Smartphone camera guide: what are the different camera setups?

The smartphone camera is one of the factors when choosing a device. Manufacturers use terms such as wide, ultrawide, and many more when marketing a device. But how do these terms help in choosing the perfect device?

Companies often focus on the smartphone camera when marketing their latest device. Manufacturers brag about camera features. They also hype up details such as 100x zoom and a lot more.

With that in mind, here is a quick guide in picking a smartphone camera. It may also serve as a reference when different terms get confusing.

Standard smartphone camera

 

1. Main camera

The standard camera or the main camera is the bread and butter of all manufacturers. It produces the cleanest and sharpest image among dual or triple cameras. Smartphone OEMs often brag about the large megapixel size and the sensor that is being used.

When choosing a smartphone for mobile photography, the main camera is also the first one to be inspected. Some companies offer triple-camera setups but the main camera remains to be the jack of all trades.

Single-camera smartphones such as the Google Pixel usually has the best camera quality for its price. This is due to the fact that the manufacturer can focus more on developing the image quality instead of adding fancy features.

2. Ultrawide camera

An ultrawide camera has a wider field of view as the name implies. It is the ideal camera for group shots, architecture, and landscape.

This type of camera is the next best thing to have in a smartphone besides the standard camera. There are a lot of unique angles that can be shot using an ultrawide lens.

Ultrawide cameras are now found on budget devices that range from US$150[AU$228] and higher. Dual camera setups also include this type of camera.

One downside of using the ultrawide camera is the lack of image stabilization. Some companies include electronic stabilization, but the better optical stabilization is often not included.

3. Telephoto camera

Zooming through the camera of a smartphone is achieved by digital processing before. When secondary telephoto cameras were added, it introduced 2x or 5x optical zoom. This means that a user may take closer shots without sacrificing image quality.

Portraits are better taken using a telephoto camera in professional photography. This is due to the compression of the lens.

However, that is not often the case with smartphones. Telephoto sensors on a mobile device are too small to capture great details.

This type of camera comes in handy once in a while. But it is not as useful as an ultrawide camera. Besides, taking great portraits can be achieved by the main camera as well.

macro smartphone camera

 

4. Macro camera

Smartphone macro cameras are considered as a gimmick until today. It is a great addition to complete a quad-camera setup but it is not as useful as a telephoto or an ultrawide camera.

The smartphone’s sensor is too small to capture great close-up details. Images lack details when shot by a macro camera. It is also grainy at times.

Ultrawide cameras are also capable of macro photography similar to the OnePlus 7T. This makes a dedicated macro camera redundant.

5. Monochrome camera

Huawei first introduced a secondary monochrome camera years ago. It is not as widespread today as it is a one-hit-wonder.

Monochrome cameras only take black and white photos. Huawei’s implementation back then allows the monochrome camera to take details and merge it with the main camera for a sharper image.

However, a monochrome camera does not really offer an advantage to other cameras. The image editing capabilities of apps can create black and white images that rival monochrome camera shots.

6. Depth sensor

Quad-camera setups have a depth sensor most of the time. Taking daily photos through the depth sensor is not possible. It complements the main camera or telephoto camera when taking portrait shots.

The depth sensor is responsible for subject-background separation to make the subject pop out.

Does a smartphone really need to have multiple cameras?

It is not bad to have multiple cameras given the technology today. However, it is not necessary to have a triple or quad-camera setup.

Users will most likely use the main camera for daily use unless there is a specific need to zoom in or out.

But it is rare to see a device with only one camera today. The question now is what kind of multiple camera setup should one get.

The answer depends on the usage.

For regular point and shoots, the main camera and ultrawide cameras should be the priority. The telephoto and macro sensors are gimmicks and must be considered an add-on for a smartphone camera.

Images used courtesy of ViktoriyaFivko/Shutterstock, Wouter de Jong, Pixabay/Pexels

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