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Apple patent hints at 'social camera flash' using multiple iOS devices

By dpreview staff on May 16, 2013 at 15:41 GMT

A patent filed by Apple in 2011 and discovered this week by appleinsider.com seems to hint at a 'social camera flash' system, allowing multiple iOS devices to be connected and used as secondary strobes. The patent is filed as an 'illumination system' and describes 'initiating a master-slave relationship between the image capture device and at least one secondary device'.

As usual, the legalese gets a little dense but according to the analysis done by appleinsider.com, 'the patent application can be considered a 'social camera flash' system, perhaps useful in impromptu photo shoots that require more than one source of lighting.'

An image from the Apple patent shows multiple iOS devices being connected together to provide flash illumination of a subject. (image: USPTO)

Among the possibilities listed in the patent is for a graphical user interface to be used to preview test shots, and for handheld devices in the impromptu setup to offer instructions to the photographer/subject 'to move in a particular direction, for a particular distance, to angle or move the device in a certain manner, and so forth'.

We'd recommend not getting too excited about this, since large technology companies file patents all the time, and only a fraction of them ever see the light of day as finished features or products. That said, we're intrigued by the idea. What do you think? Let us know in the comments. 

Comments

Total comments: 63
PhotoKhan
By PhotoKhan (11 months ago)

Typical Apple:

Offering what already exists, disguised as "coolness", to be presented in a KNA by whoever is the new black turtleneck guru in charge, brainwashed audience going "Wooow!", while at the same time having the actual nerve to "patent" that very same already-existing thing, so they can later litigate competitors to their knees, the legal system not even taking notice that they were NOT the "inventors" in the first place.

Anxiously awaiting the coming "Social Mirror Based Image Capture System".

(...what a dirty, dirty little world the IT one turned out to be...)

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Timmbits
By Timmbits (11 months ago)

Filing a patent is one thing.
The patent withstanding challenges in court, or even being enforceable, is another matter.
It seems to me that remote control through radio waves is nothing new.

1 upvote
JDThomas
By JDThomas (11 months ago)

Cool, now iPhoneys can start calling themselves "strobists" too.

1 upvote
mandophoto
By mandophoto (11 months ago)

So, the very many iPhoneys who are also Nikon users now know to never disturb your hubris towards them by buying a JD Thomas publication. You got it.

1 upvote
jcmarfilph
By jcmarfilph (11 months ago)

Why would you waste time, effort and resources for a device that produces mediocre image at best?

Patenting an existing product that has been out decades ago

1 upvote
Morgan David
By Morgan David (11 months ago)

What iPhone have you tried?
Not sure we can call the iPhone 5 pictures mediocre.
Agreed, they are not Medium format quality, but its a quite descent quality for such a portable camera.
Triggering multi flashes seems quite nice since most people around you will be able to provide a flash. I can't wait to see what creativity will come out of the younger generation who hasn't had the means to by multi flashes since then.

0 upvotes
SDPharm
By SDPharm (11 months ago)

Most commenters who made snide remarks here missed the last paragraph of this brief news piece:

"We'd recommend not getting too excited about this, since large technology companies file patents all the time, and only a fraction of them ever see the light of day as finished features or products."

Many also did not notice that Apple did not use the word 'social.' This article merely says it "seems to hint at a 'social camera flash' system."

3 upvotes
EssexAsh
By EssexAsh (11 months ago)

next week apple will be patenting the wheel, the "social movement system"

Once upon a time apple used to innovate, now they just sue.

5 upvotes
Timmbits
By Timmbits (11 months ago)

well said! :)

1 upvote
JWest
By JWest (11 months ago)

So I shouldn't "get too excited" about the fact that Apple has land-grabbed a patent on another obvious idea, so I'm unlikely to ever see it implemented on my Android device? Roger that, I'll try to contain my joy.

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
BelePhotography
By BelePhotography (11 months ago)

Apple should stop patenting existing technology and start some true innovation!

4 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (11 months ago)

Um, tech that syncs iPhones in this manner does not exist. However, there are dedicated flash systems that do sync.

1) Multiple patents can exist for a given idea as long as the implementations differ.
2) Innovation is not invention.

