Zit Seng's Blog

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The Deal With Dual Cameras

Google announced their 2nd generation Pixel smartphones last week, and perhaps one thing notable about the new devices, they don’t flout dual cameras. But the Pixel 2 camera, which is identical with the Pixel 2 XL’s, set a new record for DxOMark Mobile score. We finally have some raw photos shared by Google, taken with the new smartphones.

Check out the album on Google Photos. They are mighty impressive. I’m sure, no doubt, Google carefully selected the best from the many others they’ve shot, but I think it’s very reasonable to agree that the new Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL, have excellent cameras.

The 2016 Pixel and Pixel XL already scored top marks with DxOMark Mobile at that time.

With most of the 2017 flagship smartphones sporting dual camera setups, you’d think this is the way to go. Google, surprisingly, bucked the trend. There’s still a bit of hardware technology in there with the dual-pixel sensor, but a lot of the magic comes down to their software. Artificial Intelligence, or AI, something that was repeated many times over during Google’s Oct 4th hardware event, is their secret sauce.

It’s almost a bit like cheating the way Google applies AI to its photo processing.

On the other hand, don’t all cameras do some sort of image processing too? Even AI? After all, those auto-scene features in other cameras basically involve figuring out what the scene you’re shooting is about, and then applying some appropriate capture settings automatically. E.g., they can detect faces, or detect food, or landscape scenery, etc, and make adjustments to aperture, shutter, and white balance, among others. When processing camera sensor data into JPEGs, there is always some level of sharpening, de-noising, colour temperature adjustments, etc.

Google’s just taking it a step further.

So, now, do dual cameras really matter at all?

Someone has done a poll. Thanks to Android Authority, we have some answers. The votes at the time of this writing, almost 24 hours since the poll started, to the question “How important are dual cameras to you?” is as follows:

  • 2,481 say: Not at all – I don’t care if my phone has a dual or single camera
  • 856 say: Very – my smartphone absolutely has to have a dual-camera setup
  • 226 went with: Other

That’s some 70% saying they don’t care about dual or single cameras.

My own answer to that question would be “Other”, because while I don’t really care about a single or dual camera setup, and definitely it’s the final outcome that matters, to me the second camera can offer some advantages. For example,  the second lens can use a different focal length (i.e “zoom”). Most smartphone cameras are “wide”, and while they are usually fine, there are times I want a tighter shot.

Dual-camera smartphones apparently begun as far back as in 2007, but in recent history, it become popularised from the iPhone 7 Plus and LG V20. What do you think about the importance of dual-camera smartphones?

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