Nobody at Apple is going to call me and ask for my advice regarding the next iPhone camera. And I know that some of the things I want won’t match up with the mass market. And I also know that some of the things I want may make the phone a little bit larger.
But even though I am not mainstream or important enough to warrant Apple’s attention, that isn’t going to stop me from offering some advice.
I am truly amazed at the state of the iPhone 13 Pro (and Pro Max) with regard to the camera and the three lenses. I am even more amazed at the computational photography that goes into making the most of the camera.
But there is always room for improvement. I’ve created this list based on what I THINK may be possible. I am not asking for things that clearly require a DSLR, interchangeable lens camera, etc. I am asking for things that I believe COULD be done to improve the camera, at least for me.
I’ll add that I reached out to my audience on Twitter to ask others want they want to make sure I didn’t miss anything that sounded good to me and I got some good answers. So thanks for that. I also got some answers that showed many people don’t realize that the iPhone can already do some of the things they say they want future models to do. That’s why Jefferson Graham and I do the iPhonePhotoShow.com podcast so we can help people use the existing tools to the fullest. But I digress. Here’s my wish list, in no particular order.
1. Stop the megapixel madness!
I know I’m in the minority here. And I strongly suspect I will end up being disappointed because I know how marketing works. The average Joe/Jane Doe thinks more megapixels mean a better camera. It’s simply not true. I would MUCH prefer the same number of megapixels on a BIGGER SENSOR. Sony has figured this out. Apple is a larger company with more resources and (in my opinion) more talent. Why can’t they figure this out? So see number two.
2. Give us a bigger sensor
ESPECIALLY if you’re gonna increase the number of megapixels. Bigger sensors result in cleaner images. It’s just physics.
Imagine each pixel is a bucket collecting water. Bigger buckets collect more water and provide a more accurate measurement of average water capacity. A sensor with bigger pixels will collect more light, and more light will generally improve image quality.
The more megapixels you cram onto a sensor, the SMALLER they get. That means SMALLER buckets. I want bigger buckets.
This alone would improve the iPhone camera to the point where it would be FAR more likely to be capable of taking the place of a “real” camera.
3. Better optical zoom (not digital zoom)
Yes, computational photography has come a long way. But those damn physics are (again) getting in the way of success. Better optics means better image quality and I do not think computers will be able to generate an approximation of this in digital form that can match what optics can do. As least not for a few more years. I’d love to see a five times OPTICAL zoom on the camera which would mean including a longer (possibly larger) lens on the phone, but I can live with that.
4. Fully open up the API to third-party developers
While the native iPhone camera app is very good, I rarely use it. I am a big fan of the stuff from Filmic, Inc. The more developers we let play in this field the more advanced the results will be and that will help Apple’s bottom line, so this is actually in their best interests and of course the best interests of their customers.
5. Standardize around USB-C / Thunderbolt and be done with it
With ProRes files, even using the existing cable to computer connection (as opposed to AirDrop) it’s still painfully slow to transfer large files. We need faster data transfer. And enough with the dongles, adapters, different connectors, etc. Let’s go with USB-C / Thunderbolt and stay there. This will make it easier for third-party manufacturers to know how to invest their R&D and marketing budgets into products that everyone knows will work with the phone. Again, this is good for Apple’s bottom line since this will drive more phone sales and will make happier customers.
6. Print cards, books, wall prints and more right from my phone, and direct from Apple
Apple now uses extensions via the desktop Photos app to allow a myriad of printing options. Most people think that is better. Lots of choices can be a good thing. I do not. Back in the day, Apple had its own printing service (I don’t know who they jobbed it out to but it was a rare mix of affordability and high quality) and I’d prefer THAT option since I trust Apple to curate the best choice and I’d also like to have that option directly from the phone’s native camera app instead of having to do it on a desktop, laptop, etc.
7. Give us a faster sensor
Instead of more megapixels, I mentioned using a larger sensor but also a FASTER sensor so we get faster readouts for even better autofocus and less rolling shutter.
8. Add a MicroSD card slot
I know it’s old-school, but wow it would be so much easier to use the iPhone as a real camera if it had a MicroSD card slot, especially if we’re not going to get USB-C / Thunderbolt connections.
9. Add even more storage
1TB will soon need to be 2TB as we add more and more capability to the phone. More and faster RAM will also help.
10. How about a two-way headphone jack?
(I know I am dreaming here) but how about a two-way headphone jack? 3.5mm — so it works with all standard mobile mics. In a perfect world, this would be two-way; in for recording or out for monitoring. I’d pay $100 extra for that. Just sayin’ ….
If even one of these things made the next iPhone, it would be great. Maybe the iPhone 15 or 16? I am getting old so I may not be around long enough for iPhone 20! If anyone at Apple is listening, hurry it up please. I’d love to see these some of these things before I go to that big darkroom in the sky.