Perhaps next to calling, messaging, browsing, and listening to media, the most used feature of a smartphone is its camera. Not only is it one of the most used tools but it also is of high aspirational value to users. Users hold high aspirations for superlative quality camera and fantastic videos and images. But what makes consumers demand better quality smartphone cameras? Also Read - Huawei P40 Pro is the new leader in DxOMark rankings for main camera and selfie camera but does that matter
Consumer Behaviour Calling for Better Cameras
Consumer needs have evolved tremendously in terms of visual content (photos, videos, etc), which is fueling the technological revolution in cameras. The urge to click and the need to get clicked, to capture every moment in high definition, has underwent a climaxing rise which doesn’t seem to end. This want is working at multiple levels and related to various consumer needs. Also Read - Huawei P40 Pro Vs Samsung Galaxy S20 Ultra Vs iPhone 11 Pro Max: Head-to-head comparison
Today, cameras and photography have gone beyond capturing a special occasion. It has become a part of daily living; a tool connecting the world and promoting sharing of perspectives. Even in the times of social distancing, it is the camera in our smartphones and other portable devices that help people stay connected. People, groups, and organizations are more than ever relying on the tool to tell stories, showcase talents, celebrate life, entertain, and most importantly, serve and educate masses. Mobile camera driven visual content has become a tremendous means to drive transformation at personal, professional, and social fronts. A worldwide social revolution is underway using the smartphone lens(es), and it is getting stronger as the mobile cameras become better. Also Read - Huawei P40 vs P40 Pro vs P40 Pro+: What's different
Cameras have become the primary tool that either forms the basis or acts as one of the core verticals of numerous social media sites utilizing photo and video content shared by its user base. A host of visual formats including photos, GIFs, graphics, boomerangs, and etc, are being used today. The availability of high-speed internet, technological innovations and digital-conducive policy making are supporting factors driving these consumer needs.
The DSLR Impetus
Since the advent of digital photography and the adoption of cameras in our handsets, most phone users were left yearning for photography experience akin to DSLR. Also, neither everyone can afford a DSLR nor does everyone know how to work with it. Backed by unmatched accessibility, portability, and high storage benefits, smartphones became the obvious solutions to cater to this need. The consumer yearnings are motivating smartphone manufacturers to aggressively package advance camera features into the small physical spaces.
With an ecosystem that utilizes high quality lens and sensors along with innovative processing and software technologies, smartphone manufacturers are endeavouring hard to match the growing consumer expectations of impressive image and video results.
Consumer Behaviour Driven Smartphone Camera Technology
Sensors and Lenses
Manufactures have gone aggressive in incorporating high quality large sensors and three to four lenses in the camera ecosystem to usher in the age of ultra-visionary photography. Sensor size is of critical importance in smartphone camera set-up, as bigger sensors capture more light. One of the major innovations in the recently launched Huawei P40 series is use of the biggest sensor till date. The device has 1/1.28-inch active pixel CMOS sensor in comparison to other flagships which use 1/2.55-inch sensors, such as the iPhone 11 Pro Max. In combination with lenses and other processing technology, the bigger sensors enable users to shoot higher dynamic range and sharper images even in low-light conditions.
Smartphone cameras today host up to four camera lens ecosystem, such as ultra-vision Leica quad camera, with combinations like 50-megapixel RYYB primary lens, a second 40-megapixel ultra-wide-cine camera lens; a third 8-megapixel 10x periscopic lens, and an 8-megapixel 3x telephoto lens. The array of multiple lenses enables high quality zoom, better HDR, portrait modes, 3D, and low-light photography. The ultra-wide cine camera with 1/1.54-inch sensor supporting 3:2 aspect ratio enables users to record movies at 4K quality. Such cameras usually support up to ISO 51200 light sensitivity and even enable 7680 fps ultra-slow-motion video.
Super zoom array features enable users to click distant objects with high clarity and excellent image quality. With ingenious ways such as using light reflective prisms to distance lens from sensors for higher zoom capacity, manufacturers are now able to deliver combinations of super-sensing zoom lens such as 5x optical, 10x hybrid zoom, 50x digital zoom.
Software Processing and Other Technologies
Other key technologies used by Huawei to match user expectations include using advance 5th generation image signal processor (ISP) + da-Vinci based Kirin 990 NPU (neural processing unit), which helps users achieve impressive photography and video results. The block-matching 3D filtering technology is also being used for the first time in the mobile industry as a noise reduction solution in images.
The TOF (time of flight sensor) camera uses infrared light to enhance depth of images, creating a multilevel Bokeh effect. Super-fast auto-focusing solutions such as the full pixel Octa-phase autofocus technology ensures that every pixel has a phase detection photodiode, so that each of a 50-megapixel camera is used to focus on the object.
Artificial Intelligence technologies also have begun making a difference in smartphone camera. For instance, the da-Vinci based NPU combines AI capabilities with algorithm to improve image processing and support multiple types of photography scenarios.
Selfies are a rage today, and videography is increasingly gaining popularity. Noticing the trends, manufacturers are seriously focusing on front cameras, hosting as high as 32-megapixel selfie lens armed with depth camera to enable users take stunning selfies with amazing detailing and even shoot videos in 4K.
Growing Popularity and Going Forward
The growing popularity of smartphone cameras is a testament of the quality that is being delivered. Mobile cameras have been replacing photo cameras in this decade. As per a report by Japan’s Camera Imaging and Product Association, which has world renowned brands as members including Sony, Canon, and Nikon, the worldwide shipment of cameras dropped by 84 percent between 2010 and 2018. The worldwide shipments of portable photo-digital cameras peaked at 121 million in 2010. Till 2018, it slumped to only 19 million impacted by the rising popularity of smartphone cameras.
The evolution of mobile cameras will take a new leap by 2030. Smartphone 3D cameras are gaining popularity. The 3D camera market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 45.6 percent from 2017 to 2026. The time-of-flight sensor technology is another segment which is expected to show high growth. The adoption of augmented reality will have a major impact on gaming entertainment and business aspects. The next generation smartphone cameras will be armed with motion sensors, accelerometer, gyroscope and advance AI innovations to offer unbelievable outcomes and empowering the users to do much more than just photography.
The adoption of high innovation and technology in smartphone cameras is a response to consumer needs and evolving expectations. Today, these cameras have largely democratized photography, enabling trigger-happy new generation to fuel their passion for capturing the perfect images and making them the stories of their lives and sharing them with the world. Going forward, technological advancements in mobile cameras will play an important role in revamping our world view.
This article is written by Dimon Hu, Chief Marketing Officer (Huawei Brand), Consumer Business Group, Huawei.