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Okay, so smartphone photography is getting pretty legit (wanted to just toss that nugget out there for those of you that have been living in cave). Consider a few of the items in this category that have made headlines in the past few months such as 20MP becoming standard resolution fodder, 4K video, larger sensors, RAW capability, HDR capture for stills/videos, DSLR-style shutter priority among many other amazing imaging goodies that smartphones are now capable of.

Still, the purists among us will argue that for their more ‘serious’ picture-taking needs they’re not about to let go of their traditional digital camera – be it a trusted compact, a superzoom or the latest DSLR.

However, a fairly new technology that initially appeared in traditional digital cameras dubbed ‘senor-shifting’ that allows for what is loosely being termed ‘Super Res Mode’ may soon show up in smartphones with Apple allegedly leading the way for this innovation to soon be a part of an upcoming iPhone release.

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Olympus was the first manufacturer we know of to showcase the sensor-shifting innovation in their recently released Micro Four Thirds OM-D E-M5 II – boasting of the ability to shoot massive 40MP images off of its 16MP sensor.

The tech works using a special mode that captures 8 images in sequence over one second at 16MP each, moving the sensor by half a pixel between each shot. These images are then combined in-camera over two seconds to create a super-high-res photo that supposedly rivals those captured by actual 40-megapixel sensors. The sample images we’ve eyed are stunning.

The hot new smartphoneography rumor of late is that Apple is working on a patent that they are calling “Super-Resolution Based on Optical Image Stabilization” that appears to be a variation on the Olympus sensor-shifting tech for smartphones.

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Apple’s recent patent application for the tech patent follows a very similar structure:

A system and method for creating a super-resolution image using an image capturing device. In one embodiment, an electronic image sensor captures a reference optical sample through an optical path. Thereafter, an optical image stabilization (OIS) processor to adjusts the optical path to the electronic image sensor by a known amount. A second optical sample is then captured along the adjusted optical path, such that the second optical sample is offset from the first optical sample by no more than a sub-pixel offset. The OIS processor may reiterate this process to capture a plurality of optical samples at a plurality of offsets. The optical samples may be combined to create a super-resolution image.

The only negative aspect to this tech, for now, that we’ve heard about is that it doesn’t work well with motion – and that any camera using the tech must be completely still (i.e. used on a tripod). We are told that Olympus is working on a way to allow the feature to work as well with handheld shooting. We can only assume that Apple is dealing with this in their patent as well.

Lots going on and you just have to wonder – will there soon be a day that we are asking is there isn’t anything a smartphone can’t do that a digital camera can?

 

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