Thursday, March 6, 2014

Dual Camera Module Makes Splash at MWC

The mobile world congress (MWC) in Barcelona was a bit of a let down in terms of camera specific innovations for the mobile photographer as there was little up the sleeves of Samsung when they announced a new 16 megapixel sensor for the Galaxy S5 with 4K video recording. Sony did a tad better with their new Xperia Z2, but overall, there wasn't anything especially new that sprung out of Barcelona.

However, the real innovation to spring out from the Spanish seaside event was not a product but a dual camera module from a Israeli company called Corephotonics.

HTC is rumored to have a dual lens camera phone in the works but there was no news of it at MWC. Instead, Corephotonics demoed a camera module to the masses that promises lots of potential for mobile photographers.

The dual camera system is probably what the world needs right now in terms of camera innovation and can count as another nail in the DSLR coffin if the technology is done right.

Dual Lens for Bokeh and Resolution

So what are the advantages of having TWO camera sensors instead of one on your mobile device? If these samples are to be believed, there is quite a lot of promise. Awesomeness is just one of them.

Photographers looking for better blurring effects will no doubt be satiated. Though the blurring is not as creamy as one that finds on a tilt-shift camera app, it nonetheless presents a whole new dimension for those who want a tad more from their cameraphones. 

The contrast resolution too is increased. Look at the samples below and you'd know what I mean. 

You get sharper images, beating out the DSLR competition in the price performance category. To get better contrast resolution from DSLR lenses, you need to spend a bomb on good quality lenses. Think of Leica and Carl Zeiss lenses and you'd know what I mean. 

3D to be a Standard Feature

3D mapping is the last piece of the jigsaw for parallax photography. By sensing the depth of the subject, you can effectively capture 3D images. This in turn can be viewed within your smartphone device.

Now 3D isn't a new thing. In the past we had the HTC EVO 3D that came with a 3D display. Parallax photography doesn't need a 3D display to show depth but for a real 3D experience as seen with the HTC, manufacturers only need to ante up to the latest 3D displays to give you that feature.

Going Forward

Corephotonics has promised an anti-shake stabilizer for the module so it will address some issues related to blurring and movement. However the effectiveness of such actuators cannot be judge in a science lab as yet and until we have seen real world situations.

Dual camera capability will not address noise issues or for that matter, give better dynamic range. You might need a dual 40 megapixel camera lens module to do that effectively and a spiffy graphics processor to produce the finished image. For this to happen, we are probably looking at between 3 to 5 years down the road.

Canon has come out to say publicly that they are not spooked by cameraphone technology. This could be their denial phase as mobile photography technology itself is improving by leaps and bounds. 4K HD video capture is already possible with the upcoming Sony and Samsung smartphones. Canon still thinks it has a monopoly in that area of photo and videography with a bulky DSLR.

Some of the technology featured here cannot be implemented successfully in a DSLR, 3D photography for example has been one of the stumbling blocks. Dual sensor DSLR are unheard of. Panasonic flirted with 3D photography with the micro four thirds 3D lens but that quickly fell out of fashion as fast as it came into the market.

The only thing lacking in the technology is the promise of better dynamic range, in low and high contrast scenes, the dual camera module is not expected to equal the DSLR for some time to come.

DSLR technology itself has hit a plateau. There are no new innovations except for the megapixel sensor race. In a few years, the humble full frame sensor of today will yield 100 megapixels of RAW data and you have to ask yourself, what the heck are you going to do with all that image data? Go figure.


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