A new patent application from Apple seeks to improve the camera flash on an iPhone by combining multiple iPhone smartphones to give better lighting to a scene. This would be akin to using slave flashes in photography where multiple flashes or lighting sources can be triggered when the shutter button is activated.
In the case of the Apple-filed patent, only the main iPhone would capture or record the image.
Apple’s system proposes that the iPhone would capture a test image first to analyze the scene. The iPhone would then give users information on how to position additional iPhone or iPad devices around the scene to properly illuminate the photo.
The flash intensity could also be controlled and automatically adjusted by the primary device.
The patent uncovered by AppleInsider offers a rather novel approach to getting more light from a smartphone camera. In the past, manufacturers have attempted to get better light in images with stronger LED flashes to offer more illumination, Xenon flashes to have more true and accurate colors, and with keeping the shutter opened longer when combined with an optical image stabilizer to allow more light to hit the sensor to create a brighter, more natural image.
The uniqueness of this method is that not only would it allow the iPhone to capture more light in a scene, but would allow photographers more creative control of lighting with multiple light sources as a result of multiple flash on multiple iPhones used. This means that shadows could be controlled, like in a professional photo studio.
Apple’s system would work using WiFi or Bluetooth to link all the phones and tablets together so that they can be signaled to turn on the flash simultaneously at the same time when the shutter button is pressed.
The patent application was filed in late 2011, and it’s unclear if Apple has any intentions on commercializing this idea. For the idea to work, it would require a social setting where there are multiple iOS phones and tablets.
Samsung has attempted to make photography more social through clever sharing of images, rather than creation of images. With photos, Samsung allows users on the same network to automatically share images with all other users so everyone will have the same photos no matter which phones captured the images. With music, a new feature of the Galaxy S4 allows multiple devices to daisy chain to create one loud speaker, which is similar to what Apple is trying to do with camera lighting in this patent application.