Pill-shaped dual-color LED ‘SmartFlash’ on next iPhone could mean dramatically better low-light photos

“In addition to a likely improved processor and camera sensor, it appears that Apple’s next-generation iPhone will include a dual-LED Flash,” Mark Gurman reports for 9to5Mac. “In light of reports and part leaks pointing to this new feature, it is worth taking a look at how dual-LED flash parts compare to single LED flashes (as found on the current iPhone 5) in real-world use.”

“An analyst has claimed that the next-generation iPhone’s LED flash setup with feature multiple colors,” Gurman reports. “Analyst Ming Chi-Kuo said that the LED flash will feature both white and yellow-based lights, unlike the sole white light on past iPhones. With that in mind, based on light sensors that Apple has included in its product before, we speculate that Apple may be able to light up either one or both lights depending on determined lighting conditions or use a determined amount of light from each flash. ”

Read more, and see the photos, in the full article here.

17 Comments

  1. Why does the photo appear to have one red and one yellow LED? The bottom LED sure looks red and the top appears to be slightly yellow. Anyone else see this?

  2. “In light of reports” 🙂

    In real life use, the color of photos taken with the iPhone’s LED light (and I’m assuming other camera phone LEDs) is very cold and not flattering.

    Here’s hoping this means the next generation LED (can we stop using the word “flash”, it’s not a flash) looks better.

    1. It’s cold because it’s not an incandescent lamp creating the flash. LED lights will be better in the future. It just takes time. Just as with a fluorescent lamp it’s output is associated with temperature. Lower and higher, warmer and cooler etc. The same will apply to LED light output. But don’t expect LEDs to ever be equal the quality of light output from an incandescent lamp. While not energy-efficient, the incandescent lamp is the superior product for quality light. And quit using those compact fluorescent lamps! They contain mercury! Other than being inefficient there is nothing wrong with the incandescent lamp. And it is a flash no matter what the source is. The flash is the end result of the energy used : LED, fluorescent or incandescent lamp.

      1. Inefficiency is exactly what is wrong with incandescent bulbs. You grew up with incandescents, so you prefer a warmer, yellowish illumination. You should check out the most recent LED bulbs – they come in several different temperatures. The quality of illumination provided by LED bulbs will continue to improve over time.

        While i do not like compact fluorescent bulbs, the mercury in them has been greatly reduced or eliminated. You should not disparage them based upon old information.

      2. 1. I know why it is a cold light, the “smart” camera should automatically analyze the photo color correct when the LED is on.
        2, The LED is a temporary steady light, not a flash like those used on dedicated cameras.

        Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the LED as a flashlight feature.

      3. That is why humans developed software (e.g. Photoshop, Aperture). Maybe humans will develop LEDs with unique or programmable illumination characteristics.

        1. They already have, most LED flashlights give out light in a variety of shades of white, depending on the type of, or BIN number of the LED. Doping the elements used alters the colour characteristics of the diode.

      4. The flash unit used on all cameras and some mobile phones, is an electronic flash, where a high-voltage capacitor discharges several hundred volts through a glass tube containing Xenon, giving a very brief flash, which is not incandescent. That requires a filament burning in a gas to cause the flash.
        Incandescent lamps haven’t been used for flash photography for decades, about the only type you’ll see are Magicubes or Flashcubes on a 1960’s Kodak camera.
        LED flash units give a colour temperature of roughly that of daylight, incandescent is lower, giving a much warmer, yellow light. LED’s can be manufactured to any number of different shades of white, cool (blue/white), neutral (natural daylight) warm (nearer to evening sunlight/incanescent).
        How the cameras white balance is set can affect the finished photo, too, so having two LED’s, a cool white and a warm yellow, means that more natural fill-flash can be achieved by mixing the brightness and duration of each LED, something which is impossible to do with any other flash system.

  3. A better flash system has been needed on the iPhone for a while now, so good news there, but I’d like to see larger optics and sensors, then my iPhone could be a worthy back up camera on shoots.

    1. Sean, where do you think Apple would be able to fit larger optics and sensors? It’s simple physics, the size of the optic and the size of the sensor dictates the focal length; up the size of the first two, and the third has to increase. You’re ok with an iPhone twice or three times the thickness of the 5, I take it, or with a very large bulge at one end, like the 42Mp Nokia? That’s what an iPhone with a large sensor would look like, but if you continue to cram ever more pixels into the tiny little chip that the iPhone has, the digital noise in low-light situations increases. This will improve given time, but it’ll never equal a compact camera, even those suffer noise in low light.

      1. I know design and obviously how thin and light phones are these days is a big factor, but I am pretty sure that Apple could push the camera further. Considering the latest commercial, Apple are marketing the idea that iPhones are the most used mobile phone cameras, surely Apple have set a target for much better quality images. A larger sensor doesn’t necessarily entail an enlargement on the scale you are talking, other phones have managed to get slightly larger sensors. Regardless, it’s not my problem – let the clever folks at Apple work out how to do it. Perhaps a tapered design allowing for a much larger lens and sensor?

  4. The best low light photo sensors DO NOT use any flash whatsoever. If you have to use flash then the camera is NOT a good low light camera. Learn about your freaking subject before publishing an article and remove all doubt that you are clueless.

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