For more than a decade, Steve Jobs likely had something in mind for the iPhone camera that finally came to fruition this week. iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro have the ability to capture depth data from photos with people or pets, allowing you to adjust focus after the shot. This is a concept that was reportedly on Jobs’ radar before his death in 2011.
Apple introduced portrait mode photography on the iPhone 7 Plus. This feature uses a dual camera system to capture subjects with artificial blur applied to the background.
Comparisons were made to the Lytro Light Field Camera at the time. The Lytro was a lipstick-shaped pocket camera capable of taking in-focus photos that could then be edited. Apple added this ability to put photos in portrait mode on the iPhone 15 and other phones this week.
iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Pro go one step further. If the camera system detects a person, cat, or dog in the shot, it will automatically capture depth data without using portrait mode. This allows you to adjust the depth effect or release focus on the subject after the fact without using a separate camera mode.
All of these sound like features that Steve Jobs might have envisioned for the iPhone’s camera system. Jobs met with Lytro founder Ren Ng and received a demo of the Lytro camera before its launch. This is according to Adam Lashinsky Inside Apple Book from 2012.
The company’s CEO, Ren Ng, a brilliant computer scientist with a Ph.D. from Stanford University, immediately called Jobs, who picked up the phone and quickly said: “If you’re free this afternoon, maybe we can get together.” Ng, 32, raced to Palo Alto, showed Jobs a demo of Lytro’s technology, discussed cameras and product design, and, at Jobs’ request, agreed to send him an email outlining three things he’d like Lytro to do. Do with Apple.
Lytro went on to release its light-field camera, but the iPhone was already dominating mobile photography by then. As for Apple, it has obtained a patent for a camera system with the ability to change the focus point in the image. A decade later, this is how the iPhone’s camera system works.
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