Capturing the best moments of our lives have never been so easy, thanks to the development of smartphone cameras in the last few years. Modern smartphone cameras now come with DSLR-like features in a slim form factor. But I’ve always wondered how did the smartphone camera technology have progressed over the years?
We take a quick rundown of the major milestones, all the way from the very first smartphone camera to the first 12MP camera, and till the present dual-lens technology that even a DSLR can’t offer.
I’ve always wanted to know what the first smartphone camera would have performed like. The first mobile phone to ever hit the market with a camera is the Sharp J-SH04, or simply known as the J-Phone. The in-built rear facing camera came with a 0.11MP CMOS image sensor, and the image quality of that camera was priceless for those days. While the J-Phone wasn’t as advanced as today’s devices, it was marked as the beginning of smartphone camera evolution.
The Sony Ericsson mobile phones were something special in my early days that came with the best of Sony Cybershot digital cameras and the cellular technologies of Ericsson. As mobile phone makers continued the camera megapixel race, Sony Ericsson released the K750 in 2005, one of the very first mobile phones to come out with a 2MP camera. It also featured a built-in LED flash and the capability to record videos.
Since the need for more megapixels was realized, Sony Ericsson went ahead with the K800i that was released in July 2006. The device sported a 3.2MP camera in the rear side with several Cybershot features such as a Xenon flash, and the “BestPic” bracketing mode that helps in taking great shots. The K800i was also seen in the James Bond Casino Royale movie. This was the time when I was confused whether to buy the dedicated CyberShot digital camera or the Cybershot mobile phones.
The Nokia N95 was clearly one of my most favorite smartphones during my final college days. It was unique because of the specifications and performance that it offered along with the unique slider design. The Nokia N95, which was released in 2007, featured the world’s first 5MP mobile camera with the high-quality Carl Zeiss optics and LED flash. Yes, the Carl Zeiss optics helped me to take some superb images with great quality for its time.
Nokia and Sony weren’t the only ones that made milestones in smartphone camera competition. I remember back in September 2008 that Samsung had unveiled the world’s first 8MP camera on a smartphone called the Samsung i850 INNOV8. Users were able to record videos with it up to 480p resolutions. This is where I realized that the companies will not stop at the megapixel race. Over a year later in August 2009, Samsung once again makes a milestone by releasing the first 12MP camera for a smartphone called the M8910 Pixon12. It featured a 28mm lens for mid wide angle shots, and with Xenon, LED flash and 480p video recording support.
This smartphone is one that I would surely not forget. Back in 2012, Nokia came out with a smartphone that featured the largest ever rated megapixel camera in a smartphone. The Nokia 808 PureView featured a 41MP camera with a F2.4 Carl Zeiss lens that helped with good quality and low-light performance. While the smartphone was able to produce stellar images, the smartphone’s camera protruded out a lot in a way it made the device very thick.
It should be added that from the later year, smartphone makers preferred to release their products with cameras that offered lesser megapixels. This helped the manufacturers to make thin and light smartphones. On a personal note, having a lot of megapixels in a very small mobile image sensor certainly, will welcome a lot of noise in the image which isn’t good for low-light situations.
While smartphone makers are focusing in dual-lens camera setups for their latest devices in today’s market, one of the first dual camera technology was used on the HTC One M8 that sported dual 4MP cameras and with dual-LED flash support. The cameras were also able to record up to 1080p at 60fps. The purpose of the dual 4MP camera was to work in tandem to produce a high-resolution image.
As I love to do photography, I always believed more in using the fast and prime lenses with bright apertures. The fact is, none of the smartphones ever went below F2.0 aperture until Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S6 smartphones with F1.8. By 2016, smartphone cameras have far evolved to produce great images that could possibly rival DSLRs. The 12MP camera on the Samsung Galaxy S7 produced some of the finest quality Images and great low light performance, thanks to the bright F1.7 aperture. The Galaxy S7/S7 Edge is still one of the best smartphone cameras on the market (until the next generation arrives). The camera also offers phase detection AF and video recording up to 2160p at 30fps.
LG redefined the dual-lens capability of a smartphone with the LG G5 that featured a 16MP camera for standard shots, and 8MP is for wide angle captures. Yes, a wide-angle lens on a smartphone is something I wouldn’t have imagined, that too in a dual lens configuration so users can switch between lens for normal and wide angle scenes. While the addition of wide-angle photography in a smartphone can challenge the likes of DSLR’s, the LG G5’s wide-angle performance has been just decent.
Huawei was the first brand in the market to make smartphones with dual cameras that offered the depth of field effect. This particular feature will allow users to capture images with beautiful bokeh, just like how photographers shoot with a DSLR. The camera consists of dual 12MP image sensors with the goodness of Lecia branded lens with a bright F2.2 aperture and a 27mm focal length. The camera is capable of recording videos at 1080p at 60fps.
While many other smartphone makers have already released dual-camera smartphones, the iPhone 7 Plus is officially the first iPhone to feature a dual-lens setup. The cameras consist of dual 12MP sensors, one which will be supported by a 28mm lens with F1.8 aperture, and the other with a longer 58mm lens with F2.8 aperture. This means that one of the 12MP cameras will be able to take close shots with good bokeh, and the other that’s able to capture telescopic imagery. The cameras are capable of recording videos up to 2160p at 30fps.