Apple Support: Purple Flaring Is “Normal Behavior” For iPhone 5 Camera

Earlier, we reported that Apple’s iPhone 5 seemed to have some issues with purple flaring when taking photos with a light source just in or off frame, as reported by a number of users and duplicated in tests. Today, Gizmodo reader Matt Van Gastel received a response from Apple’s engineering team routed through a support representative which essentially says that behavior isn’t cause for concern. According to the email from Apple:

[W]e recommend that you angle the camera away from the bright light source when taking pictures. The purple flare in the image provided is considered normal behavior for iPhone 5’s camera.

Of course, long-time Apple watchers will recognize this approach to dealing with what seem to be hardware problems with iPhones, since it’s very similar to what the company initially said about the iPhone 4’s reception issues, which was basically ‘you’re holding it wrong.‘ But in this case, there’s reason to believe Apple might actually be correct. TechCrunch reader and photographer Adam Panzica explains in a note posted to our original story:

As many others have stated, this kind of thing happens very frequently in cameras of all types. I actually remember there being a firmware update to my Canon 7D to address this issues with certain less and lighting combinations. It’s a result of certain light frequencies being reflected/refracted in the lens from the off-angle light source. It might look like lens flare on a larger glass, but on something this thin it’s probably always going to look like a purple haze. You simply cannot beat the laws of physics. High end DSLRs have whole image processors a hell of a lot more advanced than the one in a cellphone dedicated to removing this kind of thing. But it still shows up from time to time, especially with new glass.

The bad news, as Adam points out, is that it’s largely unavoidable, at least in terms of getting rid of it completely. The good news is that as mentioned, it’s the type of effect that’s been addressed or improved elsewhere via firmware update, so Apple could potentially develop a way to compensate for it occurring in iPhone 5 in later versions of iOS, and it might even go away with time.

In the meantime, this is more of a nuisance bug than a game-ender; I’ve yet to have it happen to my photos in the general course of taking pictures, other than when I was trying to make it happen. The response from Apple’s customer support team may not be particularly comforting to those who are seeing this problem with any frequency, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the last word from Apple on the matter of the purple haze.