Since the camera phone hit the market, we have demanded greater image quality every year. However, some argue that due to its slim and lightweight design, there are limitations. The bigger the image sensor, the better the photo, hence the issue. Some disagree with this, believing it’s not all about the sensor. Others have found a way to overcome it. Instead of trying to enlarge the image sensor, manufacturers are putting more than one lens inside the phone. These work in unison or separately to produce a better image. A good analogy is what we see with only one eye in comparison to two. Using both allows a wider image with greater depth of field.
As of a few years ago, the dual-lens camera has become a staple feature within the phone industry. The most popular phones right now such as the iPhones and Samsungs of the world use a dual-camera. The photos they produce are hard to beat. But can we be certain that these dual-lens phones always create better quality images?
What is important to be aware of is the variety of lenses that are on offer. While the primary camera has a standard lens or sometime wide-angle, the second is specialized in some way. Currently, there are three to choose from. This depends on what your priorities are when taking a photo. You can have a telephoto, wide-angle or monochrome camera. Each second camera also has its advantages and disadvantages which may or may not sway you.
This is the most popular lens and can be found on the latest iPhone, Samsung, and many others. This is used usually to take portrait photos. It allows you to optical zoom and gets a close-up with a lens that is twice the focal length. While the main camera is used to gather depth information, the telephoto lens captures the detail. This combination of lenses mirrors the effect of a DSLR by blurring the background to get an arty ‘bokeh’ effect.
What’s great about this dual-lens is the aesthetic outcome that looks almost professional. Being able to optically zoom is another great advantage. Unlike a digital zoom, this means you don’t lose data and end up with grainy close-up images. When you zoom in, the lenses automatically switch between the two which means less work for you.
However, there are also drawbacks. The telephoto lens often has a smaller aperture than the main one. Therefore it lets in less light and therefore isn’t great in the dark or at night. Although the effect is satisfying, the resolution of the second camera can often be lower too. While the optical zoom is a benefit, it is still limited in its power compared to a DSLR. Lastly, this camera doesn’t offer optical stabilization. Therefore if you want to take a video, it won’t be the smoothest.
As opposed to the lens above which gives you more detail, this lens gives you more scenery. LG phones are known for using this lens along with the standard lens for the dual-lens camera.
This is great if you like taking photos of landscapes, or want to fit more into your group selfies. It allows you to take beautiful landscape or monument photos, with around a 180-degree view.
However, this lens often has slightly lower-resolution sensors than the original. But the real disadvantage with this lens is the lack of depth-of-field that the telephoto lens provides. You have to choose what is more important to you, portraits or landscapes.
Rather than switching back and forth between the two lenses, this type of dual lens uses both simultaneously. Huawei is a forerunner of this technology, and Nokia also famously uses it in its phones.
One lens is RGB color while the other is monochrome. The monochrome lens can capture more light meaning more detail in black and white photos. The camera then combines the two photos to create a photo with more detail overall. This also allows the camera to take good quality depth-of-field photos, producing the bokeh effect. The subject is sharp, while the background is blurred.
This is great for portrait photos, where your subject will really stand out. This duo also allows great detail in color. Not only is the color better, but the camera functions better in low light due to the monochrome lens.
The drawback is the limitation due to the lenses working together. Unlike wide-angle or telephoto, you can’t switch from one lens to another. Therefore what you see is fixed and can not be altered directly by the camera.
A phone with a dual-lens camera is certainly something to consider. They are becoming the norm for people who want a phone with a good camera. Surely two is better than one, no?
Some would disagree and the Google would be one of them. One of the leading camera phones, Pixel 2 doesn’t have a dual camera. Instead, Google focuses on cutting-edge image-processing to create images with the same DSLR mimic effects. Arguably, two camera technology isn’t necessary if the software is so good. While the rest of the camera phone world focuses on dual-lens cameras, Google is busy improving the software.
Perhaps companies are spending too much time trying to overcome the image sensor issue when really it’s the software that needs to be developed. Either way, in the here and now dual-lens camera phones are prevalent. It is perhaps your best option if you have the money spare. But don’t expect the dual-lens camera to stick around forever.