Cameras

5 facts about dual-camera smartphones

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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.

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The first-ever dual-camera smartphone, LG Optimus 3D

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.

Huawei P9

The Leica-branded Huawei P9

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.

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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 P9 and iPhone 7 Plus

The Huawei P9 (left) and iPhone 7 Plus (right)

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.

iPhone 7 Plus zoom

Real-time zooming with the iPhone 7 Plus

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.

Cameras

Fujifilm X-H1 is company’s first truly video-centric camera

More substance over style

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Fujifilm has made a reputation for itself with its classic-looking cameras and knack for coming up with a range of filters for all kinds of tastes. The X series of mirrorless cameras have been the flag bearers of the company, but none have really focused on video recording as much as the newly launched X-H1 we’re seeing right here.

It’s still a mirrorless interchangeable-lens camera sporting an APS-C image sensor — which isn’t as large as a full-frame sensor, but helps keep the X-H1 more affordable and able to use Fujifilm’s growing selection of lenses.

Beginning March 1, you can buy the X-H1 for US$ 1,900 (body only). While that may still seem hefty to videographers on a budget, there’s more to the camera than just its professional design.

Fujifilm calls the X-H1 the best-performing entry in the entire X series line of mirrorless cameras. That’s a bold statement considering how great the X-T2 and X-Pro2 are, but there’s some truth to that.

For one, the X-H1 uses the same 24.3-megapixel X-Trans CMOS III found in the brand’s other high-end cameras. Combined with the X-Processor Pro image processor, it can shoot at an ISO ranging from 200 to 12800 and at a continuous speed of 14 frames per second.

What really sets it apart is the inclusion of in-body image stabilization. This means you can attach any compatible lens and you’ll have steady shots throughout your footage. As for the output itself, the maximum bit rate is at 200Mbps and you can hit up to 30fps for 4K content.

In terms of physique, it shares similarities with the medium format (and much pricier) GFX 50S. The most distinguishable feature is the monochrome display on top for a quick look at exposure settings, as well as dust and water resistance for outdoor shooting. There’s also a tilting 3-inch touchscreen LCD at the back and 3.69-megapixel electronic viewfinder.

There are more features geared toward serious videographers, but what’ll attract casual users more is the Eterna film simulation mode, which gives movies a more ideal, instantly attractive look, plus another mode to reduce flicker while shooting indoors under artificial lighting. Those who want to connect this to their smartphone will be glad to know there’s integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

The X-H1 has all the makings of a great addition to a cinematographer’s arsenal, but only time will tell if it’ll be able to stand against the giants of Sony, Canon, and Nikon.

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Camera Shootouts

GoPro HERO 6 Black vs HERO 5 Black Comparison

Which is the action camera for you?

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GoPro is one of the biggest names in sports videography and is a name that first comes to mind when the need for a portable, easy-to-set-up camera arises. Although, the past couple of years were a bit hard for the company as sales plummeted, and after introducing their first-ever drone, some literally fell from the sky.

Still working hard on making another hit, GoPro has returned with their latest action camera, the HERO 6 Black, and it boasts some pretty impressive features. Will it be the saving grace the company needs right now? How does it fare compared to its predecessor, the HERO 5? We answer those questions plus more in this comparison.

Design

On the outside, nothing has changed with the new action camera at all. It’s made of the same robust, rubbery material that’s designed to go underwater for as deep as 10 meters without needing an extra waterproof case. Button placements are carried over — one up top to start recording and another one on its side to switch between shooting modes.

Underneath, the same 1220mAh battery is stored while connectivity ports are on the other side. Even the protective lens is still removable and replaceable. There’s virtually no way of telling the two apart except for the small print on the side of the camera.

Features

The biggest upgrade of the HERO 6 has more to do with output. It can now shoot up to 4K resolution at 60fps, whereas the previous HERO 5 topped out at 4K 30fps. It might seem like a small detail but having the option to shoot smoother video is always a good thing.

Another difference is frame rate. The HERO 5 Black can capture videos at a speedy 240fps but resolution is limited to 720p. The newer HERO 6 Black, on the other hand, can shoot the same 240fps rate at a clearer 1080p resolution.

For more flexibility, the HERO 6 can also shoot at 2.7K at 120fps so you get nice slow-mo video with the ability to resize or re-scale your footage if the need arises. Other features that differentiate the new action camera from its predecessor include better low-light performance and dynamic range.

Video Sample

Of course, all this means nothing if we can’t see for ourselves. I brought both cameras during my travels and you may refer to the embedded video below (starting at 2:46) for some sample video comparisons.

You can easily see that the sky from the HERO 6’s shots is more vibrant than the pale blue color from the HERO 5. There’s also a noticeable difference in exposure. The HERO 5 has darker blacks which, in this case, worked well since it was able to bring out more details on the snowy mountain.

Although both are set to auto white balance, footage from the HERO 5 still turns out to be warmer as seen in the indoor shoot.

In terms of stabilization, the new HERO 6 really stepped up its game to remove unwanted jerks and jitters. The difference is day and night, and it’s impressive how the HERO 6 almost looks like it was mounted on a gimbal thanks to its electronic image stabilization.

