would help things a lot with this low light improvements.
  20. alexandr macrumors regular


    Nov 11, 2005
    with all this focus on the camera, i'm afraid apple may be neglecting other important iphone features, such as doodoo emoji.
  21. JPack macrumors 68040


    Mar 27, 2017
    A third lens for better optical zoom or an ultra-wide lens. The tables have turned and it's ironic to see Apple looking to Huawei for innovation.

    Ming-Chi Kuo confirmed earlier there would be no rear 3D sensing for 2019.
  22. BruceEBonus macrumors 65816


    Sep 23, 2007
    Derbyshire, England
    Apple. “Imagine The Possibilities”

    No. That’s not advertising hype. That’s all Apple do these days, it seems. And the competition are realising such and implementing it while the once market leaders watch from the sidelines. Who’dve thought it only a few years ago?
  23. Unity451, Jan 11, 2019
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019

    Unity451 macrumors member


    Aug 29, 2011
    Honestly... I think they're selling themselves short...
    Also... anyone suffer from trypophobia?

  24. Jssmith83 macrumors newbie


    Sep 11, 2016
    Seriously! I really hope the third camera does something else, because nothing in this article got me excited for it. I don’t need more zoom not so I use AR. They haven’t given me a reason to really use it yet.

    If google can do this with one lens, why can’t Apple do it with two? Mind boggling
  25. dfs macrumors 6502

    Sep 17, 2008

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