Mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and mobile PCs are continually replacing other devices, and the camera could be next. For the layperson, the smartphone has already replaced point-and-shoot cameras — not just out of convenience, but also because phones now match the quality level of these cameras. Some experts say smartphones will one day replace DSLR cameras used by professional photographers.
Since the invention of smartphones, the camera technology inside them has only improved, and each new phone model has nipped closer and closer at the heels of camera companies. Phones have come a long way from 176×208 pixel pictures to today’s f 1.7 apertures, dual lenses and RAW shooting capabilities. As the technology continues to improve, mobile platforms may become the new standard used by professional photographers. Only time will tell.
Bleeding-Edge Smartphone Camera Technology
On the smartphone market, Asus claims to have the highest resolution mobile camera to date on its Zenfone AR. This phone has a Sony IMX318 image sensor on its rear camera, which it uses to combine four 23 megapixel pictures and make them into a single 92-megapixel “super resolution” photo. These pictures are four times clearer than standard HD thanks to this layering process, which takes place with the help of today’s mobile platforms, such as Qualcomm’s Snapdragon. The camera on Google Pixel has a similar layering action it uses to create higher-quality photos.
Another new technology driving the mobile photography industry forward is image signal processing (ISP), which supports better image quality through machine learning. Machine learning techniques can enhance a computer’s vision and make things like facial recognition possible. The next generation of ISP technology is designed for advances that have been made in computer vision and virtual reality, including passive and active depth sensing modules. These enable the camera to see 3-D pictures intelligently so they can take better shots.
Smartphones are not only replacing cameras, but also photo editing, as pictures can be edited on your phone right after they’re taken. These days, you can do more than just add a filter. With apps like Snapseed from Google, you can make professional edits almost the way you could on a computer. With smartphones taking over what other devices are able to do, photography is becoming more centered around the phone, making it convenient for photographers.
Photography Meets Augmented Reality
One of the advantages of improved camera technology on mobile platforms is the opportunity for it to combine with other cutting-edge technologies, such as augmented reality. If you’re familiar with Pokemon Go or you’ve used Snapchat filters, you’re familiar with augmented reality. It’s technology that views your world through the camera lens and adds a layer over it, mixing the real world with a virtual one. There are already some augmented reality photography mobile apps on app stores today. While most of them are as silly as Snapchat’s animal filters, some are for people who are serious about photography and film, and there’s potential for more apps to head in this direction and use augmented reality to help students and pros take better pictures and videos.
Experts lack consensus as to whether smartphones will eventually replace DSLRs, known as the best camera technology available to date. What is certain, however, is that smartphones are a game-changer for camera companies and they will continue influencing the photography industry.