Don’t get us wrong, the HERO 5 also has its own EIS, but just not as good as the new flagship’s.

One more thing to notice when the camera’s EIS is turned on is that the HERO 5 needs to crop the image by 10 percent to achieve a smoother shot, while the HERO 6 has improved this and only crops about 5 percent of the original image.

Additionally, stabilization on the HERO 5 can only be used until 2.7K resolution at 60fps, while the HERO 6 supports stabilization until 4K. The only limitation here is that EIS maxes out at 30fps with no support for the higher 60fps.

Onto low-light shooting: Footage taken with the older HERO 5 couldn’t achieve the same level of clarity shot on the HERO 6. Colors are also livelier and digital noise has been reduced significantly on the latter.

Although there were instances, like when we went ice skating, that we preferred the color and details shot by the HERO 5. It looked more natural and the ice on the floor is still visible, unlike the one shot by the HERO 6.

Photo Samples

We now look at some photo samples from both action cameras.

This photo was taken at Italy’s oldest shopping mall and shows a good balance between light and dark areas. We like how the HERO 5 has a higher contrast which added detail to the metal structure of the mall. 

While waiting for a train, we see the sun lighting the Swiss Alps from behind with a dark and shaded station in the foreground. Again, we see a more vibrant blue sky from the HERO 6 with good details.

But look closer on the warning sign in front of you and the HERO 5 was actually able to deliver a better, more legible image. Even when you crop them to 100 percent, the smallest details seem to appear better on the HERO 5.

At night, both proved to be capable shooters, but the HERO 6 showed more details by effectively capturing the cracks on the floor. One thing that I had been complaining about with my HERO 5 is that it easily overshoots light flares, creating an unwanted glow and losing details.

It’s very much distracting here since it washed out the person’s face. Meanwhile, we’re happy that it was addressed on the HERO 6 as it’s clearly the better photo.

Zooming in to 100 percent shows that the green motorcycle has a livelier color and less noise on the HERO 6 compared to its predecessor. Here are more sample photos:

Battery Life

As mentioned earlier in this video, the HERO 6 Black carries the same 1220mAh battery capacity as the HERO 5 Black. So it should technically last for the same amount of time right? Well, no.

We conducted a battery test on the two at full capacities, same video settings, and started recording until they both drained their batteries. After more than an hour and a half, the HERO 6 actually gave up first at 1 hour and 42 minutes while the HERO 5 continued on and reached 2 hours and 5 minutes. That’s 23 minutes of difference and could go a long way in real-world shooting.

Responsible for this result might be the HERO 6’s newer custom processor. Yes, it could produce better dynamic range, low light shots, and stabilize the camera really well — but at the cost of a more power-hungry chip. That’s definitely a trade-off to consider.

Conclusion

So the question here is this: Should you upgrade to a HERO 6 Black from a HERO 5 Black?

Well, you first have to ask yourself the question: Will you be using it to shoot serious action scenes with really fast movement? Are you after the best quality there is? Or are you more of a casual user who just uses a sports camera to document your out-of-town trips?  

 

Because if it’s not for professional work, the HERO 5 Black is more than capable to document all your trips. It’s also worth every penny since it just dropped its price to US$ 299, making it a really attractive offering — not to mention longer battery life.

Although if you plan to use your action videos for broadcast and want to have a lot of flexibility in shooting and editing, then you can’t go wrong with the HERO 6 Black at US$ 399.

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Cameras

Leica Q Snow is white as snow and limited in quantity

In time for the Winter Olympics

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If the name Iouri Podladtchikov doesn’t ring any bells, it should now. Not only is this Swiss man a Winter Olympics gold medalist in snowboarding, he’s also the inspiration behind the beautiful camera you’re seeing here.

The Leica Q isn’t a new camera, but this Snow version certainly is. Built with the same precision and quality as the original, the Leica Q Snow has a silver anodized top plate carved from a single block of aluminum. In front we have premium cowhide leather with its own luxurious texture.

In addition to that, there’s a soft white leather case included, as well as a leather carrying strap in — you guessed it — pure white.

Podladtchikov, who also happens to be a photography enthusiast, already published two books to his name, and has a photography studio waiting to open. He had this to say:

“As a brand ambassador, it’s a fascinating feeling to have inspired a special edition of a camera, but I also see it as an enormous responsibility.”

While it’s obvious that the color white and “Snow” name are inspired by his love for snowboarding, he says that for him the color also symbolizes “carte blanche,” which means complete freedom to be creative.

As gorgeous as this camera is, we shouldn’t forget what a powerhouse it is. It has the same internals as the original Leica Q with a 24-megapixel full-frame image sensor, fast 28mm f/1.7 lens, built-in 3.68-megapixel electronic viewfinder, and Wi-Fi connectivity with a smartphone.

Availability is highly exclusive; only 300 units of this model have been manufactured and sales begin in March 2018. And for the price, it’s a staggering US$ 5,395.

You can check out this limited edition Snow in official Leica stores.

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