It has recently come to light that Apple’s US Patent No. 8,497,987 for “Image capture using luminance and chrominance sensors” actually describes a unique multi-sensor camera system that can be used in portable devices (such as the iPhone!). This has led many to question whether we can expect to see this new technology in coming Apple devices.

Apple camera sensor

Mikey Campbell of Apple Insider explains that the point of the patent is to “combine three separate images generated by one luminance sensor disposed between two chrominance sensors. Each sensor has a ‘lens train’, or lens assembly, in front of it that directs light towards the sensor surface”. Basically, the resulting photo will be of very high quality.

Campbell also goes on to outline how a stereo map will be created so that any differences (or redundancies) between the two chrominance sensors can be measured. The use of a stereo map can also help to solve the ‘blind spot’ issue that often arises from using three sensors with three different lens trains and can compensate for distortion.

In most embodiments of the patent, the luminance sensor is flanked on either side by the chrominance sensors. Another embodiment suggests that the two chrominance sensors be offset so that their blind regions do not overlap. Other embodiments imply that varied resolutions or lens configurations need to be used for the luminance and chrominance sensors.

Even though the patent was first filed for in 2010, crediting David S Gere as the inventor, the technology still has a long way to go and it is unlikely that we will be seeing a three-sensor camera in any Apple products anytime soon. The evidence does suggest, however, that we could be seeing a triple lens camera released in iPhones of the future.