On October 13, Apple officially unveiled the latest iPhones. And like every year, this year cameras have been a big topic as the Apple family spent a lot of time showing off what the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max can do. . If you’ve seen the performance of the iPhone 11 trio last year, you’ll feel familiar with how Apple says about its cameras: still computational photography, still user-promoted frames. profession”…
But with the iPhone 12 Pro Max alone, Apple has “showcased” an inherent factor in previous iPhone events: sensor size. As revealed by Apple, the most expensive iPhone will carry a 47% larger photo sensor than other iPhone 12 models (as well as the iPhone models from X to 11).
This is the first time in years Apple has shown that the iPhone has a larger sensor.
Anyone with a basic understanding of technology or photography knows that sensor size is the single most important factor in photo quality. In a nutshell, the sensor is like a bucket that “catches” light. The more light, the clearer and more detailed the image and the better the grain, blur, and aberrations can be avoided … Sensor size is especially important for low-light photos. which used to be the “Achilles heel” of smartphones in the past.
With previous generations, the reason Apple avoided talking about sensors was simple: the index on the iPhone was always far behind the competition. For example, in 2018 the iPhone XS was first equipped with 1 / 2.55-inch CMOS, Huawei already has a 1 / 1.7-inch sensor for the Mate 20 Pro – the sensor size of Huawei phones is twice as large as Apple. Last year, with a 1 / 1.28 inch sensor, the Huawei P40’s light-collecting area was even 4 times larger than the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
Of course, Apple is not unaware of the benefits of large sensors. Behind the decision to stick with the small sensor over the years are many careful calculations of the Apple family. Designing first: large sensors also require lenses with larger focal lengths and make the camera thicker and heavier. Next, large sensors force manufacturers to increase the resolution, which can negatively affect the user’s shutter speed. The price factor cannot be overlooked either: larger, more advanced sensors will cost more, meaning lower margins.
The fact that the iPhone has too small a “light bucket” has created a hole for competitors to easily surpass.
Most importantly, Apple is “lazy” to upgrade the sensor, probably because … there’s no need. Last year, the iPhone 11 Pro Max still easily outperformed the P30 Pro or Mate 20 Pro, which had a much larger sensor on the DxOMark chart, which is Huawei’s “home ground”. By using computational photography – especially the ability to increase the details of a photo by integrating multiple frames, Apple could still match its competitors despite the hardware disadvantage.
But in the end, the large sensor is still the advantage. Sony, which dominates the smartphone camera sensor market, has consistently released sensors that are getting bigger and bigger: 1 / 1.7 inch, 1 / 1.5 inch and this year 1 / 1.33 inch. Sony’s outstanding customers such as Huawei, OPPO and Xiaomi are therefore far behind Apple in low-light image quality. In second place in the supply segment, Samsung last year also shocked when it unveiled the 1 / 1.33-inch ISOCELL sensor with 108MP resolution. This sensor is sold to Xiaomi first (Mi CC9 Pro), then also used on the top-end Galaxy S20 and Note 20 models.
Since the beginning of the year, these Android rivals have quickly knocked the iPhone 11 Pro Max out of the top 10 DxOMark. Before the launch of the iPhone 12, the $ 1,000 iPhone didn’t even hold its place in the top 15, losing to smartphones from “soft-priced” brands like Honor or Redmi. While DxOMark has always been controversial, the fact that a sensor is too small will still be unable to capture as much detail as the large one. Apple cannot continue to rely on “utopian” algorithms (super precise bokeh on a single camera or precise digital zoom like optical zoom) to defeat the fundamental principle of photography: the larger it gets, the more light it can catch.
Apple’s sudden focus on hardware could be the key to helping the iPhone close the gap with Android at the top of the field in photography.
The decision to increase the sensor size for the iPhone 12 Pro Max can therefore be considered an important turning point for the Apple family. Over the years, Apple finally accepted the fact that hardware upgrades were necessary, rather than relying solely on software.
And, not only at the sensor, all new iPhones are also equipped with 7-element lenses with optical zoom up to 4X. Thus, one of the two big pioneers of computer photography has chosen to get back into the hardware race … The iFan has the right to dream of an extremely bright future ahead: for the first time in years, they will Enjoy the experience created by both hardware and software.