What can we expect from a photo smartphone?
Components at the service of the camera
Manufacturers in the mobile market emphasize the development of photographic capabilities of their devices, because thanks to this they can offer the customer something more than the standard functions of smartphones. Moreover, behind the advanced camera technology of the phone also hides an efficient processor, memory and screen. In a word, if the phone offers us very developed capabilities in the field of taking photos, we can be sure that we are dealing with top-of-the-range equipment in many respects.
Not only take pictures, but also process
The functions of modern cameras in smartphones are often not limited to photographic services themselves. The interfaces responsible for their operation are highly developed, thanks to which you can often submit your photos, but also video, post-production, editing and editing from the position of the smartphone. In addition, some models have an additional AR option, which allows you to apply various patches, characters, texts and moving effects directly on the photographed landscape.
The basic functions related to photo editing are the ability to apply filters or embellishment. This is an automatic adjustment of the color scheme and other elements that affect photo quality. In most smartphones, you can adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness, and saturation, as well as crop the photo and adjust its size. The new models, however, offer more and more post-production options, which until now could only be enabled by additional apps or advanced photo processing programs. Thanks to this, you can change the appearance of the sky in the background, erase an element that does not match, and even get rid of the silhouettes of people who have entered the frame.
The number and type of lenses in phones with a good camera
As for the camera itself, it is more appropriate to use the plural, since it is already standard for manufacturers not to limit themselves to a single lens. And we are only talking about the main camera, not including the commonly used front selfie camera. Although quantity doesn’t always equate to quality, at least two glasses are the rule here. It has also been applied by the Google brand in its Pixels, famous for their high-quality photographs made mainly through software based on machine learning.
The additional lenses most commonly found in a smartphone camera are:
- wide-angle lens – allows you to cover a wide frame, even larger than the visible in a given position for the human eye. It allows you to capture a panorama, a wide view or a large group of people in a single frame;
- telephoto – allows you to optically get closer to the photographed object and perform the so-called Zoom. Optical zoom will provide the best results. In addition, a digital zoom is also often offered, which can reach larger sizes, but this comes at the expense of photo quality. Currently, manufacturers even boast of a 100-fold numerical approximation, unfortunately, in practice this function is basically useless.
- Macro – Use to take sharp photos from just a few centimeters away. It allows you to capture a detail, to photograph a small object, flower petal or insect. In practice, unfortunately, the quality of macro photos is different, as in the case of zoom. Therefore, if you do not have the opportunity to try the smartphone camera, it is worth reading its review and seeing examples of photos and videos made with it.
In some models you can also find a monochrome lens that supports the main camera to get a more detailed shot with less noise. A depth sensor is also often added to achieve the desired background blur effect.
The more megapixels the better?
Ultimately, the number of megapixels, which determines the maximum resolution at which an image can be captured, also comes into play. Theoretically, the more megapixels the better, as the higher the quality of the photos with less noise, but that’s not quite true.
Manufacturers surpass themselves in resolutions and currently the largest lens is 108 Mpix (and soon the first smartphone with a 200 Mpix camera should appear). Such a high value, but also 64 or 48 Mpix, makes it possible to retouch the photo and print it in a larger format without compromising on quality and sharpness. However, it should be remembered that the final effect is influenced by several factors.
When looking for a smartphone with a good camera, we must take into account the size of the matrix, which cannot be too large from a technical point of view, as well as the quality of the optical system used. The size of a single pixel will also be very important in this case – here the larger size will actually translate to the final visual impression.
Such data is rarely provided in official specifications. However, if you find information about array size here, the bigger the better, because the more light is captured. How to read this data? For example, the Xiaomi 12 Pro has a large matrix and is 1/1.28″, the smallest is 1/1.33″, the most popular among today’s smartphones, and even more modest is , for example, 1/2.76″. So the smaller the second digit, the larger the die size.
Pixel size is specified in micrometers (µm). Here, the larger the value, i.e. the larger the pixel, the better. On the other hand, the higher the number of pixels on the matrix, the more it translates into a reduction in the size of a single pixel. And the smaller it is, the less light it picks up, which reduces image quality and detail. Therefore, for best results, it is used to combine adjacent pixels, most often 4 or 9 into one. For example, the Xiaomi Mi 10T Pro has a 0.8μm pixel, while 4 pixels are combined into a 1.6μm super pixel.
However, this results in a drop in resolution, so standard everyday photos taken with the main 108 or 64 Mpix lens will have a resolution of, say, 12 Mpix. This solution is useful for classic everyday photos.
It appears several times capture the light especially important in low-light scenes. These larger or combined pixels result in brighter photos and less noise. Therefore, night modes are not supported at the highest resolutions.
The maximum resolution will work, however, if you want to edit photos, zoom in and cut out fragments. The best detail in these shots will be noticeable especially after printing photos, even in large format.
Lens brightness and aperture value
The brightness of the lens will also be important, it is expressed by the value of the aperture size. Here, a smaller number of parameters F for aperture, this equates to its wider aperture and better lens brightness. This allows you to get high-quality photos in low light and with a shallow depth of field, for example in the background, which is especially interesting for portraits.
The main lenses of smartphones with good cameras usually have f/1.8, and in future meshes they will most often be f/2.0 to f/2.4 apertures. For example, the Apple iPhone 13 Pro zf/1.5 has a low value and therefore good brightness.
Image stabilization. An important feature of the phone with the best camera
Good effect is difficult to achieve without the use of a gimbal or tripod, even though minimal hand movement when opening the shutter and capturing light is a great importance. In today’s smartphones, however, solutions are used to help with shots uncontrollable. The built-in stabilization, thanks to which the image is not blurred, results in better quality of photos and videos. The solutions currently used are:
OIS – optical image stabilization. It is a hardware solution, so the entire camera module reacts to vibrations, moving in such a way that it always covers the same plane.
EIS – electronic image stabilization that reduces blur using software. The smartphone then uses the accelerometer and gyroscope, and the edges are cropped as they provide margin to keep the center of the shot steady.
AIS – electronic image stabilization using artificial intelligence (AI).
HIS – Hybrid Image Stabilization, i.e. a combination of OIS and EIS, which additionally smoothes the video in order to obtain an even more stable image.
Gimbal – this solution was introduced in their smartphone by vivo. The camera with a gimbal is best at reducing the effects of vibration because it uses a greater range of motion than OIS.
On what parameters should a phone with a good camera stand out?
As you can see, there are many variables behind the final quality of a photo taken with a smartphone. Even the best settings (not necessarily the highest!) are poorly balanced against the software, and vice versa, won’t do much.
Best case scenario, if you want a good camera, it would be a good idea to test the phone before buying it. When you fail to do so, check out spec items that might indicate a good visual end result and read reviews. So pay attention to:
- main lens (here “barely” 12 Mpix will suffice),
- aperture value (the smaller it is, the more light enters the matrix),
- the size of a single pixel (bigger is better),
- the size of the matrix (its size is important for the quality of the photos),
- the presence of optical image stabilization or a gimbal (preventing blur caused by hand shake),
- possibility of manual adjustments of the camera parameters,
- the presence of a wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens,
- smartphone processor and camera interface.
Each of the proposals below has very good software and many advanced AI features. That is why, in the brief descriptions of each model, you will find only the most important parameters of the lenses.