A Kuo report back in April said that we can expect a 48MP iPhone 14 camera next year, together with 8K video recording. This has now been echoed by a second analyst.

We would, however, repeat the caveat we offered at the time: The headline may not tell the whole story …

Background

Noted Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo made a number of iPhone 14 predictions back in the spring, based on supply chain reports.

In addition to claiming that the iPhone mini screen size is no more, Kuo detailed some impressive camera specs for the 2022 iPhones. 

He reports that the standard rear cameras on the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will be upgraded to 48-megapixels, an increase from the 12-megapixel sensor in iPhone 12 […]

Kuo seems confident that the 48-megapixel spec is only destined for the more expensive Pro models […] Kuo does not also discuss details of the 2x zoom or ultra–wide lenses, suggesting the 48 megapixel upgrade is exclusive to the main wide camera.

Second 48MP iPhone 14 camera report

MacRumors cites a fresh report from Jeff Pu, which echoes the Kuo one.

 Pu said the two Pro models will be equipped with a triple-lens rear camera system with an upgraded 48-megapixel Wide lens and 12-megapixel Ultra Wide and Telephoto lenses. 

Pu has a mixed record when it comes to Apple, but the fact that he backs Kuo’s much earlier report does make it more likely he’s right on this one.

But 48MP may not always mean 48MP

We noted at the time that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the final output resolution will be 48MP: This may remain at 12MP. As we previously explained, this is because more is not always better where megapixels are concerned.

While more megapixels theoretically means more detail when you show photos at larger sizes, there is a huge downside to doing so on the same sized sensor. Cramming in more pixels into the same space means that each pixel has to be smaller, and that increases noise at low light levels.

When you think about how many of our most important photos are taken in relatively low light, that’s a big deal. Kids playing indoors, candlelit dinners, blowing out birthday cake candles, with friends in restaurants, sleeping babies – those are all examples of scenarios where you want the best quality low-light photos you can get.

Apple has consistently ignored the megapixel wars, and instead aimed for large pixels to provide the best possible low-light captures. Quality over quantity.

It seems a very likely bet that Apple will be using a technology known as “four cell merge output mode,” where the sensor has 48MP, but they are grouped together in clusters of four pixels, to generate a high-quality 12MP image.

The latest speculation is that Apple will support both 48MP and 12MP modes, so that you could get 48MP images in well-lit conditions and 12MP images in lower light. This is easily achieved with this tech, and gives the best of both worlds, so may well be the most likely bet. Samsung makes a 50MP camera sensor, which takes this approach.

Check out our full roundup of everything we’re expecting from next year’s flagship iPhone.

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Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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