Phone-cameras get bigger and better

  • Latest models feature cameras with dual lenses, one shooting in colour, the other in monochrome

Talk of the tail wagging the dog! Cameras which less than a decade ago were low-quality appendages on the handset, have now grown bigger and better with every passing day. They sometimes rival and outperform most point-and-shot digicams and in recent examples, come with features derived from the best professional clickers.

Last week I experienced this first hand, albeit briefly. At a media event, cannily hosted in scenic Goa, Huawei 'unboxed' its upcoming mobile phone, Honor 8, which is due to be launched in India sometime next week. Embargoes inhibit me from doing a full review at this point—nor have I had time to put it fully to the test, but this I can share: A lot of professional camera persons are going to supplement their regular SLRs, with the Honor 8 for sound technical reasons.

Consider: The rear camera is not high on megapixels—12-- but it comes with twin lenses. One shoots in colour; the other in black-and-white. Clever software combines the output of the two optics to produce an end result that is better than anything a single lens can offer. This in itself is no longer a novelty. Huawei, themselves launched the P9 last month with similar dual lens Leica optics. The latest iPhone 7 plus, which should reach India this month, also features a two-lens camera with different focal lengths.

LG's G5 phone launched earlier this year, attracted headlines because it was modular, you could mix-n-match accessories. Lost in this hype was the fact that the phone also featured double lenses. In fact LG and HTC both launched phones with twin lens cameras back in 2011—for a different reason: so that they could shoot 3-D video. The idea of 3-D shooting on phones got a big thumbs down from customers and the double -lens technology withered.... only to be reborn this year in a new avatar as a way to separate colour and monochrome imagery prior to mixing them for the final effect.

I will share a fuller experience with the Huawei Honor 8 once the phone is formally launched in India, but I can't resist giving you a sneak peek at one result of having two lenses for the price of one in its main camera: You can forget about focus—and being landed with out-of-focus images. You can shoot first, focus later! The double lens feature lets you manually select the point of focus in a shot image anywhere in the field of view. One problem I face with my pocket auto focus digital camera is that it gets easily fooled. I aim to shoot some activity in the middle ground. But a very bright background upsets the focus and my chosen objects end up fuzzy. How many media moments I have lost this way!

If the Honor 8 lives up to its promise to let me choose the focused object in hindsight—that for me will be the phone-camera happening of 2016. Watch this space.

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Topics : #smartphones

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