Apple Patents Light-Splitting Camera Tech for Color Accuracy

Apple has developed a new iPhone camera with a light splitting cube that can more accurately display colors and produce sharp images even in low-light situations. The tiny digital camera uses three sensors and a light-splitting cube to differentiate between three different color components, creating a sharp and colorful image from all three. This light-splitting technology is similar to the approach used in high quality cameras from companies such as Canon, Panasonic and others.

apple28Light-splitting systems can provide such a wide array of colors because there is no color channel processing or demosaicing. The light entering the camera is usually split using a prism, but Apple’s patent employs a cube and each interface is coated with an optical coating that allows a certain wavelength to be reflected or transmitted.

Apple can use the dichroic filters to split the light red, green and blue, or other color sets like cyan, yellow, green and magenta.

There are other benefits to the light-splitting system as well. According to Apple Insider, “Light splitters also enable other desirable effects like sum and difference polarization, which achieves the same results as polarization imaging without filtering out incident light.”

In the future, this kind of light system could improve infrared imaging and help computers identify objects in photos.

This patent is an update of a 2011 patent by Steven Webster and Ning Y. Chan. The original patent also detailed the Apple invention to help stabilize images. Apple’s image stabilizer doesn’t take up much space in devices. Small motors counter the effect of hand shake, which is recorded by onboard sensors.