Apple Files HDR Imaging Patent Application

Apple had filed the application on June 9, 2011 and before the release of the first HDR capable iPhone.

The patent application describes an image sensor and the HDR feature to take "two or more reads" of the sensor following an initial picture. "Data read out during these scans may be deinterleaved by an image signal processor and combined into a high dynamic range image," the document reads.

The process to generate a HDR picture Apple lays out is not different from the usual idea to combine characteristics of multiple picture into a single picture to achieve "greater dynamic range of luminances between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques". However, the company states that independently taken pictures may be slightly different due to hand movement/ Added HDR capability to an image sensor would be  able to eliminate downsides that would cause the combination of pictures to be misaligned.

In detail, the application states: "To generate a HDR image during a single exposure of the frame (i.e., fixed amount of time t during which the rolling shutter reset moves across a frame), multiple reads of the same row of pixels of the image sensor may occur. For example, a first data read, of the data stored in a row of pixels, may be undertaken at a time n, where n is a fixed fractional time of time t. This time n may be, for example, 1/2, 1/3, 1/4, 1/5, 1/10, 1/20, or another value of the frame time t. This time n may be represented as line. That is, the first data read may occur at a time n subsequent to the reset of a row of pixels by the rolling shutter reset."

It is just a patent application at this time and we are not aware of any patents that may be collide with Apple's request. However, since HDR photography has been in the mainstream since the middle of the last decade, it would be highly unusual, if there was no prior art.

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  • vittau
    So, instead of reading all the lines and then reading again, they're gonna read every line twice? Genius! Definitely warrants a patent.
  • senupe
    I guess so, they are reading two pictures or more depending on the shutter speed.
    Just hope this is not affecting actual HDR usage and the way to improve it further.
  • assasin32
    senupeI guess so, they are reading two pictures or more depending on the shutter speed.Just hope this is not affecting actual HDR usage and the way to improve it further.
    Reading from 2 or more pictures, and changes image based on it. Only difference I see if how many times they read the data or how they read it. I bet there is a lot of prior art from other companies on this. Heck I just used HDR Camera+ on my android phone to take some photos which works off of 3 photos and than makes a 4th HDR picture.
  • ericburnby
    I don't know why there would be prior art. You can have numerous methods to achieve the same result, so just because cameras have had HDR doesn't mean there's prior art. Nobody can patent HDR itself, but you could patent your "specific method" of implementing it.

    This is just like when it was discovered Apple filed for a facial recognition patent. Everyone was whining "how can Apple patent facial recognition". Apple wasn't trying to patent facial recognition (which would be impossible), they patented a specific method for doing it. If you search the USPTO you'll find numerous facial recognition patents. Some for still images, some for video, some need bright light, some work in low light, some are highly secure, some require a single frontal picture, some require multiple pictures from the front & sides and on and on. Apple's version was a low security system that required minimal processing power suitable for portable devices and their patent specifically stated that.

    Yet people still whine on thinking Apple was trying to patent something that already existed (facial recognition).
  • A Bad Day
    Eric, you have any idea how much patents can be stretched? I bet every single invention violates at least one patent according to the patent trolls' view.
  • ethanolson
    I wonder how long it'll be before we finally get digicam sensors with signal to noise ratios better than 60db. If we got up to about 105db then the need for HDR would be cut in half because we could have faster exposures and still retain so much shadow detail without garbage noise that we could redraw the tone curves to accommodate 14 stops of exposure. It'd be awesome.

    Anyway, Apple's approach is novel.
  • cRACKmONKEY421
    Patents seem lame unless it's for a real invention. This idea doesn't seem new or revolutionary at all. At best, it's just a fairly obvious step in an established technology. But patents bring in money, and that is what drives corporations. If corporations are people (corporate personhood), they're real assholes.
  • My wifes HTC One S comes with HDR app built in! So sorry HTC but three years from now you will be Sued by Apple, Inventor of HDR Photography!
  • Cryio
    This would be one of the most retarded patents ever.

  • The_Trutherizer
    CryioThis would be one of the most retarded patents ever.
    Its as retarded as the rest. They take old ideas and patent it for smartphones and in so doing inhibits other smartphone manufacturers from implementing technologies to which Apple really had no original input. A smartphone is just a computer so I don't know how they get away with such farcical behaviour. If the Americans are happy with it fine, but anybody who is interested can go read the history of HDR imaging on wikipedia. I don't think the world should be held technologically hostage just because some US patent office can't be bothered to use wikipedia.