Apple’s Optical Image Stabilization Patent Bolsters iPhone 6 Camera Rumor

Source: USPTO.gov

A recently reported rumor that Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) would keep the same 8-megapixel rear camera sensor for its next iPhone iteration and instead concentrate on improved optical image stabilization has been bolstered by a newly published patent first spotted by UnwiredView. Earlier this week, Nomura Securities analysts cited by the China Post reported that Apple would not be upgrading the iPhone 6 with a 16-megapixel camera, as was expected by some industry watchers.

However, the analysts said that Apple would focus on other camera improvements, including optical image stabilization, or OIS, technology. The recently uncovered patent appears to outline technology similar to what the Nomura Securities analysts described.

In the patent titled “VCM OIS Actuator Module,” Apple described a method for improving image quality by using an autofocus mechanism and optical image stabilization mechanism that are both capable of moving the lens. The autofocus mechanism will be able to move the lens “according to at least three degrees of freedom” while the optical image stabilization mechanism will be “capable of moving the lens according to at least two degrees of freedom.”

Voice coil motor, or VCM, actuators will be used to power the movement of the camera lens for both mechanisms. As described in the patent, the autofocus feature will enable the object focal distance to be adjusted to allow objects at different distances to be in sharp focus at the image plane and captured by the digital image sensor.

The optical image stabilization feature will compensate for unintended camera movement by the user. “OIS is a mechanism that stabilizes an image, which may be unstable due to user handshake, by varying the optical path to the sensor,” said Apple. According to Apple, the OIS mechanism outlined in the patent “can substantially correct for handshake motions in the center of the image.”

According to the Nomura Securities analysts cited by the China Post, Apple decided against the megapixel upgrade in order to retain the iPhone’s compact design. Apple noted in the patent, “The incorporation of OIS into current miniature camera VCM actuator architecture, however, has been impractical due to compromises between size, power and performance.”

Although the patent language suggests this invention is primarily intended for use in a camera phone, Apple noted that the technology could also be incorporated into “a desktop computer, a television or the like.”

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