iPod nano: AF Lens Too Thick

Apple_2009_iPod_Nano_No_AF_Camera

Wired: David Pogue spent some time with Steve Jobs (Steve is eating a lot of ice cream… lucky him!) after Apple’s iPod Show that was held in San Francisco on September 9, 2009. David asked Steve Jobs why the new iPod nano can record video but can’t take still photos. Steve said the reason was technical: sensors that can record video are very thin and can easily fit inside a device like the nano. On the other hand, image sensors with enough resolution for stills and autofocus like the one found in the iPhone 3GS are thick–too thick to cram into the Nano that is only 0.2 inches thick. iFixit confirms…

Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO (check out the tear down of the new iPod nano), confirmed the explanation:

The camera in the iPhone is thicker than the entire nano. The AF lenses really bulks it up.

So although you can take 640 x 480 (VGA) videos at 30fps on the nano, you will not be able to take still pictures. My guess is that the next major development in lens technology will be to make an AF still-image sensor much thinner without any quality degradation. When that happens you can also expect even thinner devices that may sport two of them: one facing forward and the other facing backward for video phone calls and taking pictures or videos. I think within the next 6-9 months the AF still-image sensor will become thinner. And the next generation iPod nano and the iPod touch will have capabilities to take pictures and video.

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