Possibilities of a Triple-Lens iPhone Camera: Improved 3D Sensing, Zoom, and Low-Light Photos

Following in the footsteps of Huawei and likely Samsung, Apple is widely rumored to release at least one new iPhone model with a triple-lens rear camera in 2019. That model is now believed to be the next generation of the iPhone XS Max.

A render of the alleged triple-lens design has even surfaced this week, complete with what would surely be a polarizing design:

2019 iphone triple camera rendering


If the rumor proves to be accurate and depending on the implementation, there are several potential advantages of the third lens, including advanced 3D sensing, increased optical zoom, improved low-light performance, and improved photo quality in general thanks to the collection of more light and color data.

Advanced 3D Sensing

Apple has repeatedly expressed a profound interest in augmented reality. The release of ARKit instantly made augmented reality accessible to hundreds of millions of iPhones and iPads, but Apple is just getting started in this area.

A third lens would likely result in significantly improved 3D spatial recognition on the iPhone, with a report last year suggesting that the rear-facing sensing capabilities will be even more advanced than the front-facing TrueDepth system on the iPhone X. This would open the door to several augmented reality use cases.

iphone xs arkit
The same report claimed the triple-lens camera array will be capable of stereoscopic imaging, in which two of the sensors would be able to capture images of a single object from different angles. A triangulation method would then be used to obtain the distance between the iPhone and the object.

Back in 2017, Bloomberg News reported that Apple aimed to include rear-facing 3D sensing capabilities in its 2019 iPhones. But, at the time, the report said Apple was evaluating a time-of-flight approach that calculates the time it takes for a laser to bounce off surrounding objects to create a 3D image of the environment.

Whichever implementation Apple uses, the third lens would no doubt improve the iPhone's augmented reality capabilities. And that, in turn, could lay the foundation for the rumored launch of augmented reality Apple Glasses in 2020.

Increased Optical Zoom

A third lens would likely enable 3x optical zoom on an iPhone for the first time, enabling users to magnify the image in the viewfinder by up to 3x without a blurry reduction in quality like digital zoom.

By comparison, the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max feature 2x optical zoom.

huawei p20 pro

Huawei P20 Pro

Huawei's P20 Pro smartphone was the first with a triple-lens rear camera system, including a 40-megapixel lens, a 20-megapixel monochrome lens, and an 8-megapixel telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom.

Improved Low-Light Performance

A third lens on the iPhone, if a traditional sensor, would draw in additional light for improved low-light performance.

Apple is certainly heavily invested in computational photography. On the latest iPhones, for example, Smart HDR results in photos with more highlight and shadow detail, while Depth Control significantly improves Portrait Mode.

pixel night sight
Google's new "Night Sight" mode on the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL sets the bar for low-light photos, however, by using machine learning to choose the right colors based on the content of the image. The result is much brighter photos in low-light conditions, without having to use the camera flash.

With a third lens, and improved machine learning, perhaps Apple can come out with a feature to rival Night Sight in 2019.

Related Roundup: iPhone 11

Top Rated Comments

Razeus Avatar
28 months ago
And yet Google does all of this with one lens and AI.
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Unity451 Avatar
28 months ago
Honestly... I think they're selling themselves short...
Also... anyone suffer from trypophobia?



Attachment Image
Score: 24 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dannyyankou Avatar
28 months ago
Can’t wait for the 20 lens iPhone XX with 20x optical zoom.

Seriously, Apple is running out of ideas.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
69Mustang Avatar
28 months ago
Not gonna lie. I thought that Google "Night Sight" was some BS "images may be simulated" marketing. I even told my buddy he fell for Google's okey doke. Then I got to see it. Ate my words. Apple definitely needs something like that. If it takes 3 lenses, so be it. The feature is that good.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
HJM.NL Avatar
28 months ago
Huawei won the implementation and design crown here. It’s also a lot cheaper as Apple’s offerings. And Apple still thinks it’s because china’s economy is slowing down?

