Optical image stabilization systems are great for counteracting shaky hands and keeping things smooth when shooting video. However, shifting sensors or lens elements can also be used to take two or more images at slightly offset angles and merge them to one exposure with a higher pixel-count. The idea is not entirely new, for example the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II mirrorless system camera uses a sensor-shift system to capture 40MP images with a 16MP sensor. The brand new Pentax K-3 II applies a similar concept to produce images with greater color resolution.

Apple has also patented a system that uses the actuators of an optical image stabilization system to move the optical path, as 9to5mac.com has found out. However, the basic concept is the same, as several exposures are merged into one to create a larger image. After HDR and night modes this is another interesting application of multi-frame modes that can help improve the image quality of smartphone cameras. The limitation in this case is that like most multi-frame modes, the Apple system would be mostly suited for static scenes as moving subjects could cause ghosting and other artifacts.

As usual there is no way of knowing if the system will ever make it into a production model but it's good to know smartphone manufacturers are looking at innovative ways of improving image quality that don't require the use of a larger sensor. Due to the laws of physics, a bigger sensor would almost certainly also result in increased device dimensions. Currently the iPhone 6 Plus is the only Apple smartphone with optical image stabilization. This patent could be an indication that we'll see more Apple devices featuring the technology in the future.

Source: USPTO | Via: 9to5 Mac