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Update: Some are suggesting that the patent could simply be for tiny shifts that would allow the iPhone camera to fill in missing detail that falls between pixels, though it’s unclear how this would differ from a technique already in use by Hasselblad. Thanks to James for the Hasselblad link.

iPhones have long allowed you to create panoramic images by taking multiple photos which the camera stitches together. But an Apple patent granted today could allow future iPhones to take panoramic photos effectively with a single shot. Apple describes this as ‘super resolution mode.’

The reality would be that the iPhone would still take multiple photos to switch together, but the process would be automated so the user experience would be taking just one shot …

The mechanism is very clever.

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.

What optical image stabilization does at present is to shift the image on the sensor in response to shaky hand movements. This patent describes using the same motors to deliberately shift the image to the right or left, take multiple photos on a single shutter press and then stitch them together into a panorama.

An illustration suggests that you’d switch on this feature in a similar way to turning on HDR today. (The actual image is very outdated as the patent application was made back in 2012.)

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We of course include our usual disclaimer that Apple implements only a handful of the inventions it patents.

Via Patently Apple

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