2 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (11 months ago)

When IS Pocketwizard coming out with an iPhone-compatible trigger? Strobe compatibility is the last barrier standing between the iPhone and (photo) world domination

3 upvotes
Octane
By Octane (11 months ago)

Hey buddy, can hold your phone with the LED light on? Thanks! Ok and you, can you do the same from the other side? Awesome, OK let's take the shot.

Let's use the word 'social' and let's use technology that every major camera manufacturer had for decades already. Let's patent it! OMG we are so creative and innovative at Apple.

4 upvotes
RichRMA
By RichRMA (11 months ago)

Don't we already have enough dopy P&S and phone users firing flashes in stadiums where the action is 500ft away?

3 upvotes
mschaef
By mschaef (11 months ago)

But with this tech, they could theoretically fire the flash on every iPhone in the stadium at the same time. What could go wrong?

0 upvotes
QuarterToDoom
By QuarterToDoom (11 months ago)

WTF? So "sociall" is the new "mobile" when used to describe patents they are obvious.

4 upvotes
iamphil
By iamphil (11 months ago)

It's better than nothing but LED will always be inferior to xenon tubes until the spectrum issues are solved.

2 upvotes
cplunk
By cplunk (11 months ago)

But the LED doubles as a flashlight with one of those flashlight apps, and is much more useful having a flashlight on your phone than a flash on your cameraphone, IMHO.
My phone is, primarily, for email after all.

0 upvotes
CyberAngel
By CyberAngel (11 months ago)

the display can also double as a huge flash light
I prefer Xenon
as in Nokia N8, Nokia 808, Lumia 928
not available in Apple iProducts

1 upvote
W Sanders
By W Sanders (11 months ago)

Think it would be fairly trivial to write an android app that triggers your $10,000 worth of Speedotrons when you take a picture with your Samsung.

I am not sure which would be a bigger PITA, lugging $10,000 worth of Speedotrons around everywhere, or the nuisance lawsuit from Apple that would follow.

2 upvotes
rondhamalam
By rondhamalam (11 months ago)

Embarrassing history:

http://www.engadget.com/2012/11/03/apple-posts-revised-samsung-did-not-copy-statement/

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 26 seconds after posting
2 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (11 months ago)

The court also found O.J. Simpson not guilty

4 upvotes
marike6
By marike6 (11 months ago)

It's a bit odd that some below are complaining about this news story. Aren't innovations in lighting and photography always relavant and interesting?

I spend a lot of time on Vimeo and YouTube, and there are videographers and photographers doing absolutely amazing work with iPhones, banks of iPads as light panels, iPads as wireless field monitors, LED video lighting for photography, DIY rigs for cameras, lighting, you name it. It's creativity at it's best.

But here on DPR, one of the largest groups of photographers anywhere, and if it's not a traditional camera announcement or review, people complain. Go figure.

6 upvotes
JLim22
By JLim22 (11 months ago)

I already have wireless flash and it works between any smartphones..

"Hey, can you turn on your led flash and hold it up?"

Now, if it was able to actually trigger a real flash, that would be nice.

1 upvote
clicstudio
By clicstudio (11 months ago)

Some Nikon, canon And sigma flashes have photocells that "see" other flashes. Even professional studio flashes should be able to see a phone flash.
I'll test it tomorrow.

0 upvotes
StevenE
By StevenE (11 months ago)

Could be interesting.
But I'd like my Android to be able to trigger a full-blown real flash. Just for fun

1 upvote
clicstudio
By clicstudio (11 months ago)

Some Nikon, canon And sigma flashes have photocells that "see" other flashes. Even professional studio flashes should be able to see a phone flash.
I'll test it tomorrow.

1 upvote
Tim F 101
By Tim F 101 (11 months ago)

Does not work. Phones use an LED flash that ramps up much too slowly (in flash time) to trigger a device. The phone needs to send a trigger signal by bluetooth, and as far as I know the current API does not support that. A shame because they would become much more useful devices if it did.

Comment edited 50 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
nathondetroit
By nathondetroit (11 months ago)

There should be a "share flash" tab under settings, and in busy places your phone will automatically utilize any nearby flashes.

