The next big frontier for iPhone cameras: Dual-camera setups 'coming in 2017'

Big changes are coming for smartphone cameras.

While traditionally phones come with a single main camera that is equipped with a fixed lens, in 2017, we are likely to see a brand new type of phone cameras: rather than having one lens, they will have a two-lens system that you could use to zoom 2-3 times on an image. If this wasn't cool enough, dual-lens cameras come with some tangible improvements in low-light image quality, the option to adjust focus after you capture an image, and some clever computational photography effects like the ability to easily remove someone or something from a picture (without ruining the picture).

While multiple-lens camera systems have been around for a few years, the first mass market implementations are expected in late 2016 and next year. The LG G5 is rumored to have such a system, the iPhone 7 Plus is expected to also launch with a fancy new dual camera setup, and Sony CFO Kenichiro Yoshida has officially confirmed: 

"Our so-called dual lens – dual camera platform will be launched by, we believe, from major smartphone players. However, as I said previously, recently, our smartphone market is growing and particularly, our high-end smartphone market is now slowing down. So, that may impact the demand or production schedule of dual camera smartphones by the major smartphone manufacturers. So, we believe the real start, the takeoff of smartphone with dual lens camera will be in the year of 2017." (emphasis ours)

Dual-lens Apple camera system: Sony sensors, LinX Imaging algorithms

Despite the fact that Huawei has a dual-lens camera phone (the Honor 6 Plus) and despite the fact that LG is said to bring the G5 with a dual-lens camera system, we expect the most important news about dual camera systems to come from Apple this fall. Others have used dual-lens systems, but in a rather basic form, without any of the clever zooming functionality that is rumored to be the game-changer.

Interestingly, rumors say that only the 5.5" iPhone 7 Plus is expected to feature the new dual-lens camera system, while the 4.7" iPhone 7 is expected to ship with a standard single-lens system. What's more: supply will be very tight, and only some iPhone 7 Plus phones could get the new system, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the best connected Apple analysts. Our own thoughts on this? It will be very unlike Apple to launch two versions of one and the same phone. If supply is indeed that tight, we would not be surprised if Apple pushed this dual camera to the iPhone 7s Plus in late 2017.

Timeline: the road to a dual-camera at Apple

First, though, let's see where all the evident about dual-camera systems come from:

  • In February 2015, Apple acquires LinX Imaging for $20 million. LinX specializes in algorithms for multi-lens cameras and nearly its whole team of imaging experts now works at Apple (confirmed on LinkedIn)
  • In April 2015, reports reveals that Apple has patented a dual-lens camera system with one wide lens and another, telephoto lens. The patent dates way back to October 2013.
  • On January 27th, 2016, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says iPhone 7 Plus will have dual-lens camera
  • On February 2nd, 2016, DigiTimes report surfaces about Taiwan's Largan Technology and camera lens makers in China and Japan having sent dual-lens camera modules for testing to Apple
  • On February 3rd, 2016, Sony CFO confirms that Sony (a major Apple camera supplier) will see take-off of dual-lens cameras in 2017
Plenty of evidence to at least consider the possibility, don't you think.

So, let's see what are the possible benefits of a dual-camera system.

1/ dual-camera system with two lenses will have one wide lens (identical to the one used in phones now) and one telephoto lens (2-3x zoom over the wide lens). You will be able to switch between the two, but it's not clear whether you will be able to just switch between the two or zoom gradually step-by-step. A couple of years ago, though, Qualcomm and Corephotonics demonstrated a similar dual-camera technology that allowed continuous zooming with 'up to 5 times greater resolution than digital zoom'. We're curious to see what Apple has to show with its own dual camera array.

2/ LinX Imaging brings a ton of experience from its co-founders and industry veterans Ziv Attar and Andrey Tovchigrechko. Its multiple-array camera modules claim to perform better in low light and allow faster exposures at standard indoor conditions. LinX technology is also said to open the way to neat software features like automatic background removal and face recognition.

