The new iPad Pro has a mysterious sensor in its rear camera — here’s what it does

A photo of the Apple iPad Pro M4's rear camera.
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

As someone who rarely uses the rear camera on his iPad Pro 2021 (12.9-inch), I don’t think about the snapper on my Apple slab all that much. Well, apart from when I’m using it so I can cut my hair without razoring my skull off. But that being said, I’m definitely more interested in the rear camera on Crew Cupertino’s latest Pro tablets, though. Here’s why.

THe 12MP front landscape camera and 12MP cam on the rear on the new iPad Pro M4 are already impressive, yet the addition of a tiny little sensor most folks probably won’t notice makes the one on the back even more intriguing. 

Like the iPad Pro 2022, the cameras on both the 11- and 13-inch M4 models sport wide and ultra wide lenses, a mic, LED flash and a LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) scanner. But as spotted by 9to5Mac in the new iPad Pro’s user manual, there’s now an additional sensor to help out with specific snapping tasks. 

According to said guide, this mysterious little hole is an “Ambient Light Sensor”. Now, while previous iPad generations have benefited from this sort of sensor on the front of the tablet to help with automatic brightness and True Tone features (hoo-boy am I not a fan of the latter), this is the first time one has appeared on the rear. 

9to5Mac references a previous Apple keynote that made mention of a new generation of “adaptive True Tone flash” that detects and measures ambient light, before using a combination of hardware and AI to remove shadows. The end result? Improved document scanning. 

Whether this rear Ambient Light Sensor has any other tricks up its sleeve remains to be seen"

Whether this rear Ambient Light Sensor has any other tricks up its sleeve remains to be seen, but what we do know is that the iPad Pro 2024 is one of the best tablets ever made. In his review, my computing colleague Tony Polanco said the new high-end iPad “has it all”, before going on to praise its “fantastic OLED display, powerful M4 performance, a thin yet solid design and unbelievably long battery life."

I resisted all of a week before taking the plunge on one, and at time of writing I'm currently awaiting delivery on the OLED iPad I’ve been dreaming about for years. Now if you’ll excuse me, I better look out some documents I may or may not need scanned.

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Dave Meikleham
UK Computing Editor

Dave is a computing editor at Tom’s Guide and covers everything from cutting edge laptops to ultrawide monitors. When he’s not worrying about dead pixels, Dave enjoys regularly rebuilding his PC for absolutely no reason at all. In a previous life, he worked as a video game journalist for 15 years, with bylines across GamesRadar+, PC Gamer and TechRadar. Despite owning a graphics card that costs roughly the same as your average used car, he still enjoys gaming on the go and is regularly glued to his Switch. Away from tech, most of Dave’s time is taken up by walking his husky, buying new TVs at an embarrassing rate and obsessing over his beloved Arsenal.