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iPhone 5 set for 8-megapixel camera as Sony boss spills image sensor beans

Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer seemingly let the cat out of the bag on the iPhone 5's camera, after confirming on stage at a conference that his company is supplying image sensors to Apple.

Sony is making image sensors for the iPhone 5, judging by comments made on stage at a US conference by CEO Sir Howard Stringer. His claim that Sony is making cameras for Apple chimed with reports earlier this year that the company has won the contract to make 8-megapixel image sensors for upcoming iOS devices.

9 to 5 Mac and the Wall Street Journal reported Stringer's comments separately, albeit with a certain amount of paraphrasing. The WSJ has him saying, "It always puzzles me: why would I make Apple the best camera?" While 9 to 5 Mac paraphrases another comment as, "Isn't that something? They buy our best sensors from us."

Why has this sent the blogosphere into a flap? Well, Sony doesn't make the camera sensors for the current iPhone 4 -- they're made by a company called OmniVision.

A switch from OmniVision to Sony has actually been rumoured since April 2010, when analyst Ashok Kumar predicted that the 2011 iPhone model would include an 8-megapixel Sony camera (while at the same time correctly predicting a 5-megapixel OmniVision sensor for the iPhone 4).

Assuming Stringer's comments referred to a deal -- and just as importantly, assuming that deal isn't now scuppered by Apple as a result -- what can we expect from the iPhone 5?

Sony's 8-megapixel sensor is already being used for a couple of Sony Ericsson phones, the Xperia Arc and Xperia Neo. Both include back lighting to help your shots in low-light conditions, much like the iPhone 4.

If Sony is supplying an 8-megapixel sensor for the iPhone 5, that may scotch our hopes that the device will include dual-camera 3D capabilities, which were hinted at in a patent filing from Apple that came to light last week. Ah well, there's always the iPhone 6 for that...