It’s amazing how smartphones have become the breeding ground for the latest camera technology. Dual-camera setups, in particular, have raised phone photography to yet another level.
Like adding more processing cores to a phone’s chipset, the idea of having two cameras at once came from the need to push past the physical limits of a single module, and introduce a whole new world of features in the process.
Now that it’s becoming the norm, we have to sort out some facts and myths about the latest trend.
The dual-camera setup isn’t exactly new
It may only be taking off now, but dual-cam setups have been around for a long time. In fact, the LG Optimus 3D and HTC Evo 3D, which were the first smartphones to introduce the feature, came out way back in 2011.
Their implementations were different from what we’re experiencing today, however. Five years ago, 3D content was a thing, and both television and smartphone manufacturers produced compatible devices like the two aforementioned phones. Everyone eventually agreed that 3D technology was best left in the past, and the idea of having more than one camera on a handset took a backseat for several years.
Not all dual-cameras are the same
Even though brands advertise their phones as having double the number of cameras, you need to look a little closer at how the modules work in tandem.
One of the more popular executions is the Leica-infused Huawei P9. It uses a pair of color and monochrome image sensors to produce sharper photos with greater clarity when operating together. You can also choose to rely solely on the black-and-white sensor to create stunning imagery.
Another well-designed implementation is on Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. Its cameras have different focal lengths, meaning one has the usual wide-angle look while the other provides further zoom, so it’s like having a zoom lens sans the clunky mechanism.
LG’s flagship V20 and G5 smartphones have a similar style to Apple’s. The difference is in the length of the zooms, wherein there’s an ultra-wide-angle lens instead of a zoomed-in unit. This makes LG’s version better suited for landscape photography and large group pictures.
It’s not a gimmick or passing fad
Equipping two cameras addresses several limitations in smartphone photography, such as introducing optical zoom without adding bulk and improving image quality on already-tiny sensors.
In order to add camera functionality while keeping the frame as slim as possible, the only currently known solution is to add more modules side by side. If anything, we could be seeing more lenses on smartphones someday, and look back at twin setups as prehistoric tech.
More lenses doesn’t mean more expensive
It’s easy to associate such an innovation with high-end handsets, such as the $769 iPhone 7 Plus and $559 Huawei P9, but entry-level smartphones have been feeling the love, too.
Huawei’s more budget-friendly Honor sub-brand released the dual-cam-equipped Honor 6X for only $150; before that, there was the US-bound Honor 8 retailing for $400. Chinese rival Xiaomi also offers a $225 Redmi Pro, which is the company’s first phone to have a dual-camera setup — even before the mighty Mi 5s Plus.
There’s more to improving image quality
On the topic of existing technologies, it’s important to note there are several other factors that contribute to image quality. For one, the size of the image sensor matters; a larger one can take in more light and may produce a shallower depth of field for creamier backgrounds behind subjects.
Another important element is aperture. By having a larger maximum lens opening, more light can pass through, and, in turn, enable you to have a higher shutter speed for capturing fast-moving objects without too much motion blur.
Finally, we have image stabilization. It comes in two forms: optical, which utilizes a physical mechanism to steady shots, and electronic, which uses software magic to predict shaky hand movements. When using either of the two, photos normally turn out a lot less blurry, as long as the subject stays in place.
With more and more smartphone manufacturers jumping on the bandwagon, we can’t wait to see what radical designs there’ll be next year.
This feature was produced in collaboration between GadgetMatch and Innity Philippines.