3/ Having information from two cameras opens the way to 3D depth mapping, so you have an image that has spacial information in 3D space.

And here is how LinX itself describes the breakthroughs it has achieved in camera quality:

"The image quality of mobile cameras has reached a dead end. Device makers are striving to differentiate using imaging capabilities but the pixel size race has ended and next generation cameras do not reveal any dramatic improvements. LinX cameras revolutionize mobile photography and broaden the usability span and user experience, allowing us to leave our SLRs at home. The engineers at LinX have solved all problems associated with combining multiple images captured from different points in space such as registration errors and occlusion related artifacts which are seen on competing technologies." (emphasis ours)

This makes it clear that one of the main focuses of work at LinX is actually the way the two images are combined to achieve - possibly - better performance in low light and more detailed final composed image.

What about Samsung and others?

We've already told you that dual-camera setups do exist on current phones like the Huawei Honor 6 Plus, where two 8-megapixel sensors are combined in an attempt to combine the two images to get better performance in low light shots, post-capture auto-focus and further improvements.

And since the technology is already in use today, we would not be surprised to see it in other phones be it by Samsung or another Android phone maker.

What we can't say, though, is how well it will be implemented. At the end of the day, it's the image quality that will have to argue the point for dual-camera systems and so far we can only guess what it will look like.

reference: Xperia Blog



1. Landon

Posts: 1245; Member since: May 07, 2015

Comments for Apple inventing dual-lens cameras on a phone in 3.......2.......1.......

9. bucky

Posts: 3790; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

trying too hard ...

18. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

Comment section makeup at phonearena as follows: Android related articles : 95% Android Fans ; 5% Android hating trolls...high traffic Apple related articels: 75% Android Fans ; 20% Apple hating trolls; 5% legit Apple fans...extremely high traffic

21. Unordinary unregistered

Sounds about right. People need to go outside and get some sunlight lol. Devote their lives to Apple when they don't. Even. Like. Apple. Lmfaooooo. "Apple sheep waaa waa you're a sheep waaaaa" except they "sheep" and herd around blindly hating them. Talk about "sheep" lmao. Baaaaaaaaaa

44. Elfmonster unregistered

My cheap $400 2015 ZTE Axon Pro has dual cameras and 4gb ram. Honestly, Apple, work a little harder for your robot customers.

60. darkkjedii

Posts: 31274; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

How many units of that device have been sold? What's the resale value? What's the customer satisfaction rating?

67. smash

Posts: 15; Member since: Jan 31, 2014

"How many units of that device have been sold?" i dont care and no common user cares " What's the resale value? " iphone 6 after 1 yr drops 400$, that means 100$ you will get from ZTE worth more "customer satisfaction rating" can it make phone calls? yes, run some apps -yes. pretty good rating. honestly im coming from 128gb iphone 6(1000$), and i use moto 200$ moto g and i dont notice a much diff.

68. 47AlphaTango

Posts: 734; Member since: Sep 27, 2015

With android going to a "No appdrawer" on android N. And to which it requires to be turn on in the settings. Means some users would switch to apple. Until any newer Android versions starting from O,P,Q,R,S and so on, have appdrawers on by default. And can be de-activated on the settings.

64. Nallaikumaran

Posts: 61; Member since: Sep 14, 2015

They sound just like BGR. Biased reporting. The idiots thinking apple invented Dual - camera. isheep apple puppet fanboys think its innovative, not so innovative isheeps still dancing (PhoneArena). Shameless liars.

2. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

Omg!!!! Screw you Apple!!!! Android did it first you douchebags!!??!

7. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

You're focused on the fact that it's dual cameras. The point is what you do with it. This camera setup is rumored to DSLR quality in low light. This is an advanced septup my friend. Not some gimmick for 3D. I do give HTC credit as the focus feature was a cool edition!

13. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

You're the one missing the big picture here. Apple improved the mobile scene, but it's still Motorola who came up with the first mobile. People don't take iPhone as the first mobile or Apple as the first manufacturer.

26. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

You are delusional and full of hate if you actually beleive that there are people out there who think Apple invented the cell phone. How old are you dude? The iPhone has been out for 9 years. Who didn't use or know cell phones existed prior to that other than someone who was born after that time?

29. Podrick

Posts: 1285; Member since: Aug 19, 2015

Nowhere in his comment he wrote "People think Apple invented the cell phone". He wrote "People don't take iPhone as the first mobile phone". Big difference.

43. Nathan_ingx

Posts: 4769; Member since: Mar 07, 2012

You clearly don't get what I want to let you know regarding your statement made above. What if I say, "You're focused on the fact that it's just a mobile, the point is who makes it better." You see, Apple can't take away the spotlight of it being the first just cause they made it better.

39. Subie

Posts: 2378; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

"rumoured to DSLR quality in low light" Yeah, just like the claim of console quality computing power. And when tests are done they'll take the cheapest entry level slr from 5 years ago to try and prove their point.

49. AlikMalix unregistered

Console quality: rr3, AfterPulse, asphalt 8, among many others.

58. Subie

Posts: 2378; Member since: Aug 01, 2015

On a little screen your mind can fool itself into thinking there's more detail then there really is. Cell phones have only a small fraction of real computing power compared to consoles or desktop computers. Just because a game IP like Call of Duty is released on IOS or Android doesn't mean the graphics quality is equal.

61. darkkjedii

Posts: 31274; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Android didn't do it first. Android is software, if I'm not mistaken, a dual camera setup is hardware.

3. byazatt

Posts: 316; Member since: Oct 26, 2012

I don't care who started this, I'm just not sold. I wish oems traded thinness for bigger camera sensors rather than this gimmicky sh*tt. And you know a bigger battery would come alongside a thicker profile as well. Oo check out my phone has two tiny as$ cameras. Lol

4. Napalm_3nema

Posts: 2236; Member since: Jun 14, 2013

If it is, indeed, a major breakthrough, then everyone will eventually benefit. Who gives a damn who did what first, so long as we, the consumers, get a better experience.

10. tedkord

Posts: 17405; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Will everybody? Or will Apple file a patent on the concept and threaten to sue anyone who uses a dual camera?

17. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

You hate Apple. We get it.

19. tedkord

Posts: 17405; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

No, I hate some of their underhanded, anticompetitive practices.

20. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

So you basically hate most companies. Got it.

27. tedkord

Posts: 17405; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

No, not the companies, but yes, their tactics. Apple just happens to be one of the most egregious.

30. SamsungPhanboy

Posts: 765; Member since: Mar 31, 2015

Do you even know what anti-competitive practices are? I suggest you look them up. Many tech companies, and especially mobile phone manufacturers, fit under that umbrella. Like I said before, since I consistently see you on every Apple article spreading hate: You hate Apple, we get it. But shut the hell up about it already.

35. tedkord

Posts: 17405; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Just like everybody else, I don't care what you think or like. I'll post what I want. Just like you can continue to misinterpret everything to fit your views. This is a smartphone oriented website. I post about Apple because in the smartphone arena, they are the most egregious abuser of the flawed patent system by a huge amount. You don't like it, don't come here. But don't think for a minute that you're any less impotent here than you are in real life.

36. tedkord

Posts: 17405; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

And I do know what anticompetitive practices are. A good example is filing overbroad patents on stolen ideas then using those to stifle the innovation of others you know the patent office is overburdened and will likely pass it. Thus, we get the slide to unlock patent, based on an idea stolen from Neonode, and written to include any gesture with any animation unlocking a phone. That's how you get Apple arguing in court that a tap is just a zero length slide.

53. AlikMalix unregistered

Ted, I think you're wrong, Apple isn't more "egregious" than others... Apple just happens to be under a microscope of media for everything it does - Apple articles good or bad, they sell. It's like saying that world events were non existent and lately they increased tri-fold, when in fact the media just able to reach deeper and broadcast wider and faster so we see more chaos, but it's always been there and probably worse than today.

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