iPhone 12 leak reveals big camera upgrade — but it's still behind Galaxy S20 Ultra

iPhone 12
The iPhone 11 Pro Max. (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The iPhone 12 will see some fascinating upgrades to its cameras, according to a new investor note written by a respected Apple analyst. However, it's going to be another couple of years before Apple gets anywhere close to matching one of the Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra's best features.

Ming-Chi Kuo's latest prediction, seen by AppleInsider, mentions that there will be improvements to the iPhone 12's camera module, with at least one lens containing a 7-part (7P) plastic element. This will likely be constructed by the component manufacturer Genius, which would be a departure for Apple. The company currently relies on Largan Precision for its lenses, including those in the iPhone 11 series.

Kuo says that the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 and one of the 6.1-inch models, both using OLED screens, will have dual rear camera arrays. He also notes that the second 6.1-inch and the 6.7-inch model will have triple camera arrays with an additional time-of-flight sensor, a recently rumored feature that would be a first for an Apple phone.

The 5.4-inch and both 6.1-inch models will have a 1/2.6-inch 7P lens wide camera, presumably referring to the main lens, rather than the ultra-wide one. The 6.7-inch iPhone 12 will have a larger 1/1.9-inch 7P lens, and will support "sensor shift," a technology that will allow the camera sensor inside the phone to move slightly, allowing it to capture additional detail and create higher resolution images.

We've heard in a previous rumor that the iPhone 12 will use a 64MP main camera sensor, a big step up from the 12MP camera currently used in the iPhone 11 series. This could well be the same camera that Kuo is talking about here, since a sensor change would be the perfect opportunity to overhaul the lens elements too.

In addition, Kuo says that the iPhone 13 will use a 7P lens on its telephoto camera, with additional models supporting sensor shift. The iPhone 14 will then be Apple's first phone with a Genius-built periscope zoom camera, which sounds a lot like the one Samsung uses in the Galaxy S20 Ultra. Except Apple will be two years late to the party.

Why is a 7P lens good? The iPhone 11 Pro currently uses 6-part (6P) plastic element lenses, but the addition of a seventh element could help in a number of ways. As well as potentially helping with magnification for zoom lenses, it can also help remove various distortions in images, such as the color or the shape of objects.

We're expecting four iPhone 12 models to debut at some point in September this year. However, we can't forget about the potential effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Apple seems to be on track for now, but whether this will continue is still uncertain.

Richard Priday
Senior Writer

Richard is a Tom's Guide senior writer based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.