Does more camera sensors equal better photography?

Double, triple or quad rear cameras are now a thing on smartphones, with the aim to allow you obtain a photographic experience. A lot of times the average person desires a cool smartphone with not so much need to understand all terms, while the enthusiast, researches for a cool smartphone to the depth of its features.

How enthusiastic you are about phone rear camera is probably what have led you here, and frankly it is a desire to kick off from the scratch.

realme smartphones
realme multi-camera phones. credit- @MadhavSheth1

Having a good rear camera serves a well-known purpose. But having double, triple or more, what could be the essence? Can it be that the more camera sensors the better image quality we can get? Let us obtain step by step the reasons, use of sensors and if together the more rear camera sensors you have the better the image quality.

Lesson 101

Photography is not just a hobby to a lot of people, it’s a business, it’s a trend, it’s a culture, and it’s a very important branch of entertainment. It captures our great moments physically than mentally, and shows us exactly when we want to see it. Without it, we probably have mere stories of events without proof or just mental memories. Imagine losing your memory and no images or pictures to remind you of who you are or were. Not going to be quite easy.

While the world has accepted this very important piece of art, the idea of what it can do is already known and not a debate. This innovation has come to stay to the point that its advancement is a major build up and investment. Why companies want to improve the picture quality of cameras is quite understandable, but how do you know when a camera has stepped up?

Well! Some things add up to know this, but a very vital area noteworthy is the camera sensors, which is the main area we are looking at generally and even in the rear cameras.

What is an image sensor?

An image sensor is the part in the hardware of a camera responsible for capturing light and converting it through a viewfinder into an image.

iPhone 5 camera sensor
phone camera sensor

Understanding the mechanism of this isn’t so hard. It is okay to say, we see images due to the amount of light they emit, and how our photosites (responsible for capturing the lights we see) capture this light and transform them to an electrical signal than can be interpreted.

Cameras on the other hand use this same mechanism, wherewith the sensor is given the task of collecting incoming light when the shutter opens, converting it into electrical signal.

With these explanations, how important can we say the camera sensors are?  Very important, but this still doesn’t tell us if there is a standard for how much sensor a camera should have. And if the more sensors it has, the better the photo quality. Let’s take a ride at it.

A camera’s image sensor can be said to be responsible for determining the quality of image produced. This is due to its very crucial task in the process of making images; that is the ability to take in photons or light. The larger the sensor, the larger its ability or space to capture photons, and that is significant in the image creation or output.

For a Digital Camera, the sensors have quite an impact on photos, and we expect it to be similar even in smartphone cameras. Let’s find out the general impact of camera sensors on photos.

Impact of Camera Sensors on Photos

Remember the word photography was derived from two greek words PHOS (also referred to as photos, meaning light) and graphe (meaning drawing or writing).  Photography according to its derivation means the ‘drawing with/of light’. This definition will help us understand that pictures are the drawing of or with light a camera sees. And the device responsible for capturing this light is the sensors. This can further explain that the more light captured the more quality you get.

The sensor size of your camera has quite a tremendous effect on your image quality, affecting different areas.

1. Resolution

When checking out camera qualities, we all go to check the resolution of its images. We know that the higher the resolution the better images captured by the camera. But how does sensor influence resolution we all crave about?

Resolution is measured in pixels and megapixels, and a Pixel is the smallest element of a picture. A camera sensor is the device that contains photosites with the ability to capture lights that can be translated into pixels. The more the sensor, the larger the photosites, the more light captured, the more pixels are made, the more resolution you have.  Therefore the camera sensor has a significant effect on the resolution.

2. Low-light Performance

Have you ever struggled to take a picture in the dark without camera flash? It’s that hard to see a lot of details as you will desire. A higher camera sensor improves this.  As a larger sensor possesses larger photosites, it gives it a better ability to capture low-light photos than a smaller sensor will do.

3. Image Noise and Crop Factor

Zooming your pictures can bring about blurriness and image noises or grain. This is one of the reasons people prefer larger resolution, which is proportional to larger sensors.

Crop factor or focal length describes your camera sensor size and a 35mm film frame. We can explain crop factor this way.

Putting a lens in a camera projects a circular image at the back of the camera. When the image finally gets to the crop factor, we can say it is cropped from being in a circular format to a rectangular format, losing out some details. The larger your sensor the more details you can keep despite the crop factor. Having a Full frame sensor would bring out the exact image in the view finder, therefore no crop factor effect.

After understanding how Camera sensors work generally, I hope we are getting closer to answering if the more rear camera sensors we have mounted on our smartphone, the better quality we are to get? Let’s keep going.

Lesson 102

Multiple rear camera sensors

We’ve come across the best of smartphones or our top smartphone brands practicing a new or modern culture of multiple rear cameras. It takes being a phone geek or nerd to understand the mechanism of such actions. Though we can perceive averagely that these companies won’t practice this act if it doesn’t improve the quality of the image we get. But is that truly the case or just an assumption?

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The first of all basic essence of multiple rear cameras is to give a photographic effect. The way photographers pick up the zoom lens, the fish eye lens or different lenses in order to get the angle they desire is the basic function of multiple rear cameras.

Each rear camera serves as a different camera unit with a different lens that offers a different angle or dimension, with your phone being able to switch so quickly between cameras or lenses, or all work together to give you a great quality.  The primary reason remains to switch between the different cameras or different focal length that each cameras offer quickly. So it’s like having two to four lenses at once on your device, with the ability to switch between them.

Let’s take for example, Samsung Galaxy phones which are on a usual note possessing two or more rear cameras. These rear cameras work separately but in harmony to bring you the derived quality image you obtain.

phone multiple camera placement

Having known the primary function of multiple rear cameras, we can say it offers an advantage in terms of extra lenses and focal length, and this feature is cool as it gives you the ability to take different angles, zooming, etc.

But multiple rear cameras will come with multiple sensors, and from Lesson 101 above, the function of a camera sensor was explained. Can we say this is also an advantage? Can having multiple rear cameras that comes with multiple sensors come in handy in improving camera quality?

Not all the time that a smart phone with multiple rear camera can mean better image quality in comparison with a smartphone with just one rear camera. And yes, a larger sensor definitely means better image quality as already stated, but smartphone manufacturers know their way around this.

Wrapping it up…

Let’s take a look at Google Pixel 3; it is one of the best smartphones for mobile photography (though down the list of the best), yet possess just one rear camera. This is possible because it is able to use software Algorithms, AI and machine learning to produce features like the optical or digital zooming that multiple rear cameras offer.

Therefore multiple rear cameras offer features of additional lenses and more sensors, but having one rear camera that still figured a way to perform all these tasks was made possible with the Google Pixel 3.

It should also be known that the best of smartphones for photography are

  1. iPhone 11 Pro
  2. Samsung Galaxy S20 ultra
  3. Huawei P40 Pro
  4. Google Pixel 4XL
  5. Samsung Galaxy S10

All of these phones possess dual or more rear cameras. It is conclusive to say, while some smartphones have proven one rear camera can still produce equal or better quality photos than some multiple rear cameras; multiple rear cameras have the edge in picture quality and photographic experience. The features of each rear camera should be checked be it one rear camera or multiple rear cameras and can then be compared with the specification of another phone to decide which is better.

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