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iPhone 5’s purple lens haze problem more common than we think (Update)

iphone 5 apple purple lens flare

Apple is pointing the finger of blame squarely back at iPhone 5 users complaining about a purple lens flare effect the smartphone’s camera is creating. In a public support document, Apple says:

“Most small cameras, including those in every generation of iPhone, may exhibit some form of flare at the end of the frame when capturing an image with out-of-scene light sources. This can happen when a light source is positioned at an angle (usually just outside the field of view) so that it causes a reflection off the surfaces inside the camera module and onto the camera sensor. Moving the camera slightly to change the position at which the bright light is entering the lens, or shielding the lens with your hand, should minimize of eliminate the effect.”

As we explained at launch, the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 have nearly identical cameras. The iPhone 5, however, does use a camera that’s 25 percent smaller, has a better low light mode, and a sapphire crystal lens. The smaller, thinner phone, obviously, translates to this need for a smaller camera, which is generally bad news. Still, reports thus far have been that the iPhone 5’s shooting quality stands up to that of the iPhone 4S. In fact, most reports say that most perceptible improvements between the two can be traced to the iPhone 5’s upgraded display, which is making its photos look that much better. In reality, however, the changes are barely noticeable.

With the exception, of course, being the purple lens flare. Here’s a quick lock at the same shot taken with the iPhone 5 (at left) and the iPhone 4S (at right).

iphone 5 purple flareAs you can see, the purple lens flare only shows up with the iPhone 5. While Apple says the issue can be blamed on the positioning, there’s speculation it might have something to do with the sapphire crystal lens – it certainly sounds like something that would create a hazy purple effect. Others suggest it’s the elimination of the infrared cut filter that’s causing what should look black or gray to turn out purple.

There’s been ample conversation about other phones responsible for the purple flare as well, though the iPhone 5 has managed to really rouse the masses – as it should: It’s the hottest phone on the market, and the latest iteration of what’s arguably been the best smartphone camera yet. Apple’s “you’re doing it wrong” response isn’t going to placate upset buyers who were hoping for the next greatest pocket cam-meets-smartphone combo.

Update by Jeffrey VC 10/10/2012: Consumer Reports has done some camera testing and concluded that Apple may be right, sort of. Its testing concluded that many digital cameras and other phones like the Droid Razr Maxx by Motorola and the Samsung Galaxy S3 display a similar purple lens flare (or haze). Though we produced no haze effect on the iPhone 4S (see the above pictures), CR found that the 4S also displays this problem most of the time.

Article originally published on 10/8/2012