Multi-camera smartphones and why they're so popular

With each new generation of phone, we are expecting more and more from their inbuilt cameras. Compare a photo taken by a smartphone 10 years ago to one taken now, the old ones seem very pixelated and blurry in comparison. For a while, the race was to see which phone had a camera with the most megapixels. The more pixels, the higher the resolution of the image. Now the new craze is over how many cameras we can fit on one phone, but why?

The use of multiple cameras

A phone camera can’t handle the same level of quality as a high-end camera simply because the lens isn’t big enough. The bigger the lens the more light that can be captured, resulting in more detail. This is something that the big phone brands have started trying to overcome by using multiple cameras. A lot of modern smartphones have two rear-cameras and one facing camera. However, some companies are developing phones with 4/5 cameras, there’s even talk about a phone with 16!

How it works

Each camera on the phone is used for a different function. Independently they aren’t that impressive, but when combined they can create sharp, vivid images. For example, in a 2 rear-camera phone, one camera might be used to take a wider shot whilst the other focuses on zoom. The function of each camera varies depending on the phone. With each additional camera you are adding another layer of detail to the image, so it’s exciting to see what a 16-camera phone would create.

One way in which phone companies utilise a multi-camera setup is by having one camera that shoots colour and another that only shoots in black and white. Colour cameras capture lovely bright images but compromises some of the detail in the process, because it filters the light into colours, whereas black and white cameras are only focused on light intensity.  Therefore, a phone with this duel camera setup would be capable of capturing the same image in both colour and monochrome, then combine them to produce one highly detailed, colourful image.

Applications

With a high quality phone camera, facial recognition software becomes more reliable. Facial recognition uses biometrics to map someone’s face and compare it to it’s database. It marks all the things that make your face unique, such as the distance between your eyes combined with the length of your face and the width of your nose. It then compares them to other faces in the database to see if there is a perfect match. In a lot of smartphones this technology can be used as a security measure. The phone will only unlock if it recognises your face. A great camera allows this software to map your face more accurately which makes this unlocking feature more secure.

There are many different types of technology that are benefiting from the upgrade in camera quality. Multiple cameras, all capturing the same image but with varying levels of zoom and detail, obtain a lot more information about the dimensions of your surroundings. This means 3D mapping is more precise than ever! Imagine an app that allows you to measure the dimensions of a room without using a tape measure, well this technology exists and is getting more and more accurate thanks to the improved quality in our cameras.

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