Imperceptibly, the mobile phone received so many functions that it has now become our indispensable assistant in a wide variety of areas of life. And no one is surprised that more and more people prefer to take photos with their smartphones, rather than with a fancy and high-quality camera. Moreover, manufacturers began to install several camera modules in phones.
The average consumer sees this as proof of progress – two cameras are better than one and three are better than two. And only skeptics quite reasonably ask the question: is there any sense in these modules? The question sounds quite reasonable. Experts say that a modern smartphone needs multiple cameras for high-quality shooting. We will explain why this is so.
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The problem is lack of space
It’s no secret that anyone wants to see their smartphone as thin as possible. Who is interested in “bricks” more than a centimeter thick? But marketing requirements are the real pain for designers. After all, it is necessary to place bulky components in a limited space, including a camera lens. It cannot be compact by nature. It includes glass lenses of different sizes, which still need to move to collect light, enlarge the object (the same zoom) and work the stabilization system. At one time, engineers even went on a bold experiment, creating the Samsung Galaxy K Zoom device.
But the hybrid of the camera and smartphone frankly failed. A gadget in which the lens was glass and really high quality can hardly be called mobile. The idea of choosing a different material for lenses failed – nothing refracts light better than glass. But the engineers found a way out of the technological impasse.
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An additional camera is the solution to the problem!
Now this idea seems simple and ingenious. If it is physically impossible to create one large lens with several lenses in a phone, why not place several lenses in the phone, each with one lens? An interesting decision was the choice of different focal lengths. As a result, one camera will be able to take wide-angle shots, and the second, for example, will act as a telephoto lens, that is, it will look at the world narrowly, but it will be good to bring objects closer.
Both cameras simultaneously shoot the same thing, and then software overlay frames are performed during post-processing. It sounds rather complicated, but programmers have implemented this algorithm. And improving it turned out to be much easier than increasing the physical size of the lens. This solution allows you to collect twice as much light, get a couple of shots with different depths of field, and also make both dark and light details clear.
It is this approach that led to the appearance of second cameras in smartphones. LG and Huawei were the first to do this, and finally made Apple’s technology popular.
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Are two cameras good, but three are better?
Today you can find smartphones with three or more cameras. In fact, most often these modules and cameras are not. Sometimes this is really an additional module with its own focal length. For example, the Light L16 phone received 16 cameras altogether. But most often such a “camera” is a marketing ploy.
Often, in addition to the camera itself, manufacturers also place special sensors that only help to improve the image.
Below are the most common options for the purpose of additional cameras in smartphones:
- Telephoto lens – the lens also received a narrow field of view to bring objects closer.
- Wide-angle (super-wide-angle) lens – another lens for creating wide-angle shots.
- Black and white sensor – makes it possible to shoot very sharp photos, with deep shadows and bright highlights.
- Sensor for night shooting – makes it possible to take clear pictures in low light conditions and in the dark.
- Depth analysis sensor – it uses a pair of primary lenses to take a photo with the correct depth of field.
Thanks to the additional lenses, smartphones were able to shoot even better, taking bright and clear photos, all while maintaining the physical size of the device. So do not recklessly consider the second and subsequent camera modules as a marketing option, the number can affect the quality. It is likely that smartphones of the future will be densely covered in lenses. In any case, the first signs are already there – smartphones with five cameras, like the Huawei Mate 40 Pro Plus, look unusual, but do not seem to be products for geeks at all.
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Three (or four?) Cameras in the iPhone 12 Pro
For Apple, the first smartphone with three camera modules was the iPhone 11 Pro, which appeared in 2019. The company did not rush and was able to prove that such a technological solution is indeed effective. However, already in the iPhone 12 Pro, in addition to three cameras, a scanner called LiDAR appeared. Let’s take a look at what each module is needed for.
Wide angle camera
Wide-angle lens with a focal length of 26 mm and an aperture of f / 1.6. This lens is considered the main camera of the iPhone.
It is often used in interior photography, allowing you to shoot in tight spaces, as well as when shooting architecture and landscapes. Typically, the viewing angle is about 80 degrees. The better the lens aperture (aperture), which is denoted as f / 1.6, for example (the smaller the better), the more light will enter the camera sensor. Thus, improving the quality of shooting in low light conditions (in the dark).
To activate the wide-angle camera, use the button 1 × in the iPhone camera.
Ultra wide angle camera
Ultra wide-angle lens with a focal length of 13 mm. The smaller the focus, the wider the angle of view. The second camera allows just a 120-degree view. A lens like this makes it possible to capture as much space as possible, perfect for landscape photography. It often happens that you want to convey everything that is around. And the capabilities of a conventional camera are no longer enough. The photo taken at super-width literally pulls you inward.
The difference between photos taken with the wide-angle and ultra-wide cameras of the iPhone 12 Pro:
Shot with iPhone 12 Pro wide-angle lens in night mode (tripod)
Shot with iPhone 12 Pro ultra-wide angle lens in night mode (tripod). Applied Noir filter in Photos app.
To activate the ultra wide-angle camera, use the button 0.5 × in the iPhone camera.
Telephoto lens with a focal length of 52 mm and an aperture of f / 2.0. Used for detailing, shooting with optical zoom and for photographing portraits.
To activate the telephoto camera, use the button 2 × in the iPhone camera.
LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging – “detection and determination of range using light”). This technology is actively used in geodesy, cartography, where the light emitter is a laser.
The principle of operation of LiDAR is quite simple – the emitter emits light waves, and the receiver receives the reflected signal returned from the body, taking into account the effect of the scattering medium. Based on the response time, the distance to the object can be determined.
LiDAR on iPhone is used to capture the most natural portraits with natural bokeh. LiDAR helps the hair, ears and other body parts of humans or animals stay focused.