Compact cameras are a thing of the past. Right now, the top cameras in photo uploading services are smartphones and that’s completely reasonable since we always carry a smartphone with us, unlike a camera. Manufacturers have spotted the need for better quality photos and videos and are constantly looking for ways to improve even more. So, when looking at tech specs, the most important thing that defines the quality is the sensor size and optical image stabilization. Both these factors are very helpful during low-light shots and video recording.
The larger the camera’s sensor, the better the quality of the pictures taken. The camera image sensor (CCD or CMOS) is the core of digital imaging and the core of smartphone cameras. Sony is the biggest sensor manufacturer globally with almost half of all devices out there hosting one. The Sony IMX380 sensor that is found on Meizu 15 Plus and Huawei P20 Pro is one of the best out there and it’s no surprise that both phones are among the top in the DxO test. It is a large, 1/2.3″ sensor, even larger than the one found in Samsung Galaxy S9 and iPhone X. Apart from that, the pixel size in the IMX380 is big at 1.55μm while the S9 sensor is 1.4μm and the iPhone X 1.22μm. This allows for more light in, resulting in better low-light performance.
OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization)
OIS is a prerequisite if a manufacturer wants to offer high-end photo capabilities. Currently, 2-axis and 4-axis systems are used in smartphones with the latter being superior. OIS is used in flagships like the iPhone, Galaxy Series, Huawei P Series, and the newly introduced Meizu 15 Series. In addition, Huawei offers stabilization through AI while Meizu adopts EIS (software stabilization) too, to assist OIS even more.
The Achilleas’ Heel of smartphones is the lack of optical zoom capabilities since there is not enough room for moving parts and lenses as in the compact and DSLR cameras. To cope with that problem, companies started adding a second, telephoto lens that gets the job done. For example, the iPhone X’s second sensor is a 12MP f/2.4 52mm sensor that offers 2x optical zoom and the Meizu 15 Series is a 20MP IMX350 f/2.6 one that offers 3x optical zoom. Other manufacturers chose to not offer optical zoom but instead offer a wide secondary lens, like LG did.
To sum up, there is a lot going on in the photography department of smartphone manufacturers since users pay a lot of attention to these details. Of course, besides the hardware part, software optimization plays a big role too. We can all remember a few years back when the iPhone didn’t have the best sensor out there, yet it was the best camera on a smartphone since Apple had an extremely optimized software to help.