Apple was recently granted a patent for an application it sent to the FCC in May of last year. It imagines a new method of capturing photos on a mobile device that could create “super resolution” photos using optical image stabilization and several samples of the same shot.
The patent is titled “Super-resolution based on optical image stabilization,” and discusses a method of snapping several photos and then combining them into one high res image.
As 9to5Mac notes, this method is really similar to what happens when a modern camera snaps an HDR photo and combines two shots into one. Apple envisions this acting similarly, though with a sensor moving between shots. Here’s a detailed explanation of what Apple envisions:
To increase the pixel sampling density, the OIS processor commands the actuator to cause a shift of the optical path to the image sensor of one half pixel to the right along the horizon plane. Here, the image sensor captures the scene as a first pixel sampling density optical sample 6200 at FIG. 6C. Pixels comprising the first pixel sampling density optical sample 6200 are illustrated at FIG. 6C with vertical stripes and with a respective green 6010, red 6020 or blue 6030 value.
Thereafter, the OIS processor commands the actuator to cause a shift of the optical path to the image sensor of one pixel along the horizon plane and a color sampling density optical sample 6210 is captured (represented by new the green 6010, red 6020 or blue 6030 value at each pixel location). This process is repeated to capture color sampling density optical samples 6220 and 6230, though with different shifts for each optical sample to ensure that the color sampling density is sufficient.
Apple envisions a use case where the end user will choose to activate the “super resolution” shot, presumably somewhere in the settings as one might choose the HDR option. It also suggests that the option might not be available in every instance, like for moving objects, so the camera would need to determine if it’s possible to capture an accurate “super resolution” picture first.
As 9to5Mac suggests, this might be Apple’s way of creating images that are sharper than its current 8-megapixel cameras, but without the side effects, such as noise and poor low-light performance, that can sometimes affect those sharper sensors.
As with all patents there is no guarantee that Apple will ever implement this idea, but it’s still intriguing to see.