Halide developers find the M1 iPad Pro's hidden microscope

What you need to know

  • The developers behind the popular camera app Halide have discovered unannounced iPad Pro capabilities.
  • The new front-facing ultrawide camera can take some hugely impressive macro shots.

Apple's new iPad Pro can take some stunning macro shots, but not using the camera you might expect.

Apple's new M1 iPad Pro has been on sale for a week or so now and that's been plenty of time for the Halide developers to get their teeth into it. The group is normally known for diving into new iPhones to see what their fancy new cameras are capable of. But this was iPad Pro's time. And it turns out there's a pretty huge superpower hiding inside that M1-powered beast.

After testing the new iPad Pro, Halide's Sebastiaan de With penned a lengthy post explaining how its rear-facing cameras are identical to the outgoing 2020 iPad Pro, just as we thought. Around the front though, things begin to get interesting – because Apple's new ultrawide camera is capable of taking some stunning macro shots. And nobody knew about it until now.

The post also points out that while we might have initially thought that Apple has two cameras handling wide and ultrawide duties, it's actually using just the one. It's all about software magic, apparently.

The M1 iPad Pro has those 12 megapixels packed into the front-facing camera system to enable a more seamless 'dual camera system': one that is entirely created in software. The camera is ultra-wide and only ultra-wide; thanks to software corrections and extra megapixels, the system can just crop that wide and detailed camera feed down to its old focal length.

The result is slightly less sharp, but exactly the kind of buttery smooth software-based solution that Apple would want for its Center Stage feature that tracks its subject across a room. Even with the sensor being utterly tiny, Apple uses its usual computational magic to get a good image out of it, and adds some correction to deal with the distortion that such an ultra-wide lens brings.

Then, after resting the iPad on his leg, de With noticed that it was capable of focusing on the material of his clothes. So he set about taking some shots of flowers, his finger, and all sorts of things.

I found out about this when I was resting the iPad in my lap. I noticed the camera was actually focusing perfectly on my pant leg, which was right up to the rear camera. I went outside to point it at some flowers:

I was pretty astonished. Lots of detail, despite iPad's smaller sensors. One of the reasons iPads might focus closer than your iPhone is that Apple doesn't have to worry about the device fitting in your pocket. Having such flexibility with the layout of the camera module might be the difference allowing for this splendid little superpower. Sadly, this also means we are guessing this is not coming to the iPhone anytime soon.

These are some hugely impressive shots, even before you remember they are taken with an iPad's front-facing camera.

Be sure to head over to the Halide blog for some more truly stunning images.

Fancy trying this for yourself? Check out our collection of the best iPad Pro deals on the table today.

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