Flaregate: Will iPhone 13 fix the biggest iPhone 12 camera problem?

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.
Flaregate: Will iPhone 13 fix the biggest iPhone 12 camera problem?
At this point, it's pretty much surefire that Apple's next iPhones, namely the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini, are going to look pretty similar to the iPhone 12 series of phones. The overall size of the devices is expected to remain the same. They also keep the new flat design, OLED screens, etc.

That being said, we certainly can't say the iPhone 13 will be "identical" to the iPhone 12. Although this upgrade might seem like an "S" version (in fact, some still believe the iPhone 13 will be called the iPhone 12S), we expect to see a smaller notch.

It's also pretty much a given that we'll get the long-awaited 120Hz refresh rate on iPhone 13 Pro & iPhone 13 Pro Max, but also an ever so slightly different camera arrangement.

Even though the camera tech inside the iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 Mini will get some minor upgrades like sensor-shift stabilization and possibly better ultra-wide sensors, the only obvious to the naked eye change is the way the cameras are positioned on the outside!

As you can tell by the dummy units, one of the cameras on the iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 Mini is moving to the right of the "camera square". The iPhone 13 Pro & 13 Pro Max are expected to retain the same camera positioning, but, obviously, there's more space between the lenses, just like on the iPhone 13 & iPhone 13 Mini, although a bit less.

We've already discussed why the cameras on the iPhone 13 might have a diagonal orientation, and although the thoughts shared in this story are perfectly valid, the reason for the change might be a different one altogether!

iPhone 12 and the lens flare/reflection issue

Now, you might or might not have heard of this, but 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".

When you take photos and especially videos in mid-low light situations, and you point the camera towards a bright subject (or rather a few of them) such as street lights, signs, windows, etc., you are greeted by a whole lot of dots and reflections. This can completely ruin the image and render it unstable.

Is it a big deal? Yes! Of course, it is. Especially on a $1,000 smartphone that comes from a trusted company like Apple. Is it as bad as the exploding Galaxy Note 7 or the bendy iPhone 6? No, but it's definitely enough for some people to return their devices. For the record, I sold my iPhone 12, but this wasn't the sole reason.

In fact, many people have done the same. Several videos on YouTube showcase the issue, and people who find the problem unacceptable go on to return their iPhones.

Is the iPhone 12's lens flare problem present on other devices?

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Kind of. Is it as bad? Certainly, no. Lens reflections and flaring are typical for all kinds of consumer cameras. As mentioned above, lens flare is caused by a bright light source. When this light source is too bright, enters the lens, and then hits the camera's digital sensor, we get the so-called "lens flare".

It's normal, and it even serves a creative purpose for specific scenarios where the sun, for example, creates some completely random yet beautiful light bending to make a photo look dreamy/dramatic.

The thing is - that's not the case with the iPhone 12. Apple's device does have some of that "classic" lens flare, but it also introduces some pretty strange dots. Frankly, it isn't clear where they come from.

iPhone 12 lens flare issue - where does it come from?

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We wish we had an answer, but we don't. There's quite a lot going on with the iPhone 12 series camera. Apple brought LiDAR to the Pro models, gave the iPhone 12 Pro Max big new sensor, so we thought some of those changes might be the reason behind "flaregate". It turns out this isn't possible.

Although most samples uploaded on YouTube are taken with an iPhone 12 Pro Max, the issue is present on the regular iPhone 12 too, as seen on our samples. Hence, the LiDAR sensor is out of the equation since the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini simply don't have one.

They also don't have the newer primary camera sensor that's on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, so this reason is unreasonable too. On top of all, the Pro models come with three cameras, as opposed to two on the iPhone 12, which means the camera count is also not the issue.

For the record, the problem seems to be present on both the main and zoom cameras of the Pro models (the 12 doesn't have a telephoto camera). Not so much on the ultra-wide ones.

Is the iPhone 13 camera positioning here to solve the iPhone 12's lens flare issue?

As mentioned, not only the cameras on the iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 Mini will be positioned diagonally, but there'll be more space between the different lenses. The latter also applies to the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max.

It's possible that the reason for the dots and reflections is because the light that hits one lens (the one that's recording) is joined by more reflections that come from the surrounding lenses, which of course, are also exposed to the same light sources - they have nowhere to hide.

As mentioned here, Apple used a different camera positioning for the iPhone 12 series by putting the primary camera of the iPhone 12, 12 Mini, and 12 Pro Max on the bottom of the "camera square", while keeping the iPhone 12 Pro's main sensor at the top. We're curious to find out if this will change, but we are most excited to see the lens flare issue addressed!

The iPhone's been known for having the absolute best camera for video, boasting extreme dynamic range, great colors, exceptional sharpness, and picture clarity.

Unfortunately, this experience has been somewhat ruined by this mysterious lens flare problem, which again - is somewhat present on other phones and cameras, but they often aren't as expensive, and as said earlier - they don't have it nearly as bad.

Please, Apple! Do one more thing right... 

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