Killer underwater photos could be iPhone’s next big camera upgrade

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underwater iPhone photography
Future iPhones could encourage users to dive into underwater photography.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

The iPhone makes a pretty nice picture underwater. Whether it’s with a 6s in a waterproof case or the latest submersible iPhone XS, you can record an image that rivals any picture produced with a dedicated underwater camera.

But only in a limited range of conditions and with a little luck.

Now, Apple believes it can improve future iPhone cameras to automatically sense when a picture is being made underwater and adjust according to light, depth and the degree of murkiness.

Apple laid out its ideas in a patent application filed today with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

Underwater iPhone photography. The next camera disruption?

According to the application, the “submersible electronic device” would include a number of dedicated sensors, including one that would determine the amount of light absorbed by he water and the colors shifts that occur when moving through the water. There would also be sensors for depth, pressure, distance from subject.

The camera system could then make the proper adjustments for a higher-quality image.

Like all patent applications, the USPTO would need to review the ideas before awarding a patent. Even when patents are awarded, the technology doesn’t necessarily make it into future devices.

But I could use an iPhone with this kind of enhancement in about six years.

Just this summer, I photographed my niece’s senior pictures. Because her sport in high school was swimming, she wanted some photos made underwater.

My budget for underwater gear was less than $100. I couldn’t afford a dedicated underwater camera or the best housing for my DSLR.

I purchased a well-reviewed clear pouch for my DSLR and, as a backup, brought along a waterproof case by Hitcase for my iPhone 6s.

underwater iPhone photography
Underwater filming with the iPhone 6 and a waterproof HITCASE.
Photo: Freeride Entertainment/Vimeo

I was counting on the DSLR to give us the shots we had in mind. I did not expect that I would have trouble seeing the live screen through the cheap waterproof pouch. I quickly gave up and picked up the iPhone and shot RAW files with Adobe Lightroom Mobile.

I could clearly see the iPhone screen and because we were in an outdoor swimming pool on a bright sunny day, the pictures turned out just fine. Had it been an overcast day, I’m not confident we would have had as pleasing an outcome.

With another niece who is a swimmer, I have about six summers before her senior pictures. I won’t even bother with the DSLR. I will grab whatever iPhone I have.

It would be nice if it is loaded with the tech in today’s patent application.