Glossary

Dual-lens (or multi-lens) main camera

What is a multi-lens camera?

Multi-lens camera systems integrate different lens types into smartphones, such as telephoto, wide-angle, and ultra-wide-angle lenses. These complex systems have become an industry standard for flagship and mid-range phones. The number of lenses in these systems is ever-increasing, and so are mobile photography possibilities.

Although multi-lens cameras are now a hot feature, they first hit the market quite a while back, but weren't received with much excitement. The innovation debuted in 2011, with the HTC Evo 3D and LG Optimus 3D smartphones. As the product names make obvious, the dual-lens design was developed to create 3D images that could be viewed on 3D-compatible displays. However, with meager 2 megapixels that made for a serious lack of sharpness, there was no way that these models would change the market at the time. Fast-forward a few years, though, and multi-lens camera system technology has evolved with a primary focus other than 3D imaging.

Multi-lens cameras combine not only lenses of different types, but also with different aperture values. A camera system can, then, cater to different situations, adapting to the setting and the user's needs. The varying apertures of multi-lens camera systems allow for more elements to fit into a shot and for sharper images, even taken from afar, in low-light environments. Multi-lens cameras can also create depth maps to enhance augmented reality experiences. Furthermore, the images captured by each lens may be overlayed, making it possible to soften the background without the need for post-processing (the popular bokeh effect, a game-changer for selfie enthusiasts).

Multi-lens cameras bring about more market revenue and exciting features for users. Still, manufacturers also face difficulties, as they must try to merge, for example, a zoom lens, different sensors, and the slim design expected by smartphone users (especially when it comes to flagship models). Were it not for these obstacles, multi-lens smartphone cameras would likely be equipped with even further-reaching optical zoom. Other challenges are the additional processing power required by these advanced photography systems and the fact that lenses and sensors must be perfectly synchronized to avoid motion blur.

Dual-lens (or multi-lens) main camera by category:

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