iPhone 5 Has Purple Flare, Possibly the Same Issue That Plagued the Leica M8

If you were thinking about buying the iPhone 5 as your primary carry-around camera, you might want to hold off on that. Reports are emerging that the camera suffers from purple flares when bright light sources are in or around the frame. Cult of Mac reports that iPhone 5 owners are taking to online forums to express their displeasure with this issue.

In a comment over on Cult of Mac, reader Michael Harris writes,

It’s not the lens, Apple eliminated the IR cut filter and in some cases that causes some shades of black to be purple. They did it for cost or thinness. Leica did it with their first digital rangefinder camera and it had the same effect. It can’t be fixed with software, Leica had to actually send IR filters to people who purchased the camera. Unfortunately you can’t put a screw-on filter to a cell phone.

What he’s referring to is the Leica M8. When it was launched back in 2006, there was a huge hoopla over the fact that blacks were appearing as purples. Photographers found the issue unacceptable, especially on a camera that costs thousands and thousands of dollars. Leica eventually began sending out two free ultraviolet and infrared screw-on filters to M8 owners in order to remedy the problem.

Another theory floating around is that the flare is caused by the new Sapphire lens used in the camera. Apparently the special new uber-durable lenses come in a variety of colors, and the purple one might be causing this issue.

Here’s a video showing the purple flaring occurring:

From what we can tell, it seems more like a lens issue than an IR filter issue, since the Leica M8 problem was quite different (it wasn’t just happening under strong light sources and the resulting photos had blacks that were completely shifted toward purple).

If the iPhone 5 does in fact have a problem that cannot be corrected with a simple firmware fix, then Apple may have a PR nightmare on its hands — especially given how much they tout the camera quality of the iPhone. Is this purple flaring the new Antennagate for the iPhone 5?

Update: Matthew Panzarino over at The Next Web argues that this purple haze isn’t a problem unique to the iPhone 5. (Thanks Jonas)

Image credits: Photographs by @weaksauce12

  • Mike Spivey

    It’s an artistic feature.

  • Michael Zhang

    Some commenters are saying it’s a free built-in Instagram filter. Trying to confirm that ;-)

  • Samcornwell

    I’m trying to think in terms of how future photographers will recall the ‘Purple iPhone 5 flare’. Will it make this phone camera a collectable for photographers one day because of the unique defect in its lens? (I assume it’s the lens and not software.)

  • Leif

    I’m the only one who had to think about the song “Purple rain”? Maybe the camera app will play it soon in the background :)
    But seriously, this doesn’t look so well. It’s always a problem to shoot against the light but this looks a bit strange.

  • branden rio

    This link needs more exposure

  • Kjetil Høiby

    My Leica M8 mostly shows purple casts when photographing black synthetic materials. Anyone shoot a typical camera bag with a iPhone 5 yet?

  • Buddy Mesker

    I think it’s a tribute to Jimi Hendrix.

  • Leif

    In the report at mashable with a comparison between iPhone 4S and iPhone 5 it looks way better on the 4s. So this issue still seems to be much stronger on the 5.

  • jdm8

    Some pro camcorders also suffer from IR pollution. Objects that are black sometimes show up as other colors, often brown.

  • Matt

    In other news J.J. Abrams is really happy with his new iPhone 5

  • Michael Zhang

    Haha. Was just watching Super 8 :)

  • Mykeljon

    How about not pointing your phone, or any other camera for that matter, directly at the sun. Isn’t that camera lesson number one! Every camera will flare to some extent if you aim at the sun.

  • Matt

    Great movie , and I actually like all the flares for some reason.

  • rpm07

    Anyway, this s*** is made for istagram. So purple or not, the colors will all wrong at the end!

  • Leo

    You rock..!!!!

  • Basil Gravanis

    The commenter from Cult of Mac, Mr. Harris, is confused. Apple didn’t remove the IR-cut filter over the sensor, that’s incorrect (see their mention of a “Hybrid IR” filter). So this isn’t even remotely related to the same issues as the Leica M8 sensor. It’s simply an issue of flare and purple fringing around that flare, something which both the iPhone 4 and 4S also exhibited, although I fear it’s perhaps _worse_ on the iPhone 5’s updated (thinner) camera due to the rather questionable addition of a sapphire ‘cover’ lens over the camera. Do you see any major lens manufacturer doing this to their camera lenses? No. Sapphire is great for scratch-proof surfaces (ala the Leica M9P’s LCD screen, for example) but it’s not exactly renowned as an optical glass. Apple’s willingness to use it is a bit foolhardy, in my opinion. Tempting flare (as if you’d added a cheap, low-grade UV/Sky/Haze filter over the lens) is not really worth the additional scratch protection.

  • slvrscoobie

    Basil Gravanis is a bit confused. Sapphire is an excellent choice because its very hard, and an Excellent optical transmitter. Synthetic sapphire is used in microscopes and other million dollar plus optical systems because its really the only thing that transmits UV light well. Yeah, definitely fool hardy…

  • Henning Nilsen

    It’s not a bad effect, it’s just become Abrams’s signature in ALL his movies.

  • Henning Nilsen

    If you read the actual article you’d know it’s because they cut the IR filter. It even specifially says it’s not the lens.

  • JP

    Lol, that was the first thing that popped into my mind as well.

  • Snappist

    This is nothing like the Leica M8, which rendered some blacks, particularly fabrics , as purple, completely fixed with the complimentary filter- as most have pointed out , all cameras suffer a bit with this flare issue, why do you think pro lenses come equipped with lens hoods? Also keeping the lens scrupulously clean should help!

  • whoopn

    It seems that an inventive person could create a stick-on IR filter that iPhone 5 users could paste over their camera lenses.

  • Ian Ludwig

    Is it possible that the sapphire crystal lens cover is causing this? I only ask cause this type of cover is used commonly on watches and does give off various types of colors if the light hits it.

  • Basil Gravanis

    I am well aware of that… I merely pointed out that one doesn’t typically see it used for the _front-element_ of a camera lens (a *crucial* air-to-glass interface for flare), at least going by some of the most expensive camera system lenses (Leica M and Zeiss’ cinema line). Additionally, for a CMOS sensor in a digital camera system we usually want to totally BLOCK UV & IR, unless you’re specifically shooting in those wavelengths (as with DSLR’s that have been customized by having the internal UV/IR/Anti-Aliasing filter removed for that purpose).

  • Antonio Carrasco

    Aim your camera at a lightsource and you get flare. This is nothing new.

  • Random

    Apple did not remove the IR filter. A simple test shows that the iPhone 5 fails to pick up an IR light which means that there is still an IR filter in there.

  • Loki

    Hi, if you read the a actual article, here’s what it says: “From what we can tell, it seems more like a lens issue than an IR filter issue, since the Leica M8 problem was quite different (it wasn’t just happening under strong light sources and the resulting photos had blacks that were completely shifted toward purple).” if anything this seems to be a lens issue, also like article says;… do you fix a missing IR filter issue….if that is the case?

  • Simone Radice

    Sorry guys, I have an iPhone 4s and in 10 months I took more or less 1000 pics with it and I NEVER EVER saw anything “purple”… I took some photos in Direct sunlight, others in front of artificial light and none of them suffers from “lens flare”…So, this is clearly an iPhone 5 fault….