Smartphone with a good camera: what to pay attention to when buying?

Smartphones have become indispensable tools, providing us with a whole world - access to the network and a ton of applications, helping us to stay connected and organize our lives. However, many people buy mobile gadgets because they want to get a good camera as well. But how do you know how good the camera of the smartphone you are interested in is? Guide to buying a smartphone with a great camera in front of you.

Types of cameras in smartphones Today, phones with triple and even quad cameras are becoming the standard, and this also applies to budget devices. But what functions do all these cameras perform? Today, there are six types of cameras in smartphones: standard / main cameras, ultra-wide-angle, telephoto or periscope, macro cameras, monochrome, and a depth sensor or 3D ToF.

Main camera

Previously, it was the only camera available in smartphones that took standard pictures without zooming in or out. It is the main camera that is usually used most often, as it is relatively versatile.

Ultra-wide-angle camera

This type of camera was introduced by LG in 2016. It takes pictures with a wider viewing angle / perspective compared to the main one. Thus, it is ideal for group shots, shooting buildings / architecture or landscape photos. Having an ultra-wide-angle camera also means you don't have to use the tedious panorama mode often.

Typically, ultra-wide-angle cameras are present in devices that cost $ 150 - $ 200, but do not expect to find them in smartphones of the entry-level or low-end segments. You can, for example, choose between the Samsung Galaxy A or Galaxy M series, Xiaomi Redmi Note devices, and Huawei Y series phones.Telephoto or periscope camera

These cameras take pictures with zoom, and telephotos typically provide 2-or 3-fold optical zoom. Periscope cameras are a newer invention, using a prism for even greater magnification (4-6-fold). In any case, these lenses are handy if you want to photograph a far-away object.

Some companies use software to get improved zoom results without using a telephoto lens or a camera with a periscope. Some brands combine the work of the software with the presence of a telephoto / periscope camera to zoom in, using a concept called hybrid zoom. For example, the Huawei P30 has a telephoto lens with 3x optical zoom, but it is capable of providing 5x hybrid zoom. Hybrid zoom is not as good as a purely optical camera, but better than a fully software-based one.

Macro camera

This sensor is relatively new in the smartphone world. It allows you to take macro shots (i.e. take very close-ups) of small objects, such as insects or flowers. Some phones (the same OnePlus 7T) use an ultra-wide-angle camera for macro photography, without providing users with a separate macro lens.

Monochrome camera

A camera of this type is not often found in phones. Huawei was the first to introduce a smartphone with an additional monochrome sensor. This camera is used to take real black-and-white photos, as opposed to color shots that are turned into black-and-white using a filter. Monochrome cameras can also be used to improve performance in low light, as the absence of a color filter increases the ability to collect light.

Depth sensor or 3D ToF

You can't shoot with this type of camera, as they are usually used to get additional information about the depth of the scene when shooting with the main camera.

Depth sensors are mainly used for photos in portrait mode, with the sensor capturing information to ensure that the subject is in focus and the background is not.

3D ToF sensors - this is a fundamentally new concept of the depth sensor, which allows you to get even more accurate information about the image.Usually, depth sensors are present in cheaper phones, while in expensive ones, 3D ToF sensors are offered instead. At the same time, some smartphones lack both: a telephoto lens or software is used to get information about the depth of the scene. Many phones use a software portrait mode for selfie cameras, which are not equipped with an additional sensor of this kind.

How many cameras do you need?

Low-cost smartphones (about $ 100) usually offer a single main camera or a dual one with a depth sensor. Some of these devices replace the depth sensor with an ultra-wide-angle camera. But more and more budget phones are offering triple or even quad cameras. In these cases, the kits consist of: a main camera, an ultra-wide-angle lens, a depth sensor, and a macro camera.

Zoom cameras are most often found in high-end devices, as the lenses and components for them are usually more expensive than for ultra-wide-angle or macro cameras. More expensive phones usually offer an ultra-wide-angle camera in addition to the main and zoom lenses, which makes it possible to shoot different perspectives in different situations.

Are you not sure yet how many cameras you need? Then think about what kind of photos you plan to take. Do you like to relax in nature or travel to different cities?Then perhaps you should purchase a phone with an ultra-wide-angle camera to capture the beautiful scenery and urban architecture. Do you have an extreme vacation or often watch sports games? Then the zoom camera will help you get closer to the subject without having to be physically closer.

Brand matters One of the most important factors when choosing a smartphone in terms of the camera is its manufacturer. This is due to the fact that the image quality of smartphones of any brand is insignificant, but differs from each other in color reproduction, exposure, and overall quality.

Google Are you thinking about buying a Pixel phone? Then you will photograph vividly, but without going beyond good taste. The Pixel series is known for its dynamic range - it retains detail well in the brightest and darkest parts of the same photo. So expect these phones to do a good job of taking bright outdoor photos, with you being able to see both what's in the shadows and well-lit objects.

These phones are also among the best for shooting in low light, offering a wonderful night mode. It's not as good as Huawei's photoflagmans, which can shoot in almost total darkness, but it's competitive anyway. Other well-known Pixel smartphone modes include Astrophotography mode for capturing the night sky and Photobooth for hands-free selfies.

Huawei

The Chinese brand has become the best at photography in recent years - at least when it comes to high-end devices. However, all Huawei phones tend to shoot superbly, providing plenty of detail in the frame and great dynamic range.

