More and more cameras. Does it really matter?
Did the industry find its new megapixel?
It is already a consolidated trend in the industry: smartphones have more and more cameras.
While the previous generation popularized dual lens systems, more recent releases like the Galaxy S10 + and Xiaomi Mi 9 brought the triple format, and launches like the Huawei P30 have increased that count to four cameras or even more.
Huawei officially launches the P30 and the P30 Pro, great smartphones… The company mainly emphasizes the design and quality of cameras of the devices
Having more and more lenses on the device, and turning it practically into a spider, really brings benefit to the consumer?
To understand what it takes to take advantage of a smartphone with multiple cameras, you first have to know why this process is happening.
Why have more than one?
Photography on cell phones has always suffered from a severe limiter: space.
While professional cameras and even near-dead point-and-shoot cameras have much more area available for all the components needed to take photos, with this, these devices can be much more versatile, with ample areas for sensors, lenses with much more space to enter the light and possibility of varying the frame with the movement of the lenses.
Some attempts to bring this versatility to smartphones have already been tried, in models like the Galaxy Camera or the Zenfone Zoom.
The lack of successors for both handsets gives a clear indication of how the idea was not well received. One reason is that few are willing to worsen the portability of their phones if only to have in exchange more complete cameras.
Since you can not implement lens movement, the solution that is gaining strength is a curious approach: having these different frames in a set of fixed cameras.
This is how one of the combinations appears that appears to be the primary trend among top-of-the-line models: a traditional framing camera that is the most versatile and efficient, a telephoto camera with the ability to bring an object closer to the scene and a wide lens angle capable of capturing more objects in the scene.
The main advantage of bringing this set of cameras is clear: it brings the versatility that cameras with lens movements have, making it possible to change the zoom in the image and thus bring possibilities of very different frames in the same scenes.
In addition to the proximity of the object with a telephoto, the wide-angle lens completely changes the composition, improving more than merely the distance from the primary object of the photo, but giving a whole new context and even significance for the image.
While the photo with telephoto shows all the details and gives great prominence to a flower, the traditional camera shows the whole set of flowers, and a wide-angle provides us with a sense of where the flowers are. The position of the phone and the subject of the photo are the same, but the message changes.
In a video, the difference becomes even more evident, with each frame serving to show a basketball game differently, in some moments seeking details with the zoom, in others giving an overview of all the players when opening the viewing angle.
Whoever saw the launch of the Huawei P30, or was already eyeing the Nokia 9 or Galaxy A9, knows that the manufacturers did not stop at number three. But in such cases, additional cameras do not have to do with new frames only.
Another difficulty that cell phones face is that because of its small size, cannot install an extensive system of lenses with large light input, again because of the need for much portability that these devices have.
The difference gets evident when we see a smartphone side by side with a professional camera.
There is a noticeable difference in the ability to let light enter the sensor.
It is to try to circumvent this limitation that the additional cameras also take action, especially those that you “can not use.”
They seek to improve image quality by combining information from the main camera with additional data captured by the assistants, and this information may vary from model to model. Some manufacturers place an exclusively dedicated camera to try to improve light capture and improve photos at low luminescence.
In other cases, it can be used to perceive depth, as in the case of Moto Z3 Play and Zenfone Max Pro M1, and enable effects such as blurring the background.
In professional cameras, the more aggressive blur of the background is possible with a much larger aperture for light input, which reduces the depth of field. Cell phones compensate for this with the additional camera and another feature they have: a lot of processing power.
With two cameras giving away information, software and hardware on cell phones can compensate for the lack of an appropriate lens to create this effect. The result varies according to the post-processing software talent and the available hardware:
The Mi 8 Pro has only one front camera, so the blur effect can solely rely on the software to account for deciding what the subject of the photo is and what is background.
The result is an incredibly fake photo, which leaves two people in focus even though they are at different distances from the camera.
With space limitation but with computing power left over, another essential element to improve the result of the photos has been the post-processing, and this is not directly related to the presence of more cameras.
Although it helps, this does not prevent effects from being applied successfully even without additional cameras to bring information like depth, as you can see in the example below
But after all, should we worry about having more and more cameras on our phones? The answer is no.
The priority is to have an excellent main camera, which is how you guarantee a good experience in photography on smartphones.
A good example is the ZenFone Max Pro M1, which even has two rear cameras, has a poor photographic experience, almost frightening at times, and is by no means a highlight of the device.
The additional camera comes into action when you want to create a blur effect on the background, but it does not make a miracle since the image captured by the primary sensor is not the best.
Additional cameras should be thought of as complements. As it was evident in the comparatives, they bring new capabilities to the cell, either delivering better images through post-processing, generating new effects or even enabling other frameworks.
It’s really cool to be able to switch the frame in the middle of a video, or get more people in the picture, but as well as the number of megapixels, it’s not how many cameras the cell phone has that will tell you the quality of the photos you’re going to make with it .