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Flaregate: Would an Apple-Zeiss iPhone 14 fix the biggest iPhone 12 camera problem, if iPhone 13 doesn't?

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Flaregate: Would an Apple-Zeiss iPhone 14 fix the biggest iPhone 12 camera problem, if iPhone 13 doe
If you were around for our first Flaregate story, you'd already know what's the matter. In case you weren't, don't worry. In a nutshell, the iPhone 12 series of phones has a pretty major camera problem that's been present since launch.

Some call it "lens flaring", some call it "lens reflections", we call it #flaregate, and Apple calls it... well, nothing. Tim Cook and company haven't acknowledged it... yet.

What is Flaregate: iPhone 12's biggest camera problem?



The iPhone 12 camera issues present themselves when you:

  • Take photos and (especially) videos in mid-low light situations
  • Point the camera towards a bright light source such as street lights, signs, windows, etc.
  • Use the primary or zoom cameras on the iPhone 12 series of phones

This results in:

  • A whole bunch of reflections, some of which so strong that they appear like dots and an entire filter over the image
  • A completely ruined image (sometimes unusable)

Our original Flaregate story had an unconventional take on how this problem might be solved. As you probably know, the brand new iPhone 13 series will be unveiled next week on September 14 during Apple's California Streaming event.

When it comes to cameras on the new iPhones, notably, the camera arrangement on the standard iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini has been switched around - it's now diagonal. Then when it comes to the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max, there's more physical space between the lenses.

Except for a cosmetic change, which tells you that "this is the newest iPhone", this might have something to do with the lens reflections. That would be, of course, if the camera arrangement were the cause of this problem in the first place.

All in all, it does seem like a hardware issue. Otherwise, Apple would've been able to address it in a software update - something which certainly hasn't happened for the iPhone 12 series.

However, it's likely that the iPhone 13 series will come with very similar camera specs to those of the iPhone 12, save for the new ultra-wide-angle camera, which is said to gather 40% more light (a much-needed upgrade).

If that's the case, unfortunately, there's a chance flaregate might persist and stick around for another generation of iPhones, which would certainly be a deal-breaker for certain content creators, who rely on the iPhone as their main camera for photos and videos. There are several YouTubers who've openly expressed their concerns on the topic.

iPhone 14: Would an Apple-Zeiss camera partnership solve the iPhone's lens flare issues?



What if! What if the just-leaked iPhone 14 is the iPhone to look forward to if you don't want to deal with flaregate. Granted, we don't know much about the iPhone 14 at this stage, except, of course, the supposed design of the device - a punch hole replaces the notch; titanium frame, rounded volume buttons, reminiscent of the iPhone 4, and of course - no camera bump!

Previous leaks say that the iPhone 14 expected to bring a brand new 48MP primary camera. A periscope zoom camera for the iPhone 14 series is also in the talks, but this might either be exclusive to the iPhone 14 Pro Max or simply arrive a year later for the iPhone 15 series.

What about flaregate? Well, if hardware really is the issue, there's a tried and proven recipe for dealing with lens flaring on smartphones. Apple simply hasn't discovered it... yet. The answer? Zeiss.

The German camera and lens-maker has partnered with Vivo for a bunch of flagship devices. The brand new Vivo X70 series of phoned have just been released in China, and a global announcement is expected anytime now.

However, we don't have to wait in order to find out how effective the Zeiss partnership is! Vivo's current flagship devices, the X60 Pro and X60 Pro+, both carry the same Zeiss branding. Unlike other partnerships, which seemingly are just for show, in this case, Zeiss has provided special lens coating for Vivo's phones.

It's called the Zeiss T*, and it's specifically designed to help guide the transmission of light through the camera lens. The Zeiss coating reduces ghosting and the unwanted light reflections in photos, which hold the iPhone 12 cameras back. As a nice bonus, Vivo phones can shoot portraits with "that swirly bokeh effect" - a recreation of the iconic ZEISS Biotar Portrait Style. But that's not the focus for today.

Let's take a look at some samples. The Vivo X60/X60 Pro will be on your left (except for the last image where it's on top), while the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro Max will be on the right (except for the last one, where it's on the bottom):

Images courtesy of Karl Conrad (1,2,3,4); Han's Tech Talk (5); Etech Info (6); KLGadgetTV (7) from YouTube

In the end...


So, is there a difference? Well, as you can see this just goes to show that the Zeiss T* coating on Vivo phones really does make a difference in specific shooting scenarios. Perhaps Apple should collaborate with Zeiss, another camera lens-maker, or try to solve the iPhone 12 lens flare issue quietly, behind the scenes.

We'll undoubtedly find out very soon - at least as far as the iPhone 13 is concerned. Of course, we hope the issue will be solved with the next iPhone, but if not - the iPhone 14 might really benefit from something like a Zeiss T* lens.

Note: This is not a camera comparison of any kind. Samples for demonstration purposes only.

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Related phones

Apple iPhone 12 specs
  • Display 6.1 inches 2532 x 1170 pixels 60Hz Refresh rate
  • Camera 12 MP (Dual camera) 12 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A14 Bionic 4GB RAM
  • Storage 64GB, not expandable
  • Battery 2815 mAh
  • OS iOS 14.x
Apple iPhone 13 specs
  • Display 6.1 inches 2532 x 1170 pixels 60Hz Refresh rate
  • Camera 12 MP (Dual camera) 12 MP front
  • Hardware Apple A15 Bionic 4GB RAM
  • Storage 128GB, not expandable
  • Battery 3240 mAh
  • OS iOS 15.x
Apple iPhone 14 specs
  • Display 6.1 inches
  • OS iOS

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