0 upvotes
AshMills
By AshMills (11 months ago)

Is there a "why" somewhere hidden?

0 upvotes
Mescalamba
By Mescalamba (11 months ago)

No. But Im more worried how that patent could be used in patent wars..

0 upvotes
Glen Barrington
By Glen Barrington (11 months ago)

Just how angry would people be if you used their precious battery life for shaky crappy photos?

0 upvotes
psn
By psn (11 months ago)

So, because they use the phrase "social camera flash" it would make it patentable? Most camera systems today call this technology wireless flash.

5 upvotes
Glen Barrington
By Glen Barrington (11 months ago)

Yeah but you can bet those manufacturers will hear from Apple's lawyers!

2 upvotes
Peiasdf
By Peiasdf (11 months ago)

Would help if you guys can read and notice appleinsider call it "social camera flash", not Apple.

Living under a bridge too long seems to have affected your reading comprehension skill.

2 upvotes
JadedGamer
By JadedGamer (11 months ago)

Well, variants of the technology: Presumably this patent describes another way than is currently used.

1 upvote
psn
By psn (11 months ago)

@Peiasdf: I don't care what Apple(tm) calls it. I call it wireless flash.

0 upvotes
jennyrae
By jennyrae (11 months ago)

impractical.

1 upvote
Nishi Drew
By Nishi Drew (11 months ago)

So, an ipad in one hand for the photo, and an iphone in the other for the light

0 upvotes
Johnsonj
By Johnsonj (11 months ago)

That might come in handy. Exciting times!

3 upvotes
GeorgeZ
By GeorgeZ (11 months ago)

I really wonder what this news does here on the main site, this is at best stuff for Connect.
It's been over 100 days since Jeff Keller joined, normally he does 10 reviews in that period of time, here he has done half a review- what is holding him back? Why are 2 former dpr writers now doing cell phone stuff? (Lars and Andy).
I thought the amazon purchase would make everything better, I thought Connect wouldn't slow reviews down even more.
End of rant.

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (11 months ago)

Andy helps out on connect on the rare occasions when something happens in England that we need to get access to (The Nokia 925 launch, for instance). The vast majority of his time is spent writing lens reviews and occasional previews. You've probably seen his length preview of the E-P5, and his next lens review will be online very shortly.

Jeff did not in fact join us 'more than 100 days' ago, and he's written 2 reviews for us so far, is nearly done with a third, and he's also lining up a grouptest for later this summer. Not bad for someone who's still in training, and bear in mind that our reviews are much more involved than his ever were.

Lars has been writing technical content for connect for a few months and will continue to do so as necessary - he'll also be writing a camera review for the main dpreview site in coming weeks.

Moan and complain all you like, but please - get your facts straight.

http://www.dpreview.com/camerareviews/ http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
GeorgeZ
By GeorgeZ (11 months ago)

Well he said he would take Jannuary off and start February.Maybe he didn't mean the first? Anyway, I doubt you can say he's still in training, come on.
Great to hear Andy spends his time doing lens reviews, I remeber a Pana lens that had it's first anniversary as a PREview ;-) And some others.
Sorry to be such a pain but you have to admit this is getting really ridiculous.

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (11 months ago)

No, I don't admit that at all. You are factually wrong. And FYI, we don't normally consider a reviewer to be fully trained for about a year. If you read our in-depth reviews (the ones we still publish regularly even though you think we don't) you'll understand why.

Comment edited 4 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
GeorgeZ
By GeorgeZ (11 months ago)

Ok, if that's what you think. I consider this to be somewhat condescending towards Jeff who has done a ton of great reviews and only needs to learn the intricacies of dpr. If that takes a pro a year to learn....oh I better keep that to myself.
I respect your work a lot but I am disappointed by the amount published, as are many, many others.
You may not officially share my assessment but for years dpr has said that there will be more reviews soon. So.....

0 upvotes
Revenant
By Revenant (11 months ago)

Here's a link to an explanation of what's involved in putting together a DPR review.

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/50382234

2 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (11 months ago)

@ Revenant - bless you for trying... ;)

2 upvotes
GeorgeZ
By GeorgeZ (11 months ago)

Oh yes, painstakingly detailed. And then when I read a new review I find 3 typos and 2 dead links within 20 minutes. Come on!

