The last couple of years has seen a proliferation of multiple camera lenses on smartphones. While multiple camera setups were found in phones as early as 2014, it was only 2016 when dual-camera phones started gaining steam. Fast forward to 2019 and we now have phones that have a stupendous number of cameras on them. But the question is - do we really need so many cameras on our smartphone? Let’s find out!

Logical Progression

When smartphones first came out, they had meagre single-core processors that were still considered to be cutting edge for their times. Eventually, as technology progressed, we started seeing more cores with more brawn (octa-core processors are now commonplace). Similarly, smartphone cameras too evolved in a logical progression. With increasing processing capacity and the rising adoption rate of mobile phones, smartphone manufacturers were under more pressure to offer better cameras. But unlike their conventional competition; the point-and-shoot cameras, there wasn’t a lot of space to fit bigger sensors. So, manufacturers had to resort to workarounds to amp up picture quality.

A perfect blend of smartphone hardware and software

Early in the day, when dual cameras were introduced on smartphones, they weren’t necessarily functional. The HTC Evo 3D was the first phone to sport a dual-camera setup where the second camera helped capture 3D images and videos. But as sound as it was in theory, it didn’t perform as well. Then a couple of years later, the HTC One M8 rechristened the concept of dual cameras. With processors getting better and image-processing algorithms getting more sophisticated, phones threw some serious shade on point-and-shoot cameras. But this was only the start.

Being good wasn’t enough

To offer a better photography experience, smartphone manufacturers now included more lenses that specialised for certain scenarios. For instance, depth sensors helped take better portraits, telephoto/periscope sensors helped with optical zoom, ultrawide sensors helped capture wider shots and TOF (Time of Flight) sensors helped take even better portraits (with the help of a more sophisticated depth mapping technology).

Smartphones use multiple types of sensors to achieve better composite results

So are multiple cameras necessary to take good shots?

Yes and no. Yes, because there are some things you just can’t achieve with software, yet. Like fitting a wider frame in a close-range shot will only be possible with a wide-angle lens. Or for lossless zoom, only software won’t make the cut.

But at the same time, it’s essential for the phone to have great image-processing to take advantage of the given hardware. For instance, the Google Pixel 3, despite just having a single camera is arguably the best camera phone out there. Its image processing algorithms and dedicated image processing chip make the most out of the limited hardware.

But if you’re looking to buy a new phone and having a good camera is a priority, it would be wiser to go for a phone that has multiple lenses. As mentioned earlier, having multiple lenses at your disposal is very useful in a wide range of scenarios.

Like this article? Also read: A quick guide on how to shoot the stars with your smartphone
Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

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