- The best phone companies with a good camera
- The main criteria for choosing phones with a good camera
- Additional image enhancement technologies
- Chinese phones with a good camera
The best phone companies with a good camera
DxOMark rating – a list of results of a special benchmark. It was developed by professional photographers and engineers, and is designed to evaluate the photographic capabilities of a device based on relevant characteristics – sensor specifications, imaging chip, lens optics, and other parameters.
Based on DxOMark rankingsthe best phone manufacturers with a good camera in 2017:
- Google (Pixel series is the absolute leader in the ranking);
- Huawei (Mate flagship line);
- Apple (current iPhone models top the ranking every year);
- Samsung (but only models from the flagship S line);
- HTC (again, flagship U and One m lines);
- Sony (X-series – a relaunched flagship line after the commercial failure of the Z-series);
- Nokia (model 808, which, thanks to PureView technology, is still on the list of the best camera phones).
However, all these phones (except Nokia 808) are in the flagship price segment and are expensive. For example, Google Pixel 2, which tops the rating, costs from $650 and is not officially sold in Russia. Apple iPhone 8 Plus, which occupies a modest third place, is available in our country for 60 thousand rubles or more.
If we talk about the budget and medium price segments, then good photographic qualities can boast:
- Xiaomi Mi5S is a mid-range smartphone equipped with dual cameras developed by Sony;
- Huawei P9 – two camera modules, Sony sensors, Leica optics. Last year’s, but still relevant flagship;
- OnePlus 3T is the flagship killer. The top-end “stuffing”, including the latest camera modules from Sony and the most productive Qualcomm Snapdragon processor at the time of the device’s release;
- Asus ZenFone 3 is also a flagship, only a sample of the year before last. A good camera module from Sony, the laser focusing system tested in the ZenFone Laser and excellent technical characteristics.
- A good camera can also be found in Huawei Honor 8 (the flagship of the Honor series), Huawei Nova (a very peculiar device, part of the same “experimental” series as, for example, Magic), Lenovo Motorola Moto Z (modular flagship with expandable functionality) and LG V20 (an alternative flagship line of the Korean manufacturer).
The main criteria for choosing phones with a good camera
When choosing a phone with good photographic qualities, you need to pay attention to the following technical characteristics:
- Sensor model;
- Number of sensors and functions of the second module;
- Resolution (actual or extrapolated);
- Focus mechanism;
- Additional technologies that improve image quality.
Other technical characteristics of the smartphone, of course, also matter. However, it is worth considering that really high-quality images can only be obtained on smartphones equipped with flagship processors. Such high-performance chips can process RAW data at high speed, taking it from the sensor with minimal delay. This ensures excellent image quality.
The main manufacturer of sensors for cameras in smartphones is Sony. It is her products that are installed in the vast majority of models of the middle and lower price segments and absolutely in all flagships.
The line of camera modules for smartphones from Sony is called IMX – and the higher the serial number of the model, the better it shoots.
For example, the LG Nexus 5 smartphone, which was one of the best camera phones of 2013, used the Sony IMX179. And in OnePlus (the first), released a little later, also in 2013 – already IMX214.
Current camera phones have the following modules installed:
- Sony IMX333 – for Samsung Galaxy S8 +;
- Sony IMX362 – Google Pixel 2;
- Sony IMX398 – OnePlus 5.
The higher the serial number of the sensor, the better. But not only it determines the photographic capabilities of a smartphone.
Number of sensors and functions of the second module
The vast majority of modern camera phones use two camera modules – the main and additional. The second expands the capabilities of the device by adding different functions:
- Precise determination of the depth of focus (like Huawei Mate P9 or P10);
- Ability to change the depth of focus after taking a picture (HTC One m10);
- Portrait mode and background blur (Apple iPhone 7, 8);
- Image resolution extrapolation (most Chinese camera phones);
- Expanding the range of shades (LG G5);
- Improved shooting in low light conditions (Huawei Mate P9).
As a result, for high-quality pictures it is worth buying a smartphone with a camera equipped with two modules. But the increased number of sensors does not yet mean the maximum visual beauty of the image. For example, Google Pixel 2 has only one module – but the smartphone tops the DxOMark rating thanks to the built-in neural network that improves image quality.
It is foolish to assume that the higher the resolution of the sensor, the better. The HTC One m9 took great pictures with the 5 megapixel camera. Sensor resolution determines the amount of detail in an image.
So, for smartphones, a camera with a resolution of 8 or 13 megapixels is more than enough.
But if you plan to shoot video in 4K resolution, it is recommended to pay attention to models with a 21-megapixel sensor.
Aperture, also known as aperture, determines the light sensitivity of the camera. The smaller its value, the more light hits the module. So, a smartphone with an f / 1.4 camera can be used for shooting in the twilight and spectacular shots in daylight, and with a camera above f / 4 – except for street shooting. In addition, aperture determines the depth of field of an image.
The optimal aperture value in smartphone cameras is f/2.
The optical components of a smartphone camera are the lenses in the lens. They affect light sensitivity, the type of camera (telephoto, “normal”, wide-angle), as well as the sharpness and degree of detail of the image.
Usually the optics are manufactured by the same company as the sensor. But in rare cases, the smartphone manufacturer replaces the “native” lenses with someone else’s. For example, Huawei Mate P9 or P10 uses optics from Leica, which provides better image enlightenment – but at the same time increases the cost of the device.
In smartphone cameras, due to the small size of the module, two types of focusing are used – contrast and laser.
Contrast autofocus implies the presence on the sensor of several special pixels that analyze the contrast of individual areas of the image. The objects in the frame that have the most contrast are the ones that are in focus.
This type of focusing is good for photographing areas with good but not true backlight or true front lighting; portrait, landscape shooting, photographing moving objects.
The development of contrast focusing technology is laser. When determining the “center” of the image, the camera scans the surrounding space with a very thin laser beam – and by the reflection time it determines the object closest to the smartphone. Such focusing is characterized by maximum speed – but at short distances. Ideal for portrait and macro photography.
Flagship smartphones like the Google Pixel use combined focusing techniquewhich includes both laser and contrast mechanisms, as well as real-time software processing.
Additional image enhancement technologies
Additional technologies for improving image quality include:
- Ultrapixel – increased size of each individual pixel on the camera;
- PureView – extended color range;
- HDR + is another technology for expanding the color range;
- Various neural networks and software extensions.
Most of today’s flagship smartphones primarily use software-based image enhancement technologies such as neural network processing (a prime example is the edge-lit portrait mode on the iPhone 8), HDR, or HDR+ (the latter is Google’s proprietary technology).
Chinese phones with a good camera
Among the good Chinese smartphones with a fairly high-quality camera, the following models can be distinguished:
- Meizu MX6 – Sony IMX386, 12 MP, HDR;
- ZTE Nubia Z11 mini S – Sony IMX318, 22 MP, HDR, contrast autofocus (which for some reason does not work well in low light conditions, but works great in daylight);
- Xiaomi Mi5 – Sony IMX298, 16 MP, great for shooting in daylight, support for Camera2 API (you can install a third-party camera application for better shooting).
In general, most Xiaomi smartphones support Camera2 API technology, so third-party applications (like AZ Camera, Nextbit Camera, Google Camera, etc.) provide better images than the stock program.
In the following articles, our experts tell you how to choose a Chinese smartphone and the secrets of choosing a quality smartphone.