LiDAR scanner has the potential to reinvent night photography

The new iPhone 12 They have already arrived, and they have done so with a few news under their arms that, once again, confirm how successful the leaks have been. The latest Apple smartphones debut, among other features, a more stylish design, 5G connectivity and the same procesador A14 Bionic with 5nm photolithography that saw the light a few weeks ago on the new iPad Air. Yes, the much discussed notch and the OLED panel with a 60 Hz refresh remain.

In addition, this family of mobiles has received a new more compact member which inherits the specifications of the iPhone 12, and which users who prefer more restrained screen diagonals will probably like: the iPhone 12 mini.

These novelties are attracting attention, but photography fans are interested in not overlooking that Apple has introduced several innovations in these mobile phones that promise to have a profound impact on our experience. The LiDAR scanner it is, on paper, the most striking, but there are also others in which it is worth investigating.

iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max: technical specifications

I propose that we start by reviewing the characteristics of the four cameras installed by Apple in the new iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. Both smartphones offer us a single front camera and three essentially identical rear camerasAlthough, as we will see below, the optics of its telephoto lenses are slightly different.

An interesting point to whet your appetite: the sensors of the four cameras have exactly the same resolution, 12 megapixels, possibly due to the fact that Apple engineers defend that this resolution allows them to recover a high level of detail without reducing the size of the photodiodes excessively.

The only difference between the cameras on the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max lies in the telephoto lens. The first offers us a 2x ‘zoom’, while the Pro Max reaches 2.5 increases

The front camera combines that 12-megapixel pickup with an lens with an aperture value of f / 2.2. Interestingly, this camera allows us to record video with el HDR de Dolby Vision, an outstanding feature that we will test thoroughly when we analyze this new iPhone 12 Pro. Let us now turn our gaze to the back of these mobile phones. The main camera uses a 7-element optic with aperture value f / 1.6, optical stabilization and focal length of 26 mm.

And the wide angle is supported by a 5-element lens with aperture value f / 2.4, field of view of 120º and focal length of 13 mm. The only difference between the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max lies in telephoto optics, which, although it maintains the same construction with 6 elements, implements an aperture value of f / 2.0 in the iPhone 12 Pro and f / 2.2 in the Pro Max model.

Modifying the optical center of the lens influences focal length, which goes from the 52 mm of the iPhone 12 Pro to the 65 mm of the Pro Max. And this, in turn, conditions the zoom optical, which jumps from the two magnifications of the iPhone 12 Pro to the two and a half magnifications of the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

APPLE IPHONE 12 PRO APPLE IPHONE 12 PRO MAX
SCREEN 6.1-inch Super Retina XDR (2,532 x 1,170 dots), 460 dpi, 1,200 nits (HDR) and 2,000,000: 1 contrast ratio 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR (2,778 x 1,284 dots), 458 dpi, 1,200 nits (HDR) and 2,000,000: 1 contrast ratio
PROCESSOR Apple A14 Bionic Apple A14 Bionic
SECONDARY STORAGE 128, 256 and 512 GB 128, 256 and 512 GB
FRONTAL CAMERA 12 megapixels, f / 2.2, night mode, Deep Fusion, HDR Dolby Vision video recording and video stabilization 12 megapixels, f / 2.2, night mode, Deep Fusion, HDR Dolby Vision video recording and video stabilization
REAR CAMERAS – Main: 12 megapixels, f / 1.6, 7-element lens, 26mm focal length and optical stabilization
– Wide angle: 12 megapixels, f / 2.4, 120º field of view, 5-element lens and 13 mm focal length
– Telephoto: 12 megapixels, f / 2.0, 6-element lens, 52mm focal length, optical stabilization and 2x optical zoom
– Main: 12 megapixels, f / 1.6, 7-element lens, 26mm focal length and optical stabilization
– Wide angle: 12 megapixels, f / 2.4, 120º field of view, 5-element lens and 13 mm focal length
– Telephoto lens: 12 megapixels, f / 2.2, 6-element lens, 65mm focal length, optical stabilization and 2.5x optical zoom
OPERATING SYSTEM iOS 14 iOS 14
DRUMS Up to 17 hours (video playback) Up to 20 hours (video playback)
GEOPPOSITIONING GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and BeiDou GPS, GLONASS, Galileo, QZSS and BeiDou
WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY 5G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 y NFC 5G, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 y NFC
CONNECTIVITY Conector Lightning Conector Lightning
SENSORS Face ID, LiDAR scanner, barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor, and ambient light sensor Face ID, LiDAR scanner, barometer, gyroscope, accelerometer, proximity sensor, and ambient light sensor
WATERPROOF IP68 IP68
DIMENSIONS 146,7 x 71,5 x 7,4 mm 160,8 x 78,1 x 7,4 mm
WEIGHT 189 g 228 g
PRICE From 1,159 euros (with 128 GB) From 1,259 euros (with 128 GB)

The LiDAR scanner wants, and can, make a difference in night photography

If we stick to its photographic features, this is, without a doubt, the great innovation of the new iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. And these are the first mobile phones to use a LiDAR scanner to recreate a depth map, presumably quite accurate, of the physical space surrounding the smartphone.

