Some of the latest devices have us seeing double, and that's something to be excited about.
Just a handful of phones feature a dual camera setup right now but several more will be released before the end of the year. The trend is catching on because the old single-camera design had met its plateau for innovation. Digital zoom can only provide so much before image clarity is sacrificed, and reproducing the optical zoom quality of even the most modest DSLR cameras requires auxiliary hardware. By adding a second camera, device manufacturers like LG, Xiaomi, Huawei, and soon others, will be able to provide not only an optical zoom range, but 3D photography, post-capture editing, and even depth mapping among other features.
Despite its advantages, dual camera technology took some time to garner support of even the most innovative companies at first. The HTC Evo 3D actually brought a dual camera design to mobile phones in 2011, but it wasn't well received.
"When Corephotonics introduced dual-camera technology in 2014, its benefits became clear soon after. In 2015 the first generation development was complete; the demand was there from the start, and it has only increased since," Eran Kali, Corephotonic's vice president of sales and licensing, told Cnet. "Yet in 2015 the supply chain was not quite ready for dual cameras and was revamping for that. I am happy to report that today, all three components' demand, development and the supply chain maturity are in place. That goes for the camera manufacturing and also for the application processor framework."
Now that companies like Coretronics have had some time to push the limits of dual camera design, the technology is becoming quite popular. Here's a rundown of what you can expect from this generation of dual camera-equipped devices and what the implications may be for the future:
Two cameras means a clearer image, but the path to that clarity can be refined by a few different factors. A typical DSLR camera offers a photosensitive surface about 20 times the size of that found in today's camera phones. Albeit a small increase, the combined photosensitive area of two cameras will allow the device to pick up more detail in lower light than with just one. This is an oversimplification, but it still rings true. Of course, manufacturers could just slap a huge camera on the back of a phone, like they did with the Panasonic Lumix CM1, but not only is that cumbersome and likely to overheat, it sacrifices innovation.
A dual camera setup means 3D photography and accurate depth mapping will soon become commonplace. Image data coming from two points instead of one, just like you have more depth perception with both eyes open rather than with one, will not only increase image definition, photos can feasibly be refocused after being captured.
Augmented and virtual reality, 3D photography, and depth mapping all rely on input from multiple sources, so a dual camera input may only be the beginning. The Lenovo Phab 2 Pro has three rear-facing cameras, one of them infrared. Microsoft's Hololens relies on five.
It will take some time before manufacturers make the output from these improvements available to app developers. Currently, the most impressive features of any dual camera-equipped device are found in preinstalled software, but expect a new generation of apps to compliment the technology soon.
There are several dual camera phones scheduled for 2016, ranging in initial price from about $280 to $700.
- iPhone 7 Pro - Classic Apple innovation with a new OS, a sharper screen, and some other surprises coming in September (we hope). The iPhone 7's cameras each capture 12MP images using LinX camera technology.
- Huawei P9 - A new player in the mobile market, Chinese device manufacturer Huawei's P9 has dual 12MP cameras (f/2.2) with a 27mm optical zoom, Leica optics, and phase detection autofocus. The P9 was released in April, and has been landing praise ever since.
- LG G5 - One of the leaders in visual technologies, LG also released the G5 in April. The phone boasts one 16MP lens (f/1.8) with laser autofocus and 30fps video at 2160p or 1080p, and a second 8MP lens (f/2.0), allowing for HDR video capture.
- Xiaomi Redmi Pro - Another new device manufacturer, Xiaomi, adopted the dual camera setup early with this year's Redmi Pro. With a 13MP and 5MP camera setup (f/2.0), the Redmi Pro features geo-tagging, touch focus, face detection, HDR, panorama, and video capture at 1080p at 30fps or 720p at 120fps.
As this generation of mobile devices gets real world experience and manufacturers improve and add cameras, the possibilities for usefulness increase exponentially. We're excited about what's coming in the future, and look forward to sharing it with you!
Camera modules, lenses, flex cables, and more can all be found in our shop. And as more devices reach the market with dual camera setups, we'll be adding those to our stock, too. In the meantime, Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn for more technology updates, and be sure to catch our Friday pop quizzes to win in-store credit toward your next purchase at Group Vertical.