It's probably no surprise that rumours indicate the next generation of iPhones will feature improved cameras, in this article we will look in depth at the new camera features and specs that the 2021 iPhone series are expected to offer.
These new camera features include an ultra-wide-angle camera equipped with optical image stabilisation and autofocus, which should be beneficial for close-up photography; Sensor-shift OIS across the whole range for better image stabilisation; and various software features including night-sky photography and Portrait Mode video. Read on to find out more.
If you want to know about all the other new features coming to the iPhone 13 models in 2021 read our round up: New 2021 iPhone 13 specs rumours.
New camera location
In May MacRumors managed to obtain some schematics of the new iPhone that show the position of the cameras on the iPhone 13. It looks like the camera module will be larger than previously and that the camera bump will protrude further than it does on the iPhone 12 - meaning the new iPhone will be a fraction thicker.
The surprise is that it seems the lenses will protrude less than currently, with the bump itself protruding more than the lenses. Read more here: iPhone 13 will have thicker and larger camera module.
This wasn't the first suggestion that the camera positioning will be slightly different. An April report also suggested that there may be changes coming to the location of the cameras on the iPhone 13. The images, obtained by Mysmartprice (below), show a diagonal placement of the lenses on the back of the new iPhone.
Changes to the front camera
There are lots of rumours that the new iPhone will feature a smaller notch, although it remains to be seen how this might affect the layout and capabilities of the cameras.
For example, one rumour suggests that the new Face ID sensor will be half the size of the current one. Could this mean that the cameras capabilities are inferior to those included currently? Read: Why the iPhone 13 will have a smaller notch
Those Mysmartprice images (above) also suggest that the front camera will also get a new location as a result of the size of the notch changing.
Ultra-wide-angle f/1.8 lens
Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has claimed an improvement is coming for the aperture of the ultra-wide-angle camera. Kuo believes we will see a jump from the current f/2.4 to f/1.8 for the two Pro iPhone models.
This ultra-wide-angle lens will allow twice as much light to be let through, which should result in sharper images when it is dark. Kuo has been saying this since November 2020, read: iPhone 13 'will feature much better cameras'
This corresponds with Barclays analysts Blayne Curtis and Thomas O’Malley’s claims, from early February 2021, that the ultra-wide lens for the iPhone 13 will be f/1.8.
However, where Kuo suggested that this improvement will only come to the Pro and Pro Max phones, those Barclays analysts indicate that it could come to all four iPhones.
With a larger aperture, more light will hit the sensor, which means better images are possible even in poor lighting conditions.
f/1.5 for the iPhone 13 Pro Max
According to Kuo (in a later March 2021 report) the wide-angle camera in the iPhone 13 Pro Max will get an upgrade from f/1.6 in the 12 Pro Max to f/1.5 on the iPhone 13 Pro Max.
Back in November 2020 Kuo was also suggesting that this ultra-wide-angle camera will be equipped with autofocus, which will be beneficial for close-up photography.
Now a DigiTimes report (March 2021) suggests that the main suppliers of VCMs used in iPhone 12 Pro Max have indicated that Apple will adopt automatic focus (AF) in the new generation of iPhones, according to DigiTimes sources.
Will the iPhone 13 Pro gain the sensor-shift OIS feature of the iPhone 12 Pro Max? This was one of the features that set the iPhone 12 Pro Max apart from the Pro as it shifts the sensor rather than the lens, so you can take sharper photos.
There has also been the suggestion that this feature could arrive on all the new iPhones in 2021.
The March 2021 DigiTimes report (mentioned above) also indicates that the new iPhone models will adopt sensor-shift OIS (optical image stabilisation), based on information from sources.
This follows a DigiTimes report in January 2021 that suggested that Apple will add sensor-shift optical image stabilisation (OIS) across all models of late-2021 iPhone. Korean-language site ETNews also made a similar claim in January 2021.
At the moment, sensor-shift OIS is only offered with the top-of-the-line iPhone 12 Pro Max - and even then, on the wide-angle lens only.
The purpose of the feature is to stabilise the sensor instead of the lens. This way, your photos will be steady, even when your hand is not. The technology originally comes from professional DSLRs, but has been available in mobile cameras for some time.
Telephoto lens with 2.5x optical zoom
Curtis and O'Malley also predict that the iPhone 13 Pro will gain the 65mm focal length and ƒ/2.2 aperture lens seen on the iPhone 12 Pro Max, thereby boasting a 2.5x optical zoom, rather than the 2x optical zoom currently on the iPhone 12 Pro.
Currently the LIDAR sensor is only available on the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, where it brings improved depth sensing that can aid photography - for example at night.
There are rumours (DigiTimes) suggesting that the LiDAR sensor may be a feature of all four new iPhones in 2021. Read: iPhone 13 range to get even better cameras.
How many cameras
Currently the iPhone Pro and Pro Max models have three cameras while the iPhone 12 and 12 mini have two.
Analyst Ross Young believes that in 2021 all Apple’s new iPhones will feature the same number of camera sensors, with the lower end models might finally gaining the additional camera options of the 12 Pro Max.
Like DSCC, Mizuho Securities also says no new iPhone SE model in 2021, have to wait till 2022. They do say all iPhone 13 models will have integrated touch, BOE will join LGD on both 6.1" models, mini and 13 will adopt 12 Pro Max camera sensors, & sensor size will increase on Pro. pic.twitter.com/G9f6cz8dm0— Ross Young (@DSCCRoss) October 2, 2020
Smaller changes aren’t anticipated for the other cameras. It might be the case that Apple will instead improve the software, something that will ensure that the quality of the images is raised another notch. We'll detail some of the new software features rumoured to be coming to the new 2021 iPhones next.
According to Max Weinbach, the iPhone 13 models will be able to take astrophotography via a special mode that will activate when you point the camera at the night sky.
The new star photography mode will be activated when you point the camera at the night sky and the app sees stars or the moon. When the new mode is triggered the phone will adjust exposure to suit the conditions, for example.
Portrait Mode videos
Weinbach also suggests that Portrait Mode videos are on the way, which is bound to be a popular feature.
As for 2022, analyst Ming Chi Kuo has made some predictions about the 2022 iPhone camera, which he says will offer 8K video and 48 megapixels.
We also have an article about the people behind the Apple leaks - find out who has the best track record.