The latest smartphones have incredible cameras loaded with advanced technology and modes. Some are so advanced, though, that fully understanding them is tricky. That’s why we’ve asked our resident camera expert to explain some of the tech and settings that come on new smartphones.
Camera tech explained
These days there’s more to a great camera phone than just its megapixel count. Here’s what some of the other tech means.
New phones like the LG G5 and Huawei P9 have two cameras on the back that work together to capture better photos.
On the LG G5, for example, the two cameras team up to take 24MP ultra-wide photos so you can capture a bigger group of friends or a wider landscape.
The Huawei P9, on the other hand, has one camera that captures crisp detail while the other concentrates on colour so you get the best possible 12MP photos.
Wide angle lens
A wide angle lens gives your camera phone a wider field of view. This is especially useful on selfie cameras as it means you can squeeze more people into the shot without using a selfie stick.
Optical image stabilisation
Optical image stabilisation is designed to cut out blur in your photos caused by tiny movements, like shaky hands. It works by letting the camera move separately to the rest of the phone, so it stays still as the phone moves.
It’s one of the most important things for improving picture quality, which is why the new HTC 10 has optical image stabilisation on the front camera as well as the rear one.
If you’re a fan of HTC’s phones, you might have heard the term UltraPixel. It’s a word the Taiwanese company uses to describe the big pixels found in its cameras. The idea is, bigger pixels let in more light so you get brighter, more colourful photos. That means even with fewer pixels you still get great picture quality.
Dual Pixel technology is something found in the new Samsung Galaxy S7, and it’s lifted straight from Canon’s high-end digital cameras.
With a Dual Pixel camera, each pixel has two light sensors – like a pair of eyes. That lets the Galaxy S7 use all of its pixels to focus your photo as each one has depth perception, which is why it focuses instantly.
Camera settings explained
As well as advanced hardware, new camera phones have cutting-edge software too. That means there are lots of settings to get your head around if you’re going to make the most of your photos.
On some new phones, like the Huawei P9, you can control the aperture (aka f-stop or f-number). This changes the depth of field of your photo, so you can have everything in focus or just the stuff close to the camera. The lower the f-stop number, the more light the lens is capable of taking in.
ISO changes how sensitive the camera is to light. With lower numbers, your shots will look darker but they’ll also have less noise (the weird fuzziness you sometimes see in poorly-lit photos). If you set the ISO to a high number, you’ll be able to see more in photos of dark scenes but the shots won’t be as sharp.
By changing the shutter speed you change how much light gets into the camera. A long shutter speed will create a brighter photo, but if the camera or your subject moves at all you’ll see motion blur.
The exposure value tells the camera how bright you want the final image to look. Moving it up and down compensates for different light levels to give you a more natural photo.
Manual focus (AF/MF)
Taking manual control of the focus can create interesting shots where different things are in and out of focus. If you feel like getting creative with your Instagram account, this is definitely a setting you want to play with.
A lot of phones now have a macro mode that lets you get crystal clear close-ups. It automatically optimises all the camera settings so it can focus clearly when things are only a few centimetres from the lens.
The white balance setting changes the overall colour temperature of your photo. This is handy when shooting under artificial lights as they can make things look yellow – changing the white balance brings them back to their natural colours.
Metering helps to determine the right exposure. You can change the metering to better expose the whole image (matrix metering) or just your subject (spot metering).
If there’s any camera jargon you want to know more about, drop us a message in the comments below.