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30 August, 2015

Will Apple finally fix iPhone's fatal flaw with the 6s?

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are rumored to include a serious upgrade to the photo and video camera, but is Apple prepared to finally fix the fatal flaw in the iPhone?

Note: This post will be updated after Apple reveals more details.

What is the fatal flaw in Apple's current iPhone models?
Please don't get me wrong, I have loved filming dozens of scenes with the 6 Plus over the last year. It is fantastic to take on location and edit from the road.

Filming at 60 and 240 FPS have greatly improved handheld filming results and the photo modes often capture great images. 

People talking about the new models suggest that they might include a 12 megapixel sensor, 4k video resolution and quite possibly a 5-element lens to improve low-light sensitivity. 

None of these upgrade will solve the fact that video recorded outside of North America often looks awful if the scene being recorded includes any light fixtures.

Light flicker reveals the fatal flaw in the iPhone — It can only natively capture video at 30 frames per second.  

Professional video cameras sold in the Americas record video at 30 frames per second and cameras sold in Europe and just about everywhere else record video at  25 frames per second.

The frame rate is tied directly to the frequency of the electricity being served up. In America, household electricity is expressed as: 120/60. What this means is the 120 volts at 60 cycles per second.

30 frames per second is the standard in Western Japan as well as north and central Americas because electricity there is served to the consumer at 60 cycles per second. 
30 frames per second is exactly half of 60 and the result in no light flicker.

In the rest of the world (with some small exceptions) electricity is served to consumers at 50 cycles per second.
220/50 means 220 volts at 50 cycles per second.
50 divided by two is 25. Filming at 25 frames per second here results in no light flicker.

To solve this problem, Apple must lest users switch between filming video at either 30 FPS or 25FPS natively. 

This upgrade would have to be done at the chip level.

Only at the chip level could apple be able to support recording video properly in advanced shooting modes like Slo-mo.
Slo-motion records either four or eight times as many frames as the default frame rate.

Currently the iPhone only support 30 fps in native mode, so the options are to record in 120fps or 240 fps. 

If you are filming in slo-mo video in Europe with an iPhone 6 Plus, THIS is what the playback looks like. 

In slo mo recording mode, the light flicker is now appearing eight times slower. This reveals that recording video with the proper frame rate remains a serious problem with the iPhone. 

There are apps like Filmic Pro that allow the user change to change up frame rates, but that is not at all the same level of functionality as providing that option for all apps - native and third party.

The Filmic Pro app allows for 25 fps filming, which can eliminate video flicker.

25p means 25 frames per second, progressive. This is the Filmic Pro setting used to record the non-flickering video sample shown in the video.

Native recording at 25 frames per second is something only the device manufacturer can. Filmic's solution is a patch. A patch that will have to now support a new model of iPhone. 

Until Apple solves this core quality issue the other features they plan to announce (like animated wallpaper) are much less important.

I will be taking particular note of the details and capabilities of the new imaging chips and sensor upgrades that might appear in the new iPhone models.

Focusing on this issue would certainly be a game-changer for Apple.

FYI: All smartphone models (Samsung, Nokia, etc) that I have tested currently suffer from the same issue. They all record natively at only 30 frames per second.

If Apple were to stand out from the competition, it could make users videos look a whole lot better - especially the hundreds of millions of people who are iPhone filming in places where the electricity vibrates at 50 cycles per second.