Smartphone cameras can do astounding things nowadays, however they are starting to reach some hard physical limits. There’s only so much you can achieve within the tight constraints of a device that’s 7mm thick, and phone companies are looking for alternative means to keep improving. This spring, LG and Huawei have led the way with their new Android flagships, introducing two very different dual-camera systems that nevertheless signal the direction that the entire industry is about to head in. Apple’s iPhone 7 plus
is rumored to be following their lead later this year. One day soon, we’ll look at dual-camera phones the way we think of dual-core devices today: just a logical progression with nothing remarkable about it.
LG’s G5 will be remembered for its modular Friends ecosystem, but in any other year the big highlight of this new phone would be the presence of a second rear camera. An 8-megapixel wide-angle camera sits alongside the main 16-megapixel module, making it easier to shoot bigger group, landscape, or architecture shots.
LG MAKES THE CAMERAPHONE MORE FLEXIBLE
Regular phone lenses are fixed at the same zoom level, and this supplementary hardware is necessary because phones have no easy way of adding zoom to their cameras. Zoom lenses require greater depth than modern phone designs can afford, and digital zoom trades away image quality. With the G5, LG adds a second prime (i.e. zoomless) lens, which it can do because there’s more horizontal space to play with inside the handset. The phone’s camera bump is, in fact, most probably required by the main camera’s more sophisticated optics and stabilization.
Huawei’s P9 doesn’t have a camera bump at all, but it also has two cameras on the back. This is actually the more exciting device of the two because it’s targeted at improving image quality, the holy grail of all photography. A combination of one monochrome and one color sensor captures three times the light of an ordinary camera, resulting in much better sharpness and clarity. The prominence of these improvements will depend on the circumstances — they are most apparent when shooting closeups — but it’s already clear that Huawei has built its best camera yet and the secondary sensor is the critical part responsible for it.
The truly impressive thing is that the P9 is one of the thinnest flagship phones out there while still fitting a big 3,000mAh battery and this dual-camera assembly. If there’s a physical cost to the second monochrome sensor in this handset, it’s not an obvious one.
HUAWEI MAKES THE CAMERAPHONE EVEN BETTER
The unifying feature connecting LG and Huawei’s new phones is that they’ve added secondary cameras without sacrificing much in the way of design. It’s always a good sign when additional function doesn’t break a device’s form, and on the early evidence of these two smartphones, the future for dual-camera systems is bright. Here’s an example of the difference LG’s extra camera makes in terms of capturing a wider field of view
The wide-angle shots that it provides would usually require an external accessory, so having that function built right into the G5 is a legitimate convenience. Somewhat ironic for a phone making its name around external plug-in modules, but it’s still true that LG gives G5 users flexibility that others lack.
Finally, we can say that our “selfie queens” and “camera nerds” will soon get a delicious treat. Social medias will burst with photos cause the next generation of mobile cams are coming.