Cameras are at the same time one of the most exciting and often disappointing parts of smartphones – especially at the top.
Companies like Apple, Samsung and Google are constantly pushing smartphone photography, with more megapixels, improved algorithms, larger sensors and new lenses. But if we told you that a flagship phone had three rear lenses, you could probably guess what they do.
Inevitably there will be a wide-angle lens, an ultra-wide-angle lens and a telephoto, which probably offer about 3x optical zoom. Two lenses? The telephoto didn’t make it.
There are exceptions, and adding more than three lenses to the mix (or moving to a cheaper phone) makes things a little less predictable, but for the most part you get pretty much the same camera setup on most smartphones – just with different ones. quality hardware and software.
There are good reasons for that. The lenses that smartphone makers have chosen are usually among the most useful for most people. But what about the people who don’t want that combination? Or do you just want the option to choose? For those folks, we’d like to see more of the following features offered.
1. Continuous Optical Zoom
The Sony Xperia 1 IV differentiates itself in a number of ways, but perhaps most notably by offering a continuous optical zoom.
Yes, this is another wide-angle/ultra-wide/telephoto combo phone, but that telephoto can smoothly transition from an 85mm focal length to a 125mm focal length – or anywhere in between. That equates to between 3.5x and 5.2x optical zoom.
The vast majority of phones only offer optical zoom at one focal length, and if two are offered, two lenses are usually required, as on the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, which offers both 3x and 10x optical zoom. But doing it that way still means you can only zoom optically to those two levels – not the steps in between.
So continuous optical zoom is much, much more versatile, and it’s something we want more phones to offer – and not just Sony’s.
2. 35m main lenses
The primary lens on a smartphone is almost always around 25mm, but on phones that also have an ultra-wide and a telephoto camera, an argument could be made for a 35mm main snapper instead, as that’s more of a middle ground between the two. two in terms of focal length and how much you can get in the shot.
Motorola has acknowledged this as it plans to offer a 35mm lens on the upcoming Moto X30 Pro. In fact, there’s seemingly no ultra-wide here, with the other two sensors at 50mm and 85mm (so they’re more zoomed in).
That’s the kind of unusual setup we’d love to see more manufacturers experiment with, but especially with the 35mm bit, as that’s a focal length you’ll rarely find on a phone, despite its versatility.
3. Good Macro Cameras
Macro cameras have had a strange time on smartphones. Grab a high-end phone and it almost certainly won’t have a dedicated macro lens, and while some have attached macro modes to their ultra-wide lenses, these can be hit and miss.
Cheap phones, on the other hand, often have dedicated macro lenses, but they’re usually low-quality options that only offer a few megapixels.
We would like to see a greater emphasis on excellent macro hardware and software, whether that be dedicated lenses or not. Phones like the Oppo Find X3 Pro with its micro-lens are rare examples of high-end handsets that have pumped a little more money into the macro side, and the results can be seriously impressive, so more of this please.
4. Long Range Zoom
If you want a smartphone with a really long optical zoom, like 10x, then your options are basically Samsung or occasionally Huawei. Other brands rarely exceed 5x and stay around 3x or even 2x zoom in most cases.
Yet there are so many uses for 10x zoom, from shooting distant (or skittish) animals to the details high up on buildings or on boats in the water. These types of cameras can also be surprisingly capable of taking portrait photos.
We don’t need every phone to have a camera capable of this, but we’d love to have it without buying one of Samsung’s best handsets.
5. Variable Aperture
Usually with a DSLR or mirrorless camera you can control the aperture – change it to adjust the depth of field and how much light hits the sensor. Being able to adjust this is an important part of composing photos, but for the most part it’s not possible on smartphones.
So we’d love to see Samsung bring this back — and get other manufacturers on board. If you do this, their handsets can certainly be one of the best camera phones†