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Did You Know? The iPhone Has an Issue with Taking Photos of Propellers

September 14, 2012 at 11:32 AM | by | Comment (1)

Fun fact: fun facts are awesome. Whether you're trying to chat up a flight attendant or simply love learning something cool, we've got some tidbits to share. So all this week, we'll be squeezing our mindgrapes to bring you some awesome, random travel factoids.

Fact: That weird effect of floating propellor pieces, caused when a mobile phone camera takes a photo of a turboprop, has a name (and an explanation): Propeller Aliasing.

Cameras in iPhones and other mobile devices don't have a shutter; instead, they snap a photo by scanning. It's quick, but propellers in rotation are faster. When your camera scans, line-by-line, to capture the shot, the propellers have moved.

Search Flickr or Google Images for "iPhone propeller." The results are boggling, though no one seems to know quite what to call the funky effect. Even someone at MIT had to think really hard to wrap his head around it, thoughts which you can read here.

Frequent flyers of Porter Airlines will know of this phenomenon right away, because if you're trying to capture an iPhone pic of your plane as it jets out of Toronto's City Airport, those propellers are going to look funky—as in, all in floating pieces or all warped. It's not cause for alarm, since it's just a freak thing with the camera.

Still confused? Here's a video to help:


Propeller aliasing with the sunset

[Images:Mike Turner & EEPaul]

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