iPhone could bag big camera upgrades in 2020; periscope lenses in 2022

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iPhone's already-excellent camera is about to get even better.
Photo: Apple

Apple plans to make big upgrades to the iPhone’s camera in the coming years, according to the latest research note from reliable TF International Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, published on Monday.

It is predicted this year’s refresh will bring sensor-shift image stabilization to at least one model before the technology rolls out to all flagship handsets in 2021. iPhone is then expected to get periscope with up to 10x optical zoom in 2022.

“We predicted that new 2H20 iPhones would have three sizes and four models, including 5.4-inch OLED with rear dual-cam, 6.1-inch OLED with rear dual-cam, 6.1-inch OLED with rear triple-cam+ToF, and 6.7-inch OLED with rear triple-cam+ToF,” reads Kuo’s note to investors, obtained by Cult of Mac.

It’s the largest model with a 6.7-inch OLED display that sounds most exciting for iPhone fans planning to upgrade their handsets this fall. That’s the one that Kuo believes will bring sensor-shift stabilization for the first time.

Sensor-shift image stabilization on its way to iPhone

Although Kuo’s report lacks some detail, we know sensor-shift technology — which has also been predicted by other reports — could allow for image stabilization on the iPhone’s Ultra Wide camera sensor. It may also help when shooting with add-on lens attachments from third parties.

Existing iPhone handsets already feature optical image stabilization for both photo and video capture, but that’s only available when using the Wide and Telephoto lenses. Ultra Wide shots aren’t stabilized yet.

In 2021, the same sensor-shift technology is predicted to expand its reach to “two or three” iPhone models, Kuo wrote. Apple is expected to take the improvements further in 2022 by adding periscope lenses for the first time.

Periscope lenses to bring even better zoom

Again, the details in this particular note are slim, but based on rival devices that already feature periscope lenses, we expect this upgrade to bring even better optical zoom to iPhone. It currently maxes out at 2x on supported models; that could increase to 5x or even 10x.

Apple’s flagship handsets are already capable of capturing photos and videos up to 10x, but after 2x, they rely on digital zoom. This crops your image and results in a grainy, blurry capture. Optical zoom does not require cropping, so its results are significantly sharper.

Apple is expected to obtain some future iPhone lenses, including those for its periscope cameras, from Taiwanese firm Genius. Kuo reports that Genius has provided “better-than-expected” supplier, helping to offset the impact COVID-19 has had on Largan, another Apple lens supplier.

This will result in a major boost for Genius in the coming years, Kuo said.