Underwater photographers and cameras have to deal with less than ideal conditions. Light levels are low, water can be murky and add color casts to your images. Underwater modes on rugged cameras and (waterproof) smartphones are not new but now a patent application filed by Apple suggests mobile users could soon benefit from a more sophisticated version and achieve better underwater imaging results in the future if the system is ever implemented.

Apple's patent application is titled 'Submersible Electronic Devices with Imaging Capabilities and describes a system that automatically detects when the shutter button is pressed under water and makes the necessary adjustments to optimize image quality.

The device uses a range of sensors to detect if it is underwater and determines what steps are required to improve image results. A color ambient light sensor could be used to measure ambient light spectra above and under water and help calculate how much light is absorbed by the water. Depth, distance, pressure, and orientation sensors can be deployed to measure the water´s murkiness as well as the distances to the surface and subject. Backscattered light could be measured as well to find out how it affects the image.

With the data from all sensors collected, the system would then make adequate adjustments to camera settings and image processing, for example modify the white balance to avoid greenish color casts, or enhance exposure and texture rendition on the subject in murky conditions with low visibility.

As usual, there is no way of knowing if the patent ever makes it into a final product but given most of the sensors mentioned in the document are already present in current iPhone models, the system could probably be pretty easily implemented via a software update.