Recumbent Review: Groundbreaking Apple iCamera Leaked

The Apple iCamera is to be announced today in a surprise unveiling.

About the Recumbent Reviews

Welcome to the fifth Recumbent Review!

This series of articles examines photographic equipment and accessories from an ordinary user’s point of view. You’ll find none of that snooty “I’m an expert so my opinion is the final word” guff you get from the professional reviewers you’ll find elsewhere on the interwebs. I’m too lazy and inept to go into a detailed technical analysis involving resolution tests, discussions on acutance, or anything else involving experimentation, exacting measurement, or a scholarly comparison with other equipment, but I’ll certainly not hold back on opinion and speculation. Ranting and raving are par for the course!

Hopefully you’ll enjoy yourself while learning all about stuff that will help you take better pictures and cost you money you should be putting toward your children’s college fund or something pink and frilly for your wife (or husband).

Introduction

Less than one month after Apple unveiled the 3rd generation iPad, I have learned that CEO Tim Cook is to publicize Apple’s second attempt to enter the digital photography market with a device dedicated to photography. The officially announcement will come later today and my sources claim that the iCamera will be on retailers’ shelves by the beginning of next week.

Apple’s first attempt at entering the consumer  digital camera market dates back to February 1994 when we first got a glimpse of their 0.3 megapixel Apple QuickTake 100. The QuickTake 100 could only take photographs within about 3½ EVs (Exposure Values), had a fixed-focus and fixed focal length lens, and had to be connected to Apple computers running only System7 through OS9 operating systems. Files had to be uploaded using a serial port.

The Orchard, Apple’s secret product R&D facility, has had this imaging system under development for several years and thanks to the recent purchase of several patents, the final consumer model began testing six months ago and has been in production in the Far East for the past eight weeks. They now have sufficient stock to ship the first 80,000 on-line orders as soon as the iCamera is announced later today.

If what I’ve heard about the new iCamera is true, it will turn the consumer digital photography industry on it’s ear by offering incredible innovations in optics and digital file architecture. Many advanced amateur and professional photographers will opt to trade in their DSLRs and this new camera. It might even take a bite out of the swing/shift technical and field camera market.

Let’s take a look at some of the features of the iCamera.

Image Capture the Apple Way 

The iCamera distills cutting-edge technology into a device about the same size as an iPhone but 50-100% thicker, yielding images images superior to full-frame DSLRs and comparable to medium-format digital imaging systems. Here are some of the specs and features of this new camera.

