Explained: A Guide to Smartphone Camera Hardware

By Jos · 18 replies
Jul 29, 2014
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  1. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar Elite Techno Geek Posts: 6,515   +974

    Very nice article. I thought the comparison between DSLRs and smartphones was a nice addition. I never knew the differences were so massive. I just though they had improved sensors, but the numbers speak for themselves. Once again, great read.
  2. hellokitty[hk]

    hellokitty[hk] Hello, nice to meet you! Posts: 3,448   +145

    It'd be nice if you had a practical application section for HDR!
    Also worth noting in said section that the new Xiaomi Mi4 has a Sony sensor that supports spatially multiplexed HDR which is so much more superior.
  3. Scorpus

    Scorpus TechSpot Staff Posts: 1,963   +231

    I knew there was one area I would forget to cover in this article. Look out for something on HDR in another piece I'm working on.

    I've seen spatially multiplexed HDR in action, and while it's vastly superior for moving objects, it can produce weird contrast issues if it's not implemented in software correctly. Something I'm sure will be worked on over time. The IMX214 is a very solid sensor though.
  4. Where is nokia 808? its weird when someone review smartphone camera and leave nokia 808 because it has rich camera specification compare to any smartphone out there. nokia 808 can produce up to 4 micron pixel, it has large sensor of 1/1.2, 41 megapixel count and loose less zoom.

    even lumia 1020 has more awesomeness which make smartphone camera more attractive but you didnt mention like ability to produce raw image files, good low light images, 3x loose less zoom, xenon flash and large sensor 1/1.5
  5. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    An interesting read but for me personally I find the cameras on a phone one of the least important things. If I've taken 8 snaps in the year I've had my current phone, it's a lot and I've never once used the selfie camera, not even to test it.
  6. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    Well if it perturbs you so much why don't you check the archives and see if he's reviewed your beloved Nokia.
  7. Railman

    Railman TS Booster Posts: 708   +101

    I prefer to use a proper camera but having the smartphone camera is very useful for me especially as the camera is large and inconvenient. On the whole I tend to use the smart phone for HD video rather than still photos.

    When I do have some spare money I do intend to purchase a compact camera that will fit in a pocket. I have an eye on various models that have 30 times optical zoom, Full HD video and manual overide. In which case I would find it difficult justifying a high end smartphone!

    I don't do selfies either as a rule, however the front facing camera is useful for Facetime or Skype which I will be using this summer when my wife goes to see her Mum abroad. I did on one occasion take some selfies but I had a good practical reason. I was trying on some glasses and it is difficult to see what they look like in a mirror as they don't have prescription glass at that stage. I took the selfies to aid me in choosing the glasses.
  8. RiotSloth

    RiotSloth TS Rookie

    Nice article. Just one small question, surely a 2 micron pixel would capture 4 times the light of a 1 micron pixel? Or am I being thick?!
  9. Love such articles. (y)
  10. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,304   +648

    THANK YOU! Anyone that has owned and used a dSLR knows that with even average glass, the photos will be much superior than any pinhole camera. The smartphone is easily replacing the 99 -200 dollar point & shoot camera in it's ability to take "snapshots". Unless the smartphone sensors grow to at least the micro 4/3 size, anyone that thinks it can equal a dSLR is just nuts. You'll have to strap a f1.8 lens on the front of your phone with a 4/3 or above, to even start to equal the quality of a dSLR. I know a few nobbie friends of mine say their smartphone has more megapixels than my nikon (it has 12mp), so I'll grab my 300mm lens and take a telephoto shot and say match that LOL. Or show them some photos at an airshow of a fighter jet screaming across the deck and say can you do that with your phone? Shoot, in my bag, I have enough money invested in just lens units that you could most likely purchase a decent used car! That glass gets expensive quick, but makes for some good shots when needed.
    "snapshots" are one thing a phone can do, but if you are like me, and into composition of the photo, the phone just will not do.
  11. Interesting article, but some of what you say just isn't quite right.
    First, higher ISO does not allow the sensor to "capture more light" as you explain. The sensor captures the exact same amount of light regardless of ISO, ISO just determines how much the the signal from the sensor is amplified. That's what makes the image grainy and "noisy" at higher ISO.

    Secondly, under the "Pixel size" heading I think you are either out of your depth or just need to have a second attempt at explaining it.
    The amount of light captured by a sensor is determined by the combined surface area of every pixel. NOT just the size of each pixel as you seem to imply in the first para. Even if you have pixel sizes of 100 microns, if you only have 1 pixel it's not going to absorb much light. The HTC "super pixels" help it when competing against other sensors of the same surface area but with smaller pixels (which reduces overall pixel surface area) but a larger sensor will absorb more light even if it's individual pixels are smaller.

    Finally, I won't be as scathing of this as it's simply opinion but it would be good if you explained how even with similar sensor sizes, the disappearing point-and-shoots generally are better photo takers than any camera phone (larger lenses, more sensors and hardware) but it's the fact that "the best camera is the one you have on you" that is making them redundant.
  12. Railman

    Railman TS Booster Posts: 708   +101

    Very good points. I am using a 4 MP camera with 10x optical zoom. That takes far better better pictures than my smart phone.
    p51d007 likes this.
  13. Scorpus

    Scorpus TechSpot Staff Posts: 1,963   +231

    Regarding the ISO, this is true and what I intended to say, so I've clarified the article.

    Regarding pixel size, it's true to say that the amount of light captured in total will increase as the sensor size increases. A 1-pixel sensor may capture 100,000 photons, whereas a 1-megapixel sensor will capture a million times more, assuming the pixels are the same size.

    However for identical megapixel counts, increasing the pixel size is the only way to increase the light gathering properties. The pixel size determines the perceivable brightness of an image.
  14. Scorpus

    Scorpus TechSpot Staff Posts: 1,963   +231

    Ugh, I had a note to fix that during proof reading, but didn't. Dammit. You are completely right, because it's an area, it captures four times the amount of photons
  15. nismo91

    nismo91 TS Evangelist Posts: 929   +31

    This reminds me of my past Sony Ericsson K800 phone. It was branded as Cyber-Shot and hell that badge isn't for nothing! One of the pioneers in a proper cameraphone, even there are communities who create custom camera driver for that phone. I replaced it with LG KU990 which says it has the Schneider lens. Oh how I regret buying that pos. The xenon flash is so weak I dont consider it to be xenon light at all.. When I look at my picture libraries from my K800 phone, I find it hard to believe it was taken from a dumbphone which is released 8 yrs ago.

    Nokia 808 is a worthy phone named "PureView". So is the Lumia 1020 with smaller sensor size, but better low-light capability. I don't think the rest like 920 or 1520 is worthy of that title.
  16. Some articles ready do have some corrections to do. HTC M8 has 4 uP (UltraPixel) camera, not MP (Megapixel).
  17. MDTTech

    MDTTech TS Rookie

    Thumbs up! This article gave me a better understanding to my phone's camera.
  18. Thanks for such an awesome article.

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