You sometimes here people talk about the iPhone 4S as if it’s a minor upgrade, but even if you’re not wooed by Siri, the camera on the iPhone 4S makes it worth a whole new phone in itself if you have even the most cursory interest in photography. The 8MP back-side illuminated sensor provided by Sony is a marvel — arguably the best camera sensor on a mobile phone outside of the crazy new Nokia PureView 808 — and a serious, serious upgrade over the 5MP OmniVision sensor found in the iPhone 4.
But don’t count OmniVision out for Cupertino’s iPhone 5 business. The Californian digital sensor maker have just announced a crazy 16MP back-side illuminated sensor that could theoretically put the iPhone 4S’s image quality to shame. Even better? Since they are capable of shooting video in 4K resolution at 30 frames per second, they’d take perfect images and videos for those rumored new Retina Macs we’ve all been hearing about.
OmniVision’s new 16MP sensors are capable of shooting 4K video, which means a resolution of 4608 x 3456 pixels. If you saw our piece yesterday on what the likely resolutions of the new Retina Macs will be, you’ll see that that comfortably means that a video shot on an iPhone 5 with one of these sensors wouldn’t just run at full resolution on a Retina Mac, it’d have to be downsampled for the screen. Pretty impressive, and definitely the kind of thing Apple would hype the hell of.
Pixels aren’t everything — or even most — of what determines a camera’s quality, of course, but OmniVision has historically done very solid sensors, and seemingly only lost the iPhone 4S contract at the 11th hour to Sony because they couldn’t ramp up production fast enough for an iPhone 4S launch. These new 16MP sensors will go into production towards the end of the year… right in time for the iPhone 5 launch.
Let’s hope OmniVision manages a better roll-out this year. If not, though, hey… there’s always the iPad 4!