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iPhone 7 Plus adds a second camera for better zoom

Engadget logo Engadget 7/09/2016 Steve Dent
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Apple has been accused lately of being less than innovative -- boring even -- compared to rivals like Google. With the iPhone 7 and particularly the 7 Plus, however, Apple is trying to take back the lead. It's the first phone to fully exploit the promise of the dual camera tech, which will allow users to do optical-like zooming, shallower depth of field to blur out backgrounds, and even Lytro light-field like selective focus.

How can the iPhone 7 Plus do this without a bulky zoom lens? It uses two cameras, one with a regular lens (28mm like on the iPhone 6s) and one with a telephoto lens. An image processor averages images from the two cameras to create a new, intermediate zoom photo with no loss of resolution. With the additional telephone lens, you can up to 10x zoom without any loss of resolution.

Each can also focus on a different part of the scene, allowing the user to change focus after the fact. The same concept also allows the user to have a shallower depth of field, letting users create blurred "bokeh" backgrounds.

The concept of using dual cameras in this way, pioneered by Google and Movidius with Project Tango, has been used already by Huawei. Unlike Apple, however, the Chinese smartphone company didn't fully exploit it, allowing for selective focus and shallow depth of field, but not zooming.

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