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Gear & Apps

A Good Breakdown Of Cell Phone Camera Technology

By Kishore Sawh on November 14th 2015


Every year in tech there are few things as predictable as an iPhone release. You can see it coming months away already trailing streamers of preordained success behind it, like a child of a man who went to Eton. As the leading mobile phone in the market, it’s the benchmark, so other phone companies are constantly trying to find new and exciting ways to differentiate and out-iPhone the iPhone. One of the ways they do this is through cameras.

Cameras arguably get the most use these days through the OS of some little device, and it seems the layman is always interested in a phone that takes a ‘better’ picture. So you have companies marketing their phones to a large extend by hailing the ability of the device’s camera, with much speak about megapixels, low-light, stabilization, lens elements, and all manners of stuff that the average consumer doesn’t really understand and doesn’t give a damn about. Honestly, the ad campaigns are often within a hair’s breath of a parody and aren’t exactly useful.


Marques Brownlee, the YouTube tech gent of MKBHD, has a few words to say about phone cameras that I think is a good primer for everyone considering a new phone. As someone within the photography theatre, I’m asked by my less photo-inclined family, friends and acquaintances about camera phones, and you probably are that for your circle also. I will generally now direct them to this little video, and I hope this serves you well, too.


One thing Marques says near the end, however, is something I think all photographers would do well to understand also, that you can’t exactly judge a camera’s worth from the spec sheet. His analogy to cars is actually quite appropriate, where you can’t judge a car just by the numbers, and so it is the same for a camera. A lot of it comes down to feel, and character, and generally what you like.


Source: Resource Magazine

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A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Dave Haynie

    He pretty much covered it.

    Used to be you really had to worry about your smartphone camera being diffraction limited — the sensors were too small, the apertures too narrow, that the image resolution basically didn’t matter. Like most any lower-end or superzoom P&S camera… if you have a 1/2.3″ sensor and an f/3.5 or worse lens, you’re well into being diffraction limited shooting.

    Weirdly, the smartphone companies actually caught on to this some years ago, and at least among premium phones, you don’t find diffraction limiting at all. So when they claim “DSLR-like photos”, you can at least be certain that you might get better images than with that $150 P&S. Though not always — my $150 P&S is a Fujifilm X-FH1, 2/3″ sensor and f/1.8 lens.

    Even more curious, the basic consumer camcorder of a few years ago had a 1/6″ or even 1/8″ sensor… they were horrible, many not even making a full resolution image back in the SD video days. Still these days, you can find the lower-end consumer camcorders with single 1/4″ to 1/6″ HD sensors and totally insane optical zoom ranges that deliver bad video. The average smartphone will actually do better, even if it’s got nowhere to put the video after its shot (copying Apple seems to have all but killed SD memory and replaceable batteries on flagship phones, other than at LG).

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  2. Brandon Dewey

    great video!

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  3. charles harris

    nice to know information

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  4. Sudeshna Banks

    Ahh…iPhone cameras demystified!
    thank you….

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  5. Tom Blair

    AS always I enjoyed the article Kishore

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