At this time within the smartphone sphere, the camera is king. The pace of development is rapid and the number of lenses is a technological arms race. The variety of focal lengths allows the manufacturers to work around the limitations of a fixed focal length in a small body. Just recently we have seen Huawei add a wide angle lens to its Mate 20 Pro, whilst Apple used their second lens for a somewhat telephoto focal length. As a means to an end, dual, triple and soon to be quad camera arrays make sense. However, the sensors remain minuscule and although to their credit, IQ could be better still if the sensor grew in place of multiple lenses. I have cameras of multiple sizes, from full frame digital, to APS-C, 1:2/3rd of an inch et al. My everyday camera happens to have a 1″ sensor type, giving it an advantage over the usual size for compact cameras. The more light that can meet the sensor, the easier it is for the camera processor – an area where phones have really hit their groove in recent years.
So, what if a mobile firm decided to use this existing advantage to its advantage and paired one, larger lens opening with a 1″ sensor? Given the space required for three lenses and their processor, I can’t imagine the footprint would be significantly larger, especially with the size of current flagship phones. Given their work with Leica, I’d love for the inevitable Huawei P30 Plus to take a bold step and offer this set-up. A real giant leap in pushing mobile photography – which I genuinely enjoy – and one achieved with photography in mind. Sure, I’d miss the dedicated monochrome sensor, but it appears they have removed this in lieu of the wide angle already on the aforementioned Mate Pro. Using a larger lens and a sensor better equipped to gather light would provide enough comfort, however.
The above image is similar to the header of this site – no coincidence as they were shot on the same day. The B&W was taken on my Fuji X100F, whereas this colour shot is taken straight from my Huawei P10 Plus with the Leica Dual Lens set-up. At 28mm it’s a little wider than the Fuji at 35mm, but the composition is similar. However, I read a lot of negativity about smartphone cameras and it’s something I feel quite strongly about.
“Want to get a decent image, buy a DSLR” – yeah, my 5Dii with the 17-40 L slips so readily in my trouser pocket. “They’re toy cameras” – at £700-£1000 the latest top models are expensive toys, then. “Pros use full frame only” – is that why billboards and magazine covers have been shot with iPhones? Honestly, the rhetoric you see against camera phones is asinine. Sure, it might not have the print fidelity, but I’d say it’s professional enough if you’re seeing them on billboards and covers. The funniest line I see is “get a real camera” – to which I always think, why would I use my Canon Ixus that takes less satisfying images than my phone?!
The rate of development in this corner of photography should be celebrated, not decried because everyone happens to have one. That’s a good thing. The more photos taken, the more drive for innovation, the higher chance this hobby continues to grow and develop. If you’re a professional photographer worried about these phones eating into your market, up your game. Don’t belittle these cameras just because they’re social cameras. Be glad you can capture usable images in a highly convenient way. It’s not as if ‘back-up’ cameras haven’t found an audience with hobbyists and pros and those haven’t always been the ultimate in image quality, either.
And on a significant point, if you consider a smartphone to be inferior to an interchangeable lens camera because it lacks features, or optical zoom etc, then how about embracing the limitation to inspire your creativity? The fixed focal length means you think more about the image. Heck, if operating a decent camera manually wasn’t so enjoyable, I’d set my camera to auto and just focus on the composition – something I have done with the aforementioned crappy Ixus. The only limitation that truly matters to any camera is the user, be that full frame, mirrorless or the smartphone.
As a parting shot, one of the most pleasing colour photos I’ve taken in a long time is the one below. Straight from the Huawei, inside the rainforest Biome at the Eden Project. Cheers, Matt.