Why is 6S front camera 720p?

Aditya_S

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Jan 25, 2016
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I've been wondering about this for a while. The 6s camera is 5MP, but recording video is still only 720p, same since the 5. Isn't 5MP enough for 1080p video? Do you think Apple could increase the resolution with a software update or is it impossible because the hardware only allows for 720p?
 
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0000757

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Dec 16, 2011
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I've been wondering about this for a while. The 6s camera is 5MP, but recording video is still only 720p, same since the 5. Isn't 5MP enough for 1080p video? Do you think Apple could increase the resolution with a software update or is it impossible because the hardware only allows for 720p?
When you record a video, you're really just taking a bunch of photos (30 pictures every second, 60 pictures every second, etc.) When taking a picture, if only has to take one shot, period. It takes a lot of processing power to film consistently at 1080p/30fps, and even more at 1080p/60fps, and so on. It's just an easier load on the camera system and the processor. It's why even 20something MP cameras don't go past 1080p or 4K.
 

Aditya_S

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Original poster
Jan 25, 2016
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When you record a video, you're really just taking a bunch of photos (30 pictures every second, 60 pictures every second, etc.) When taking a picture, if only has to take one shot, period. It takes a lot of processing power to film consistently at 1080p/30fps, and even more at 1080p/60fps, and so on. It's just an easier load on the camera system and the processor. It's why even 20something MP cameras don't go past 1080p or 4K.
But the rear camera can do 4K video, which requires way more processing power than 720p. If the 6s can do 4K on the rear camera, why can't it do 1080p on the front camera?
 
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posguy99

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Nov 3, 2004
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But the rear camera can do 4K video, which requires way more processing power than 720p. If the 6s can do 4K on the rear camera, why can't it do 1080p on the front camera?
Because the CCD is only a certain resolution.
 

akash.nu

macrumors G3
May 26, 2016
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How is it not good enough? 1080p is a little over 2MP. So 5MP is more than enough for 1080p.
Yeah but what's the point of making a 1080p video when the quality is going to be horrible. Don't forget it's just the size of the frame, not actual quality of the video.
 
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0000757

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Dec 16, 2011
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But the rear camera can do 4K video, which requires way more processing power than 720p. If the 6s can do 4K on the rear camera, why can't it do 1080p on the front camera?
How is it not good enough? 1080p is a little over 2MP. So 5MP is more than enough for 1080p.
The camera sensor itself does MOST of the processing, and that includes video. The simple answer is just that the front facing camera's hardware isn't powerful enough to process 1080p video, while the rear sensors is.
 

Aditya_S

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Jan 25, 2016
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The camera sensor itself does MOST of the processing, and that includes video. The simple answer is just that the front facing camera's hardware isn't powerful enough to process 1080p video, while the rear sensors is.
Oh, I wasn't aware of that fact. I thought the phone's hardware, in this case the A9 chip, processed the video.
 

TommyA6

macrumors 65816
May 15, 2013
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The camera sensor itself does MOST of the processing, and that includes video. The simple answer is just that the front facing camera's hardware isn't powerful enough to process 1080p video, while the rear sensors is.
Hmm, I don't think so... ISP on the SoC does most of the work:

"Like the iPhone 6s, the iPhone SE has a 12MP 1/3" camera sensor, and a lens with an f/2.2 aperture. With the A9 SoC also comes the same image signal processor (ISP), and so in theory photos should be identical between the two phones. This represents an enormous improvement from the iPhone 5s, which used Apple's first 1/3" sensor with a resolution of 8MP. Moving to a higher resolution sensor has enabled UHD video recording, and the new ISP built into A9 allows for 1080p120 slow motion video as well as Apple's Live Photos feature."
 

Andres Cantu

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May 31, 2015
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Rio Grande Valley in South Texas
Hmm, I don't think so... ISP on the SoC does most of the work:

"Like the iPhone 6s, the iPhone SE has a 12MP 1/3" camera sensor, and a lens with an f/2.2 aperture. With the A9 SoC also comes the same image signal processor (ISP), and so in theory photos should be identical between the two phones. This represents an enormous improvement from the iPhone 5s, which used Apple's first 1/3" sensor with a resolution of 8MP. Moving to a higher resolution sensor has enabled UHD video recording, and the new ISP built into A9 allows for 1080p120 slow motion video as well as Apple's Live Photos feature."
I agree. Otherwise, how would Apple explain how Android phones have been able to record 1080p in the front-facing camera for years?
 
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Aditya_S

macrumors 6502a
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Jan 25, 2016
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Hmm, I don't think so... ISP on the SoC does most of the work:

"Like the iPhone 6s, the iPhone SE has a 12MP 1/3" camera sensor, and a lens with an f/2.2 aperture. With the A9 SoC also comes the same image signal processor (ISP), and so in theory photos should be identical between the two phones. This represents an enormous improvement from the iPhone 5s, which used Apple's first 1/3" sensor with a resolution of 8MP. Moving to a higher resolution sensor has enabled UHD video recording, and the new ISP built into A9 allows for 1080p120 slow motion video as well as Apple's Live Photos feature."
So I was right in my previous assumption that the A9 chip processed the video. I remember before the 6s came out with 4k video recording, there was an app for the iPhone 6 and 5s that allowed them to record video in 1440p. Could there be an app for 1080p front facing camera recording?
 

0000757

macrumors 68040
Dec 16, 2011
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Hmm, I don't think so... ISP on the SoC does most of the work:

"Like the iPhone 6s, the iPhone SE has a 12MP 1/3" camera sensor, and a lens with an f/2.2 aperture. With the A9 SoC also comes the same image signal processor (ISP), and so in theory photos should be identical between the two phones. This represents an enormous improvement from the iPhone 5s, which used Apple's first 1/3" sensor with a resolution of 8MP. Moving to a higher resolution sensor has enabled UHD video recording, and the new ISP built into A9 allows for 1080p120 slow motion video as well as Apple's Live Photos feature."
From what I understand with photography, the ISP is just how the phone takes the photo (i.e. white balance, noise reduction, stabilization, etc.), whereas the camera module itself has to have the hardware to support filming at high resolutions. The camera sensor itself isn't able to support it like the rear one can.

So I was right in my previous assumption that the A9 chip processed the video. I remember before the 6s came out with 4k video recording, there was an app for the iPhone 6 and 5s that allowed them to record video in 1440p. Could there be an app for 1080p front facing camera recording?
It just simply upscaled the content, since (AFAIK...I could be wrong), there's no API to allow other apps to record native 4K.
 

throAU

macrumors 604
Feb 13, 2012
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Perth, Western Australia
Because it is intended for video chat (FaceTime), not filming 4k movies.

Facetime/video chat is bandwidth limited anyway, so wasting the development budget on a higher spec camera (or compression engine) is not really worth it.
 

cynics

macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
11,630
1,907
There is likely a hardware bottleneck somewhere, mostly likely around the camera itself.

Think of all the dedicated cameras available that have higher than 4k resolution (~9 megapixel) stills, but can't even shoot 1080p video.

Everything on a smartphone needs to have compromises between cost, size, quality, etc etc. The front camera is no exception and designed for selfies and video calling. For its design it does well. It can take a decent selfie, and at 720p it has a good compromise between quality of video and data usage.

I use about 1 gb per 1 hour of video calling from the front camera, any higher and you can start hitting bandwidth limits of connections (stuttery video) and/or use up cellular data plans.

If you need to be curious about the quality of a camera then ask why the Macs have such mediocre cameras. I WISH that my iMac had from front facing camera of my iPhone.
 
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