Tim Cook in Japan: praises Sony’s camera sensors, ahead of rumored iPhone 15 improvements

A series of tweets from Tim Cook in Japan includes the usual fare — praising developers who work with Apple, celebrating the use of Apple technology in education, etc. — but is less commonplace. cook too chirp Photo of a visit to Sony’s secret camera sensor facility in Kumamoto.

It’s not entirely a secret that Apple’s camera sensors are made by the Japanese company: Sony model numbers have been found in iPhone teardowns for years now. But this is the first time I remember an Apple CEO mentioning this publicly…

Cook’s tweet says:

We’ve partnered with Sony for over a decade to create the world’s leading camera sensors for iPhone. Thanks to Ken and everyone on the team for showing us the state-of-the-art facility in Kumamoto today.

Interestingly, the accompanying image shows Cook carefully studying the two iPhone 14 models, as if this was the first time he had seen them.

Sony makes the most advanced smartphone camera sensors, and its factory in Kumamoto is so secretive that visiting journalists aren’t allowed to take pictures even in harmless areas like conference rooms and hallways, just in case something sensitive happens while filming. Rare publicity photos like these are always designed with great care.

Cameras have of course been a major selling feature of iPhones for many years, as Apple uses its own Shot on iPhone tag to show the quality of photos taken with its smartphones. It is the constant improvements to photo and video capabilities that motivate many of us to update annually.

Cook’s visit clearly indicates that the partnership with Sony is expected to continue for some time now. The latest rumored development is a new sensor technology designed to greatly enhance dynamic range. We expect to see this technology used in the iPhone 15.

The report claims that Sony’s latest sensor technology “nearly doubles the saturation signal level in each pixel” to deliver a higher dynamic range than existing iPhone camera systems.

The report goes on to explain that Sony’s latest sensor technology uses a “new semiconductor architecture that places photodiodes and transistors on separate base layers, allowing the sensor to add more photodiodes to the dedicated layer.”

Dynamic range is a way to measure the number of stops of light a sensor can capture without dark areas turning solid black, and bright areas turning solid white. Film cameras typically offer around 10 stops, while today’s high-end digital sensors are usually in the range of 14-15 stops – with some high-end cameras claiming over 20 stops, which is better than the human eye.

A classic example when extra dynamic range comes in handy is when shooting in light, like someone’s face behind a sunset. With limited dynamic range, either the face is too dark or the sunset colors are washed out. High dynamic range allows for saturated colors in both dark and bright areas of the image.

In addition to the new sensor, the iPhone 15 is also expected to feature a periscope lens for a much longer optical zoom — likely around 10x zoom. However, this feature may be limited to iPhone 15 Pro Max.

It is not known how long Tim Cook will be in Japan, but we will be watching for more tweets.

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