What Can We Predict for the Future of Smartphone Photography?
It has been almost two decades since the first camera phone hit the shelves. It’s hard to believe that since that time, an award winning movie, filmed solely on a smartphone, was released and received multiple awards.
What’s more, the camera phone has brought a new era in photography, challenging the core of Western living and turning everyday smartphone users into amateur photographers and adventurers.
Smartphone camera development has thwarted the digital camera industry by advancing much faster than the ‘traditional’ camera sector. Cameras, such as DSLRs, remain superior to an iPhone.
However due to their sheer size, DSLRs don’t demand as much technique when trying to obtain a high quality photo. On the other hand, smartphones are considerably smaller, therefore research into how to improve image and pixel processing is an essential element in producing great images.
Because of this added research, the performance gap between smartphone and professional cameras has tapered.
In the last few years however, cellphone makers have reached certain physical limitations in what they are able to develop. This has led to a dwindling in the progression of image quality for smartphones.
As the demand for slim and light-weight phones continues, camera sensors and lens remain small, therefore limiting their effectiveness.
This is why tech giants are in search of new ways to keep smartphone cameras fresh and in demand, going down paths of augmented reality, multi lenses and technology that brings photos that step closer to reality.
Here we explore what the smartphone camera has in store for the future and what we can expect to see trending in the next year or two:
Augmented Reality (AR)
The camera phone industry has already ventured down the road of augmented reality. Applications such as Pokemon GO and Snapchat introduced elements of this technology by incorporating their unique graphics with what the camera lens is able to depict in that moment.
Snapchat uses face filters that align with the front-facing camera as you take a selfie. Two years ago, Pokemon GO introduced their application which, using GPS, allows you to ‘catch’ creatures that are visible in real-time through the rear camera.
Although these are more casual uses of augmented reality, manufacturers are currently finding ways of using this phenomena to make improvements that will meet growing consumer needs.
IKEA has lead the charge with their IKEA Place app that allows you to virtually design your house by laying digital objects onto the live camera through motion sensors.
Likewise, there will be no need for YouTube tutorial videos anymore when you struggle building that IKEA table. Instead, you will be instructed live through an augmented reality app.
These are just a few examples that show the gap in the market and the ways developers are working to create software via platforms such as Apple’s ARKit and Microsoft’s ARCore in order to keep up with the AR future.
Face Recognition Technology
Security is something that always has space for improvement, especially now with so many users accessing their internet banking and emails directly from their phone.
Once again proving to be ahead of the game, Apple introduced face scanning last year and with this advancement, the fingerprint scan will become obsolete. Through infrared scanning sensors and a depth-sensing camera system, the chances of recognizing a face incorrectly is only one in a million. This feature will likely appear on all smartphones in the near future, providing safer, more reliable security.
Dual Lens Camera
Another feature we can see at the forefront of smartphone camera technology is the dual lens camera. Huawei and LG were among the first two manufacturers to use this new technology, but arguably it was the HTC One M8 that really pioneered the idea.
One smartphone lens has limitations due to its size, while adopting two lenses enables more information to be captured, creating a greater photo. This technology eradicates the issues of fast-motion and low-light photography that still plagues the majority of smartphones.
A software that is becoming more and more common due to the dual lens camera, is the bokeh effect. By blending the photos captured, the parts identified as the background are softened to capture a depth of field and the images are blended together to get the best of both.
This effect can be achieved using many different lenses and can be seen more frequently on the latest smartphones. As it creates a more aesthetically pleasing and professional looking photo, it is, without doubt, a feature that is sure to become the norm in smartphone photography.
Having said that, no two dual lens cameras are the same. And while some manufacturers may choose these lenses to work independently from one another, others combine the two to enhance the final photo.
This leads us nicely to the final camera feature: specialized lenses. As we are likely to see more and more dual lens cameras on smartphones, the second camera is bound to be one of the following.
It is still up for debate whether the dual lens camera is worth the fuss, but perhaps the more important conversation here centers around what purpose the second camera serves and what will become most popular with the everyday user.
The monochrome camera is the simplest of them all. Identical to the first, minus the color filter, it allows the camera to capture more light and therefore enhance the end product.
As smartphone camera lenses improve, the zoom lags slightly behind. The vast majority of smartphones use a digital zoom as opposed to an optical, meaning the photo loses definition the further in you zoom. Although the most recent iPhones have a telephoto camera, it is still a limited technology and there is much room for improvement in terms of rivaling the zoom on a traditional camera.
Telephoto camera technology has a long way to go, but it is certainly the step forward in photography that is needed in order to keep up consumer demand.
For those who want to capture more than just a selfie, the wide-angle lens is also in the works but still hard to come by. This feature is perfect for shooting landscapes and models such as the Asus Zenfone 4 offer a 120-degree view. This means you can capture pretty much everything you can see.
Smartphones already are responsible for over half of the photos we take worldwide each year, and that number is only increasing. As technology advances and software develops, we can only expect the usage to grow even more.
The exact changes to expect are still uncertain as the tech giants are are playing their cards close to their chests. But The recent developments mentioned here will certainly be a focal point.
The line between real-life and our smartphone screens will become blurred through AR, our phones will recognize us through infrared cameras and further specialized cameras will allow features like thermal imagery to become more than just a novelty concept and instead an everyday reality.
Yes, photos will inevitably continue increasing in their aesthetic quality, but this is also a turning point for smartphone photography, adopting a functional purpose as well as giving us those selfies we all have come to love so much.