The light emitted by the LiDAR scanner has a wavelength that the human eye cannot perceive

The two crucial components of this scanner are an emitter designed to emit pulses of light with an interval between them of a few nanoseconds, and a receiver that is responsible for intercepting those pulses of light once they have been reflected by objects in the environment. An interesting note: the light emitted by the LiDAR scanner has a wavelength that the human eye cannot perceive, so for us that light is invisible.

The logic associated with the scanner is responsible for measuring with the highest possible precision the time that elapses from the moment the emitter projects a pulse of light and the moment when the reflection of that pulse is captured by the receiver.

This time allows calculating the distance between the scanner and the object that has reflected the light, so repeating this procedure many times and analyzing the information collected by the scanner is possible. create a depth map that describes the physical space that surrounds the smartphone very precisely.

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The question we can ask ourselves once we have reached this point is what can we do with that depth map? During the presentation of the new iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, Apple confirmed that it will use it to recreate highly detailed geometric representations of the space around us so that they can be used by augmented reality apps.

When we analyze these mobile phones we will see if this technology really has a profound and beneficial impact on our experience using augmented reality, but on paper it has the potential to do so. However, this is not the only use scenario in which it is possible to take advantage of the depth map generated by the LiDAR scanner. And this innovation can also make a difference in night photography.

The depth map recreated by the LiDAR scanner will be used by the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max in augmented reality apps, and also in night photography

Cell phone cameras often have difficulty focusing accurately in areas with low ambient light, so Apple will use the information collected by the LiDAR scanner to accurately identify the distance between the cell phone camera and the object. that we are photographing for the purpose of focus it more precisely.

In this context it does not matter that there is little light. The scanner does not need it. According to Apple, this technology allows the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max focus up to six times faster in low light than previous iPhones cameras. And it also allows them to take portraits in night mode by precisely focusing on the object we want to be sharp. From there, the optics and the sensor are the components responsible for recovering the maximum possible level of detail.

Late nightLate night

Another twist on computational photography

The LiDAR scanner is, as we have seen, the great innovation linked to the cameras of the new iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max (and also to augmented reality), but Apple also dedicated several minutes of its presentation to the improvements that its engineers have introduced in computational photography algorithms. And in this field, the Neural Engine artificial intelligence engine and Deep Fusion technology claim all the prominence.

Taking good photos when light is abundant is relatively easy, but recovering detail and accurately recreating colors when light is scarce is often a challenge. The strategy used by these iPhones, like other mobile phones with a photographic vocation, consists of taking several photographs with different exposure. Once captured, the Neural Engine analyzes them one by one to identify those parts of each capture that stand out for their sharpness, their level of detail in shadow and highlight regions, and also for their color.

For the first time, Deep Fusion technology is present in all the cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. Also on the front unit

Then the image reconstruction algorithm takes control to merge selected pixels of each photograph with a different exposure, and thus generate a new image that brings together the best of all the captures that we have taken as a starting point. According to Apple, the A14 Bionic processor of the new iPhone 12 is capable of carrying out this procedure in less time than the SoCs of previous iPhone.

A very interesting improvement of these mobile phones is that for the first time Deep Fusion technology, which is the innovation that we have just described, is present in all cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max. Also on the front unit. This strategy is not very different from that used by brands such as Huawei, Samsung or Sony in their photographic smartphones, so it will be interesting to see to what extent Apple engineers have managed to fine-tune Deep Fusion technology when we thoroughly test the first iPhone 12 Pro that it falls into our hands.

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iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max: price and availability

The new iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max can be reserved from 2:00 p.m. next October 16 (in Spanish time). These are the prices of the different versions of these mobile phones:

  • iPhone 12 Pro 128GB: 1,159 euros
  • 256GB iPhone 12 Pro: 1,279 euros
  • 512GB iPhone 12 Pro: 1,509 euros
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max de 128 GB: 1.259 euros
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max de 256 GB: 1.379 euros
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max de 512 GB: 1.609 euros
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More information | Apple

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