Quad cameras are now part and parcel of many new flagship phone releases. We first saw the emergence of the quad camera back in 2018, with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy A9.
In this article, we talk about the lenses that commonly form a quad array set up, we’ll also explain how these lenses can be used to create images worthy of publication on your social media feed. Last off, we’ll offer our predictions for the future of smart phone photography.
While dual and tri lens cameras offered users more versatility in the way they compose their shots, the addition of another lens adds another opportunity for users to show off their creative flair. As the name suggests, a quad camera is comprised of a unique set of four lenses, each which lend themselves to creating unique effects and making the most of any shooting scenario.
Depending on the brand, the combination of unique lens used can differ. There’s no set-in stone formula for what makes the perfect quad lens camera, but if you’re into a certain style of shooting, you’ll want to pay close attention to the specs of your camera, so you can always produce the perfect shot no matter the shooting conditions.
Image quality is often denoted by the number of megapixels, which simply is the resolution of your image. It’s of particular importance if you plan on enlarging images or cropping images and you don’t want to sacrifice the quality of the shot. When producing large scale prints, cameras with a lower megapixel count are more likely to produce pixelated images.
Due to the heavy marketing focus on megapixel pixel count, there can be confusion, with amateur photographers believing that the number of megapixels is the number one indicator of a good quality camera.
It’s actually the light sensitive area within the lens, known as photosites (pixels) which are responsible for capturing light and transforming it into a digital image. The number and namely the size of the pixels within your sensor can drastically alter the quality of your shot.
The Samsung S20 Ultra has one of the highest and largest image sensor pixels counts at 108 million 0.8μm pixels (μm is the measurement used to calculate pixel count). A large sensor combined with a higher density of larger pixels alleviate issues such as digital noise on your shots. The size of the sensor is measured in fractions of an inch. Look out for this number on your phones spec sheet - 1/1.33-inch, when determining the size of your camera’s sensor.
All Quad lens cameras are composed of a primary sensor. Sensors work by drawing in light from your surroundings. The larger the sensor, the more light that can be drawn in from your surroundings. Not only do bigger sensors help with shooting in low light conditions but have an overall impact on the overall quality of the image. Primary cameras are often noted as “wide,” meaning they have a focal length closer 24mm, whilst shorter than an ultra-wide-angle lens, you can still fit more in the frame.
Depth Sensors explained
Deep sensors work in tandem with your primary lenses and are often attributed to the fan favourite classic bokeh style image effect, creating an image with a shallower depth of field, focusing solely on the subject you’re shooting and blurring out the background. Its application is seen mostly in portrait photography.
Ultra-wide-angle lens explained
A wide-angle lens was the first lens to be included in the tri-lens setup. Quite simply, an ultra-wide-angle lens allows you to fit more of your subject and their surroundings in the frame. A wide-ultra- wide angled lens has a shorter focal length. Lenses measuring at 24mm fall within the range of what’s considered to be ultra-wide-angle lens. High end phones like the iPhone 11 include a 13mm focal length. With such a short focal length, you can capture a 120 degree view of the scene.
Advantages of an ultra-wide-angle lens
What’s the benefit? As we discussed earlier on, wide-angled lens allow you to capture whole scenes that you’d otherwise not be able to fit with a lens of a higher focal length. For example, they’re particularly suited to demonstrating the size of an object or landscape at a distance. Conversely, the closer you are to the subject, the larger they’ll appear.
Once reliant on digital zoom, the addition of a telephoto lens introduces to optical zoom to your smart phone. A telephoto lens brings objects closer that would otherwise have to been photographed from afar. Unlike wide-angle lens, the longer the focal length, the further away an image can be shot, giving the impression that you’re closer to the image than you really are. For example, the Google Pixel 4 has a 50m telephoto lens with 2 x optical zoom. Although, only recently announced, the Note20 Ultra boasts 5x optical zoom.
Telephoto lenses are perfect for getting closer to the action. Whether you’re at a sporting event, or you’re getting your Bear Grylls out in the wilderness, you’ll be able capture wildlife at a safe distance.
A telephoto lens is a great choice for portrait photography, removing the need to be up close to the subject and leading to less distortion of facial features. A telephoto lens has the added advantage of being able to produce more natural bokeh style effects.
Quad cameras setups have steadily made their way to mid-range devices like the Samsung Galaxy A71 5G and even the affordable Samsung Galaxy A21s . Although handsets might boast a quad camera array, there’s a lot of variation between the quality of each camera setup. There are several things to look out for:
Remember, megapixel count isn’t the be all and end all. The size of the sensor and its pixel count contribute to the quality of your shot, especially when shooting in low light. There’s also aperture, the opening of the lens which allow more or less light into your image sensor. Unlike detachable lenses, smart phone lenses normally have a fixed aperture.
Another feature to look out for is Optical image stabilisation (OIS). As the name suggests, OIS works to stabilise an image that might otherwise me subject to motion blur caused by the movement of your handsets. The new Oppo Find X2 Pro 5G is just one example of a phone with this awesome feature.
The trend doesn’t seem to be slowing and with the demand from creators to produce high quality publishable content, there’s no doubt that we’ll see further enhancements in the near future. Are we edging closer to DSLR territory? Maybe, but not quite.
Smart phones still have their limitations. Without comprising on size, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a smart phone that matches full capability of a mid-high range DSLR. If there’s one thing for sure, we can anticipate that we’ll see additional lenses added for even more functionality. How they’ll fit on the rear panel is anyone’s guess.
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