There was a time when smartphone shoppers looked for phones packed with every feature they could possibly need. Everybody wanted a phone that is a radio, torch, camera, Internet portal, gaming console, alarm clock, calculator, map, calendar, personal assistant, notepad and more – all rolled into one block of various metals, wrapped in plastic (or glass).
These days, phone users are just looking for a great camera to capture moments to share. Yes, battery life and physical features are still important when making a purchase, but with most premium phones averaging at a battery capacity of 3500-5000mAH, the power bank is hardly a matter of contention.
Regarding the physical appearance, snazzy phone covers and pop sockets are still trending, making it easy for people to regularly reinvent the way their phone looks. Turns out that choosing a smartphone is like choosing a romantic partner — it helps to have good looks, of course, but quality and performance are what will determine whether the relationship is a lasting one.
So, the camera is queen. The key point to keep in mind is whether the smartphone you have your heart set on has the camera quality you want or need.
In most cameras, the image sensor plays an important role. The bigger the pixel size, the better the camera performance. For example, a 48 MP camera with a 1/2-inch sized sensor is considered pretty good. You want your pixels to be large, as a larger pixel can capture more light than a smaller pixel.
The ability to capture more light means better performance when you’re taking pictures with friends at a dimly lit bar, when light is at a premium. A lot of phone makers tie up with well-known brands to bump up their camera setup, which allows Nokia to offer a Carl Zeiss lens and Huawei to partner with Leica.
However, bigger, better sensors and a larger pixel size is not always possible. Enter a technique called pixel binning, a powerful process that sees data from four pixels combined into one.
So, a camera sensor with tiny 0.9 micron pixels will produce results equivalent to 1.8 micron pixels when taking a pixel-binned shot. Smartphone manufacturers use this to keep customers happy with camera quality, especially in the budget phone segment.
Ultra high resolution cameras may take time to come to the Nepal mobile market, but the current crop of 40MP and 48MP sensors are already showing impressive results when using pixel binning. With ever-improving capabilities like night modes, better zoom, and AI smarts, there is plenty of potential for better smartphone photos right now.
The tiny hole that you can see inside your phone camera lens concerns the opening of the lens, or the aperture. Let’s pretend there are doors sliding in front of your camera lens: you may call these doors Aperture. How much these doors open and close, and how much light they let in, determines the quality of picture.
The lower the number next to the ‘F’ (signifying Focal Length), the brighter and more visible your photo will be. Unlike DSLR cameras, most smartphones come with a fixed aperture, but luckily, nowadays the ‘Pro’ mode on your phone camera offers customisation of the aperture.
Google Pixel is a great example of a phone that excels with a single lens, but multi lens is an added bonus. Instead of counting the visible camera lenses on your phone (triple cam, anyone?), you are better off judging the phone’s image processing skills.
This is a software that processes the data that is captured by the camera. Unlike a sensor or a lens, which cannot be changed or replaced after you get your phone, image processing is an AI system based on algorithms that can actually be altered or improved post-purchase.
Tip: To test the power of image processing, try installing G Cam (the Google Camera app) on your Android phone and check out the different it makes to your picture quality.