Previously, phones of this brand made sharper, less natural images, but recently the situation has changed. Tests have shown that the P30 Pro offers slightly warmer colors than Google and Samsung devices. But Huawei offers a choice of multiple color profiles, providing users with the desired tone.

< /p>Huawei was the first brand to offer an effective night mode, and soon after, competitors followed suit. This mode can be found in both budget and top-end Huawei devices. There is also a Light Painting mode that allows you to take photos with light inclusions (whether it's car lights or traces of flying meteors).

LG

On LG phones, you can get good daytime shots on with more realistic colors than Samsung's, but poor dynamic range is a common problem with images taken with this brand's cameras.

LG devices are generally not as good at taking photos in low light as Apple, Google, Huawei, and Samsung phones. Therefore, if you plan to take pictures in a nightclub or around a campfire, you should choose a device of a different brand.

High-end LG devices offer interesting additional features, such as cinemagraph modes (allowing you to create GIF images with moving elements) and panorama-360.

Samsung

Buy a Samsung phone and you can expect to get pictures with oversaturated colors. Like Google smartphones, the Korean brand's phones offer fantastic dynamic range.

< /p>Samsung lags behind Google and Huawei when it comes to high-quality night shooting, but the S20 series has seen some positive developments. As a result, your pictures after sunset will be very, very good.

In addition, Samsung devices of the Galaxy S20 and S10 series offer a convenient Single Take mode. Turn it on and your phone will automatically take pictures and videos.

Xiaomi

Chinese brand Xiaomi is another popular manufacturer offering inexpensive and reliable phones. Most often, Xiaomi devices in the daytime offer natural or slightly saturated colors, not matching the saturation levels of Samsung. In addition, they could use an improved dynamic range.

When it comes to shooting in low light, Xiaomi devices take pictures from disappointing to fantastic. The cheaper Xiaomi smartphones generally lack optical image stabilization in the main camera, which means you need to keep the phone as still as possible when shooting at night to avoid blurring the image.

In short: Take two phones with the same characteristics from different manufacturers, and you will definitely notice different photo quality due to the way each brand's device handles images. This is especially noticeable in color reproduction and at night. However, before making a decision, you should still try to compare multiple devices – either by asking a friend for a smartphone, or by taking a few pictures from the devices on display in stores.Megapixels: More is better?

The number of megapixels has become one of the most common methods for evaluating the quality of a camera. This is mostly true when it comes to entry-level smartphones. It is clear that the 8 -, 12-or 13-megapixel camera is almost 100% better than the 5-megapixel in the phone of the same manufacturer. This nuance is due to the fact that more megapixels equals more detail, although this may be the reason for ultra-sharp, overly detailed photos from cameras with a resolution of 48 Mp and higher.

Recently, smartphones with 48 -, 64 - and 108-megapixel sensors have appeared. Phones with such cameras typically use a technology called pixel binning to capture smaller images. Simply put, the information from all the megapixels is extracted to get better photos with a lower resolution. For example, 48-megapixel phones often take 12-megapixel photos by default, while 108-megapixel cameras take 27-megapixel pictures by default. At the same time, you can take pictures in full resolution - at 48, 64 or 108 MP.

Google, Apple and Samsung demonstrate that a 12-megapixel camera combined with excellent image processing techniques can produce impressive results. Therefore, you should not automatically assume that the larger the better when it comes to megapixels. In fact, the quality of a photo in low light can suffer if there are more pixels on the camera sensor.

In short: Megapixels tend to be important for lower-end phones, but to a lesser extent affect images from high-end devices. Companies like Apple and Google tend to rely on the software's intelligent capabilities to provide first-class images from their 12-megapixel cameras.What should I pay attention to?There are several other factors that help create great images, and one of the most important features is optical image stabilization (OIS). This is the hardware commonly used in the main and zoom cameras, which helps them to shoot steadily.

OIS reduces the effect of shaking hands or moving the phone. Without stabilization, images are more likely to get blurry, especially at night, when you need to make the shutter speed a little longer to get a brighter photo. This is also useful for recording videos.

Unfortunately, OIS is usually only present in flagships and mid-range devices, so it's hardly worth expecting optical stabilization from a $ 100 or $ 200 phone. However, it is better to learn more about the characteristics of the desired model – you may be lucky.

Note that some companies usually advertise EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) or general stabilization.

This is a software option that is generally not as good as OIS, though, it depends on the manufacturer. So, if you have a choice between a phone with EIS and an OIS (assuming they are almost identical in everything else), we would recommend using the second option.

Many phones offer AI mode in their cameras – it is used to recognize scenes and objects and automatically adjust image parameters. Huawei calls it AI Mode, while Samsung calls it Scene Optimizer and LG calls it AI Cam.These modes, for example, can detect that you are pointing the camera at a plate of food, and then increase the color saturation to get a brighter image. Or recognize that you're pointing the camera at a sunlit urban landscape, and then automatically activate the HDR to ensure that the bright sky and shaded areas are rendered equally well in the photo. Some AI modes are able to detect people in the picture and automatically turn on portrait mode, providing a blurry background.

Conveniently, the AI mode can most often be turned off in case you prefer to have full control over the frame and the shooting process.