In recent years, smartphone cameras have continued to develop and can now take professional photos and videos similar to digital cameras. This is due to new camera features such as night mode or optical image stabilization (OIS) and the fact that cell phones are increasingly being equipped with different smartphone camera lenses. The following article will go into the most important camera lenses from Apple, HUAWEI, Samsung and Co. and explain their purposes.
Best smartphone camera lenses
The Chinese manufacturer HUAWEI is known for its self-proclaimed “photo miracles”, which are developed in cooperation with Leica. However, HUAWEI has long ceased to be the only provider with installed triple or quadruple cameras on the back of smartphones. Samsung, Apple, Xiaomi, and Oppo also rely on cameras with multiple lenses. In addition to a high-resolution primary camera, the additional sensors with a different focal length should capture close-up, long-distance, and panoramic shots as well as possible.
Telecameras for optical magnification (zoom)
Telecameras have been built into smartphones for a long time and are probably the best known. In photography, a telephoto lens – like binoculars – brings objects closer. Smartphone cameras can already zoom in on selected subjects with the primary sensor, but it is only a digital enlargement, while the telephoto camera offers lossless and optical zoom. The additional fixed focal length avoids loss of quality, and the enlarged image sections look more professional with a telecamera.
Telecameras with double or triple optical zoom is already widespread in entry-level cell phones. It is therefore not surprising that premium smartphones even offer telecameras with five or ten times zoom. In addition, a software-supported hybrid zoom is often used in the upper class, or an additional telecamera with a smaller focal length is installed. In this way, large “focal length jumps” when changing from the primary sensor to the telesensor can be avoided. The camera of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra offers, among other things, a telephoto camera with triple zoom and one with ten times magnification, and 100 times digital magnification is also possible.
Areas of application: portrait photography and travel photography
(Ultra) wide-angle cameras for panoramic shots
The (ultra) wide-angle camera shoots photos at a wider angle than a regular primary camera to record a larger image section. For example, if you are standing close to a subject and want to capture it completely, you can use the wide-angle camera. The wide-angle lens is also ideal for panoramic shots.
The wide-angle camera is now used in numerous smartphones that differ in terms of their field of view. While the Oppo Find X3 Pro camera offers a field of view of 110 degrees, the camera of the Xiaomi Mi 11 can record a viewing angle of 123 degrees. The following applies: the higher the field of view, the larger the image section. However, this can also lead to distortions at the edges of the image more quickly. That is why there have recently been wide-angle cameras with a so-called “freeform” lens, which is supposed to compensate for the distortion. If the cell phone does not have a wide-angle lens, you can also use the “Panorama” feature in the camera app for panorama shots.
Areas of application: landscape photography, travel photography, events
Macro cameras and depth sensors for close-ups
Numerous smartphones also offer macro cameras and depth sensors to take high-quality, detailed shots. If you want to take a close-up picture of a single flower, a leaf or a beetle, the macro camera is ideal. Sometimes the camera setup is combined with a telephoto lens to create a microscope effect. The depth sensors are used to differentiate between the foreground and background and thereby create an artificial background blur. This saves you the time-consuming post-processing of images.
Areas of application: nature photography
Time-of-flight sensor (ToF) for bokeh effect and augmented reality
A so-called time-of-flight sensor (ToF sensor) is often built into premium cell phones. This sensor sends out infrared light pulses and measures the speed that the light needs to travel to and from an object. This allows the distance to the objects in front of the camera to be determined so that the surroundings can be represented three-dimensionally.
This allows various camera effects, for example, the bokeh effect or augmented reality, to be generated. With augmented reality, the image backgrounds can be changed by placing the objects in a rainforest. A LiDAR scanner for better-augmented reality is also integrated with the two Pro versions of the iPhone 12 series.
More camera lenses
Other camera lenses are used in selected smartphones:
- Monochrome camera (for black and white photos)
- Thermal camera
- Infrared camera
- 360-degree camera
The Oppo Find X3 Pro camera is supplemented by a microscope camera, which was previously only available in the Oppo cell phone and can magnify objects up to 60 times. So it is a real microscope that can capture details that are not visible to the human eye, such as individual fibers of the fabric or the surface of a match. Overall, the special camera lenses are not necessarily suitable for everyday use, but they are a practical mobile phone gadget for creative recordings.
Conclusion: There is a suitable camera lens for every situation
It is now widespread for smartphones to offer a comprehensive camera setup with multiple cell phone lenses. And the trend towards it doesn’t stop either. The new Samsung Galaxy Z Fold2even offers a triple camera and two high-resolution selfie cameras. Nevertheless, When choosing your new smartphone, you should pay attention to the number of smartphone camera lenses and which sensors are installed. In addition to the primary sensor, an (ultra) wide-angle camera and a telephoto camera are particularly advantageous.