Mobile phone cameras: you have to pay attention to this when buying! Texting was yesterday. Pictures, short videos and GIFs are the means of communication of the time – they are shared on social media. A good, reliable cell phone camera is essential. But what do you pay attention to with the abundance of models and possible variations? Here you can find out what makes a good cell phone camera!
How is a cell phone camera constructed?
To better understand cell phone cameras, let’s first take a look at the basics of photography. Because it doesn’t matter whether it’s a conventional camera or whether it’s built into a smartphone the structure and functionality are fundamentally the same:
Once you’ve found a nice subject, you first use the viewfinder to determine the specific image section. With the aperture you then regulate the incidence of light, i.e. the brightness. If you are satisfied with your composition, press the shutter button and open the shutter inside the camera for a short time . The subject now passes through the lens onto the image sensor in the form of light . Here the light changes back to the subject and becomes aTransfer the storage medium – the photo is done!
So a camera needs at least all these components to capture a moment and hold it for eternity. But in addition to the viewfinder, lens, aperture, shutter, image sensor, shutter release and storage medium, cameras usually consist of other optional parts that optimize the photo experience. A built-in flash brings light into dark subjects, for example. A zoom enables shots from a long distance. An image stabilizer does what its name promises. Intelligent software does the work for you. The list is long.
In the following you will find out what the individual components are all about and how important they are for you and your cell phone photo needs!
Image resolution: How many megapixels does a smartphone need?
In contrast to analog cameras, digital models have a sensor that captures the light via many small pixels in different brightness levels and converts it into a digital image. The number of these small pixels is described in megapixels (MP) “mega” stands for millions. If a smartphone has a camera with around 13 megapixels like the iPhone 13 that’s a whopping 13 million pixels in total. With an aspect ratio of 15:10, this corresponds to a resolution of 4416 × 2944 pixels.
Put simply, the more megapixels, the more points of light and the sharper the image that’s the theory. In practice, however, the relationship between the sensor size and the megapixels also plays an important role: a high resolution on a small sensor ensures tiny pixels. The result: Less light can be recorded and the images are noisy. Software-based pixel binning counteracts this problem by combining several small pixels into one large one.
In the best case, your smartphone has a camera that is ideally matched to the device and also harmonises well within the components. You can find a list of smartphones with a good cell phone camera at created!
Aperture: function, f-value & depth of field
When we talk about good mobile phone cameras, we cannot help but also talk about the aperture. Specifically, the aperture controls how much light falls on the sensor. The wider it is open, the more light hits the sensor and the brighter the image. Conversely, if the aperture is closed, less light falls in the image is therefore darker. But that doesn’t just affect brightness it also has a significant impact on image quality. It is particularly important to use the aperture correctly in poor light conditions. A wide opening is ideal here to capture as much of the rare light as possible the image becomes more detailed and clear.
Also important when working with the aperture: the f-value. It is made up of the ratio between the opening degree of the aperture and the focal length f of the lens. For example, at a value of f/2.0, the focal length f is twice the opening of the aperture the ratio is 1:2. To put it simply, you can remember: the smaller the f-value, the wider the aperture is open.
Another area of application of the diaphragm in conventional photography is the creation of a depth of field . Since mobile phone cameras do not have the necessary hardware for this, background blur is usually artificially created by the software.
Image stabilization: electronic or optical?
An image stabilizer does what its name suggests: it ensures a sharp and stable image by reducing camera shake – even when recording videos. A distinction is made between two types: While the electronic image stabilizer (EIS) reduces blur through digital processes, the optical counterpart (OIS) reduces motion blur with a movable objective lens.
The software-based solution is cheaper, but often results in a lower resolution especially with videos. The reason: With electronic image stabilization, the software compensates for movements by shifting pixels . This does not work without scaling, which means that the resolution suffers.
The hardware-based solution, on the other hand, is a bit more expensive, but also much more reliable: unwanted movements during the recording are counteracted here by a motorized adjustment of the lens . The built -in gyroscope helps with this.
Lentils: how many do I need? 2, 3, 4 or 5?
Smartphones have had at least two lenses installed as standard for years: a main camera and a front or selfie camera. But the trend is towards more and more lenses. Year after year, new flagship models from leading manufacturers come onto the market, featuring 3, 4 or even 5 lenses. However, this does not guarantee better photo quality. What the different lenses allow instead: more versatile shots!
Selfie camera: Everyone knows it, everyone uses it the selfie camera. The lens for this is usually in the middle above the touchscreen and is mainly used for self-portraits. This is made possible and really uncomplicated by the visible real-time camera image on the display. Some models, like the XiaomiMi MIX 4, instead have an under-screen camera or hide their selfie camera in an extendable frame like the Oppo Reno 10x Zoom. Everything for an undisturbed full-screen experience!
Wide-angle camera: The traditional camera on the back of a smartphone is usually a wide-angle lens with a long focal length. It is suitable for many different shots, so it acts as an all-rounder, and is often preselected. Portraits, landscape shots and co can all be captured very well with it. No matter how many lenses a smartphone has, the wide-angle camera is always one of them.
Telephoto camera:If you want to take sharp photos of subjects that are a little further away or like to play with background blur, you can switch to the telephoto lens in the camera app. It has a much shorter focal length and therefore already has a natural zoom effect this is also referred to as an optical zoom. Some smartphones have two of these lenses with different focal lengths installed.
Monochrome camera: Smartphones have their own lens for black and white photography a little less often. It usually completely dispenses with color receptors, but can differentiate and capture brightness levels more sensitively.
Software: Smart camera thanks to AI
While conventional cameras often require a lot of action on the part of the user, the camera in the smartphone takes care of most things automatically. Last but not least, this is why mobile phone photos are so popular: shot at any time, quickly and easily, without any prior knowledge or expert knowledge. The processes run very unobtrusively in the background and can also be deactivated if desired. Experts get more out of the photos in manual mode.
But thanks to artificial intelligence , the technology can now do even more: the smart camera easily recognizes text on images, makes corrections in real time and stabilizes shaky images to name just a few examples! You can find more on this topic in the created guide “Artificial Intelligence in Smartphones”.
Lesson learned: More does not always mean better. Many megapixels are of little use if the sensor is not right, and 5 lenses do not make a good photo. Ultimately, you have to see what requirements you have for your cell phone camera. Do you like taking selfies or do you prefer black and white photos? Do you tend to take snapshots in daylight or in the evening, in low light conditions? All this and more are relevant factors that play into the decision for a new smartphone.
But you should keep the following in mind:
- A high resolution is always good, but shouldn’t be the only reason to buy it the size and quality of the image sensor are also important here.
- A flexible aperture with a good f-value enables you to take sharp photos, even in poor light conditions without any noise.
- An optical image stabilizer usually delivers clearer images than an electronic one. Here it is worth digging a little deeper into your wallet.
- It doesn’t depend on the number of lenses, but whether you can find uses for them. In general, more lenses naturally offer more versatility.
- Cameras with artificial intelligence can save you a lot of work when taking photos with your smartphone without getting in the way.