Apple patent details optical image stabilization for iPhone cameras

When it comes to smartphone cameras, Apple(s aapl) might not use as many megapixels as the rest of the competition, but the iPhone is generally believed to have one of the best mobile cameras out there. Just yesterday a report came out saying that Apple might retain the same 8-megapixel camera sensor it uses now for the iPhone 6, focusing instead on features like optical image stabilization. And it looks like that very well may be the case, judging by a patent published on Thursday that was spotted by Unwired View.

According to the patent – which is for a VCM OIS actuator module – Apple has been working on optical image stabilization since at least as early as the patent was filed in late 2012. The language in the patent describes:

A lens actuator module including an autofocus (AF) mechanism capable of moving a lens according to at least three degrees of freedom and an optical image stabilization (OIS) mechanism capable of moving the lens according to at least two degrees of freedom. The AF mechanism may have a coil and a magnet assembly for driving movement of the lens according to the at least three degrees of freedom. The optical image stabilization (OIS) mechanism may include a coil and a magnet assembly for driving movement of the lens according to the at least two degrees of freedom.

Apple introduced software-based image stabilization in the iPhone 5s, which uses digital processing to fire off a series of shots and stitch them together for a superior image. Optical image stabilization, on the other hand, protects your shots against a shaky hand or other movement by allowing the camera lens itself to move (by at least two degrees in this case). In my experience, I’ve generally found optical image stabilization to be vastly superior to software-driven stabilization.

Apple’s patent shows how it plans to integrate this feature into the voice coil motor (VCM) actuator. With this module, Apple believes it can “substantially correct for handshake motions in the center of the image.”

Even before the report and the patent appeared, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see an 8-megapixel camera with OIS in the next iPhone. If there’s anything that reviewing reviewing phones like the 20-megapixel Nokia Lumia 1520 have taught me, it’s that more megapixels don’t necessarily equal a better image.