  • 50 megapixel 3.5″ x 2″ CMOS II stratified sensor with native 16-bit colour depth (14-, 12- and 8-bit also selectable). The ultra large sensor and low pixel density permits very low noise in low light conditions with a workable ISO range from 8 to 800,000 — you can take photos in light provided by a single candle 23 feet away. Chroma noise is undetectable up to about ISO 150,000. There is no physical low- or high-pass filter allowing the user to select the frequency bias to control white balance or to extend the response into far-infrared and/or ultraviolet. Anti-aliasing is not done optically but accomplished optionally via software in post-processing. Image stabilization happens partially at the sensor and partially through the coordination of the lens array and through software image processing.
  • Selectable 3:2, 4:3, 2:1, 1:1 and custom aspect ratios.
  • Electrochemical conventional and plenoptic optics. Apple has developed a “compound lens” system with each individual lens made up several lenses, some of which are made of a polymer that changes shape according to electrical impulses fed through them. This allows all the lenses to individually focus and control zoom. Using the touchscreen, the user selects the nearest and farthest objects in the scene that (s)he wants in focus and the iCamera does the rest. The image data is saved so that a high-res conventional photo as well as lower-res plenoptic images (which can have the focus changed after the photo is shot) can be produced in post-processing on the consumer’s home computer. The array of 1,200 tiny lenses work in concert to provide the optimal image quality for a given subject and lighting conditions. It sounds complicated but it’s all very intuitive to use. The array functions as a 13-1,500 mm (35 mm equivalent) zoom and the image data collected by the lenses is carried to the sensor via a fibre-optic harness of pure Apple design. That’s 13-,500mm optical zoom, not interpolated digital zoom!
  • An ingenious new algorithm for lossless compressed RAW file format reduces the size of the 50 MP 16-bit image from 65 MB to 5.5 MB.
  • Can capture 1080p video. Support for the 4320p UHDTV standard is being considered for upcoming models.
  • 4.5″ touchscreen viewfinder allows the user to not only select shooting modes and menu options but to select objects in the scene to specify the depth of field required, the plane of focus, and even control perspective that previously could only be accomplished with technical cameras or with the aid of tilt/shift lenses. We’re not talking about correcting the image after exposure, this is essentially tilt-shift movements before exposure accomplished by independent adjustments to the individual elements of the lens array.
  • Flash illumination is provided a panel of LEDs and Xenon tubes just behind the lens array. The camera automatically selects either one or both types of illumination based the scene’s requirements as determined by the image processor in real time. Electrochemical lenses similar to those in the objective lens array and the camera’s ability to dictate the output and angle of the individual light emitters allow for even lighting by optimizing light output selectively to individual areas of the scene… objects in the foreground are no longer burnt out and the people in the back row of group shots are as well lit as the ones in front. Infrared and UV flash, as well as illumination for composition, is supported. Metering is iTTL.
  • Voice recognition allows the user to change shooting modes quickly without fiddling with menus, if desired. Also allows for remote control of the iCamera, like when taking a photo with the photographer in the photo. It can be programmed to trip the shutter at a specific time after the end of a certain word (e.g. a second after the “T” in “Shoot!”).
  • Full-time geotagging.
  • High speed Wi-Fi, FireWire, and USB 3.0 connectivity.
  • Software for your computer includes a special iCamera edition of Adobe Lightroom that allows RAW image data to be processed into conventional, 3D, HDRI, and plenotically-treated images.
  • On-board 6 channel inkjet printer is being considered for future models.

Frankly, I cannot wait to see this iCamera demonstrated. If you have any further information about the iCamera, please sound off below!

Happy April Fools’ Day! Sorry to disappoint you but there is no iCamera… yet. If Apple does come up with one, I have dibs on either a lawsuit or a free one of each generation.

If you liked this Recumbent Review but would like information on camera equipment that really exists, read my other posts in the series:

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About HoaiPhai

I'm up late digging up the dirt. View all posts by HoaiPhai

8 responses to “Recumbent Review: Groundbreaking Apple iCamera Leaked

  • gojulesgo

    Wowwww. Thanks for the breaking news (and the heads-up this weekend)!! Although if you’re inept about cameras, I shouldn’t even be allowed to hold one.

    • HoaiPhai

      Oh, I wouldn’t worry about ineptitude because it’s an Apple — it’s intuitive!

      Congrats on being the first to comment and the fifth to visit this post. I was actually worried that by posting something about an Apple product, I’d get too swamped with discussion for my own good (I get a lot of visits to my exotic lens reviews from photography websites). I was also worried that the hard-core Apple fans would call for my head for hoaxing news about a new product. Silly me!

  • The Hobbler

    I don’t understand a lot of the technical details, but it seems like you did a pretty thorough job. Part of the low turn out is the fact that April fools day was on a Sunday. I’d been setting mine up for a while too, and I told people I would reveal the big secret on April first, so I think that helped me a bit.

    • HoaiPhai

      I really enjoy photography, both the technology and the finished prints. A lot of the features of the camera are available on other cameras, are in the experimental stages, or were just dreamed up. This camera would be possible (possibly) but the price would be five or six figures and the quality of the images just couldn’t match ordinary cameras costing a fraction of the price — I thought I’d give the laws of physics the day off.

      It wasn’t the “big draw” type of post I thought it would be but I had fun playing with the idea and posting it. I always get a rush from hitting that Publish button! Thanks for straining your eyes on all the jargon!!

  • The Hook

    I wish I had “photog” skills – and some cash!

    • HoaiPhai

      “Photog skills” are amongst the easiest to develop as long as you follow my lead and take photos only to please yourself. The more you take, the more often your pictures will turn out to be something you enjoy!

  • ns

    And here I was about to order mine! And wondering why I hadn’t heard anything about this new BREAKTHROUGH camera! You naughty naughty boy teasing us like this!

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