0 upvotes
Sam Carriere
By Sam Carriere (11 months ago)

How is this interesting, relevant or important?
DPReview just seems to get hoplesser and hopelesser.
I now consult it once or twice a week just to see how crazy or useless the most recent content is ... which puts you in the same league as Ken Rockwell.

0 upvotes
Barney Britton
By Barney Britton (11 months ago)

Using a mobile device as an off-camera flash doesn't interest you, at all? I'd be happy to continue this conversation, feel free to send me a PM.

2 upvotes
GeorgeZ
By GeorgeZ (11 months ago)

It may be interesting but so far only 3 or 4 phones have ever had a real flash. Can't see a LED flash doing much. So no, this doesn't sound too exciting at the moment.
There must be 100 photography related news that are more relevant right now.
The KR comment was uncalled for though, nobody deserves that comparison.

0 upvotes
Simon Joinson
By Simon Joinson (11 months ago)

hey george, could you send us the 100 stories? I'd love to see them!

3 upvotes
Nishi Drew
By Nishi Drew (11 months ago)

Lol Sam, but you still visit here twice a week and that's above average compared to other tech guys I know. And you obviously care enough to share your opinions for everyone to see, because what you say will change the world~

0 upvotes
GeorgeZ
By GeorgeZ (11 months ago)

Hi Simon,
I actually expected that LOL. Well, I'm not running a photography site and have spend my time doing other things. But still, one news item would be more interesting, just as an example:

Olympus to kill off point-and-shoot camera line

0 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (11 months ago)

I think it's not only interesting, but also innovative.

2 upvotes
Jerry Ci
By Jerry Ci (11 months ago)

Innovative? I disagree. It is simply wireless flash with master and slave. Using a wimpy phone-camera flash as the slave doesn't change the concept. It's absolutely arrogant and delusional of Apple to think they invented something ... again.

0 upvotes
Tim F 101
By Tim F 101 (11 months ago)

You know why this is cool? So far as I know nobody has ever gotten an idevice to sync with an external strobe. The dinky direct flash LED has too broad an on-off time to trigger optical slaves, so people who want to take portraits with it have to use direct flash (gah!), natural light (grr) or modeling lights (bleh).

That simple functionality would make the Apple iwhatever so much more useful for those of us who like taking pictures of people that look good.

2 upvotes
Optimal Prime
By Optimal Prime (11 months ago)

If it's not worthy of too much excitement as per your recommendation stated in the last paragraph above, then why make it a headline feature?

0 upvotes
Alberto Tanikawa
By Alberto Tanikawa (11 months ago)

I've heard of people doing weddings entirely on an iPhone with SLR lens adapters, but now it's getting to a point of diminishing results. This is similar to what Canon and Nikon already do with their flash systems, without using wifi. It's interesting piece of technology, but as I recall wifi latency was much longer than what current radio transceivers (ie Pocket Wizard Plus III) offer: ~20ms vs 0.83ms. That can adversely affect flash timing when working with multiple remote units at varying distances, specially if you're trying to use the maximum sync speed on some cameras (4ms for 1/250s sync). Also, current radios are very power efficient, using less than 1mW while an iPhone 4, for example, uses 700mW just idling. Right now I think this is a gimmick, but in time, if latency and power issues can be overcome, I'm sure this could become a powerful tool for both consumers and professionals.

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
vinersan
By vinersan (11 months ago)

who in the world would soot a wedding on a mobile ?
you really need a large sensor in many situations (dark suit/ white dress and so many others example that it's weird just to compere )

this is te most ridiculous thing i heard !

0 upvotes
Alberto Tanikawa
By Alberto Tanikawa (11 months ago)

http://petapixel.com/2011/06/27/first-wedding-ever-to-be-shot-entirely-with-the-iphone-4/

and

https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=417056869491

They aren't my cup of tea, but I guess some people like it.

0 upvotes
Sprexumn
By Sprexumn (11 months ago)

Apple would never devote UI real estate to something like this that will be used so infrequently. Basic things like shutter/aperture/iso controls would come waaay before this.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 63