For me it’s proof how far Apple’s staff has come from reality and customers.
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
19callum93 Avatar
28 months ago
All I want is a flat flush camera :(
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

microsoft edge ios android

Bill Gates Says His Preference for Android Over iPhone is Due to Pre-Installed Software

Friday February 26, 2021 3:35 am PST by
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates this week participated in his first meeting on Clubhouse, the increasingly popular invite-only conversation app, where he fielded a range of questions as part of an ongoing book tour. Gates was interviewed by journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin, and given that the Clubhouse app is currently only available on iOS, naturally one of the questions that came up was...
First Look Big Sur Feature2

Apple Releases macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 to Prevent MacBooks From Being Damaged by Third-Party Non-Compliant Docks

Thursday February 25, 2021 10:07 am PST by
Apple today released macOS Big Sur 11.2.2, the fourth update to the macOS Big Sur operating system that launched in November. macOS Big Sur 11.2.2 comes two weeks after the release of macOS Big Sur 11.2.1, a bug fix update. The new ‌‌‌‌macOS Big Sur‌‌‌ 11.2.2‌ update can be downloaded for free on all eligible Macs using the Software Update section of System Preferences....
flat mbp 14 inch feature yellow

Redesigned 14-Inch MacBook Pro Expected to Feature Brighter Mini-LED Display With Slimmer Bezels and More

Thursday February 25, 2021 7:48 am PST by
Apple plans to unveil new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED-backlit displays in the second half of this year, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese supply chain publication DigiTimes. The report claims that Radiant Opto-Electronics will be the exclusive supplier of the Mini-LED backlight units, while Quanta Computer is said to be tasked with final assembly of the...
jon prosser imac 2021colors

Prosser: 2021 iMac to Come in Five Colors, Apple Silicon Mac Pro to Resemble 'Stacked' Mac Minis

Wednesday February 24, 2021 7:26 am PST by
Hit-and-miss leaker Jon Prosser has today alleged that the upcoming 2021 iMac models will offer five color options, mirroring the colors of the fourth-generation iPad Air, and revealed a number of additional details about the Mac Pro with Apple Silicon. In a new video on YouTube channel FrontPageTech, Prosser explained that the redesigned iMacs will come featuring options for Silver, Space ...
steam apple logo

Valve Ordered to Give Apple Information on 436 Steam Games As Part of Epic Games Legal Case

Thursday February 25, 2021 1:50 am PST by
Valve, the makers behind popular game distribution platform Steam, will be forced to hand over aggregate historical sales, price, and other information on 436 games hosted on the store to Apple, as part of the Apple vs. Epic Games antitrust case. As reported in a paywalled report by Law360, during a virtual discovery hearing on Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson ordered that...
apple store macarthur center

Apple Store at MacArthur Center in Virginia Permanently Closing Following Years of Safety Issues at Shopping Mall

Thursday February 25, 2021 4:45 pm PST by
Apple today indicated that its retail store at the MacArthur Center shopping mall in Norfolk, Virginia will be permanently closing after over 14 years of business, although an exact closure date has yet to be announced by the company. Apple has assured that it will be offering all employees at the store other positions within Apple, and said that it looks forward to continuing to serve...
m1 mac mini

M1 Mac Users Report Excessive SSD Wear

Tuesday February 23, 2021 7:07 am PST by
Over the past week, some M1 Mac users have been reporting alarming SSD health readings, suggesting that these devices are writing extraordinary amounts of data to their drives (via iMore). Across Twitter and the MacRumors forums, users are reporting that M1 Macs are experiencing extremely high drive writes over a short space of time. In what appear to be the most severe cases, M1 Macs are sai...
apple refurbished m1 mac mini

Apple Begins Selling Refurbished M1 Mac Mini

Thursday February 25, 2021 6:42 pm PST by
Apple today began selling certified refurbished Mac mini models with the M1 chip for the first time in the United States and Canada, with prices discounted by approximately 15 percent compared to brand new models as usual. For example, a refurbished Mac mini with the M1 chip, 256GB of SSD storage, and 16GB of unified memory is available for $759, compared to $899 brand new. Other custom...
qualcomm snapdragon x60 5g

iPhone 13 Lineup Expected to Use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 Modem With Several 5G Improvements

Wednesday February 24, 2021 8:10 am PST by
Apple's next-generation iPhone 13 lineup will use Qualcomm's Snapdragon X60 5G modem, with Samsung to handle manufacturing of the chip, according to DigiTimes. Built on a 5nm process, the X60 packs higher power efficiency into a smaller footprint compared to the 7nm-based Snapdragon X55 modem used in iPhone 12 models, which could contribute to longer battery life. With the X60 modem, iPhone...
2021 mbp sd slot feature2

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models With HDMI Port and SD Card Reader to Launch Later This Year

Monday February 22, 2021 8:52 pm PST by
Apple plans to release two new MacBook Pro models equipped with an HDMI port and SD card reader in the second half of 2021, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who outlined his expectations in a research note obtained by MacRumors. The return of an SD card reader was first reported by Bloomberg's Mark Gurman last month. "We predict that Apple's two new MacBook Pro models in 2H21 will have...