Types of Dual Cameras: A Quick Primer

The anatomy of dual cameras

by: - Last updated on: September 18th, 2017

Dual cameras are the latest feature-crush of the smartphone world and have completely hijacked all price segments in the industry. Dual cameras, as the name suggests, is a unit of two cameras featured on a smartphone. In the duo, there is one primary lens that does most of the work while the other lens collects secondary information to improve the picture. While many may think that it can only be a primary camera set-up, there are a few devices in the industry that have this couple right up front as well – in the selfie zone. There is no denying that camera couples have been the talk of the tech towns, but although almost every brand is making a smartphone with dual cameras, not all dual cameras are the same. Some of them are actually… wait for it… different! As there are two cameras in one unit, companies try to offer a different combination of sensors, which in turn offer different features and produce different results. For instance, the Moto G5s Plus, the Xiaomi Mi A1, and the Lenovo K8 Plus, all of which have been released within the past week, come with dual camera setups. And each of them is different!

dual camera types

Sounds confusing? Well, let us talk you through different kinds of dual camera setups and which one could be the one that suits you best:

3D dual cameras: Adding that third dimension

This might sound new to some, but actually, these were the first kind of dual cameras to feature in smartphones. HTC, back in 2011, brought the concept of dual cameras to life with HTC EVO 3D. The smartphone used its dual camera unit to capture 3D images and also featured a 3D display that lets you view 3D images on it. While the idea did not really hit it off with the consumers, it is still one of the coolest kinds of dual camera setups out there.

3d dual camera

Good for: while this is an old concept and no companies have recently launched a device with a setup as such, but it does not make these dual cameras any less interesting. We think people in creative business like fashion designing, architecture amongst others can make good use of it. Apart from that, for anyone who has a geeky kid inside them and wants to try something different, this definitely is one to go for. Provided you can find it.

Wide angle plus telephoto: Zoooooom in

This is one combination has been talked about a lot in the tech world, not just because of it being a killer combo but also because it features in the iPhone 7 Plus. This dual camera setup has a wide angle lens which is generally the main sensor out of the two which studies and collects most of the data while the other sensor which is a telephoto sensor offers 2x optical zoom without losing out on much detail. And one of the most talked about features of the iPhone 7 Plus’ dual cameras has been the Portrait mode, a result of the lenses having two different focal lengths. But the iPhone 7 Plus is not the only device with a dual camera setup as such. There are devices like Asus Zenfone Zoom 3, and one of the most popular Android devices of the year OnePlus 5 that offer similar dual camera units. And yes, the Xiaomi Mi A1 has it too.

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Good for: well, this combination can be pretty useful to almost everyone, but especially those who like zooming in while taking pictures. Or prefer shooting from a distance – such as at events, or street photography.

Standard plus wide angle: For the bigger picture

Dual cameras are all about different combinations of lenses that are put together to bring out the best result. And one such combination is that of a standard lens and a wide angle lens. This combination was used in the popular LG G6. The device has one standard lens and one wide-angle lens, both of 13 megapixels. The standard lens comes with a 71-degree angle of view and f/1.8 aperture while the wide-angle provides 125 degrees wide-angle view with a smaller f/2.4 aperture. This combination aims to cover as wide an area as possible in one shot. A similar combination is also present on the Oppo F3 Plus, but this time, we have the dual cameras on the front. The Oppo F3 Plus comes with dual front cameras where one is a standard selfie camera and the other is a wide angle sensor. This feature allows the user to take not only their own selfies with the standard lens but also allows one to take group selfies easily without selfie sticks as it comes with a wide angle view of 180 degrees.

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Good for: this combination can be a gift for those who like taking pictures of landscapes. These lenses will not only help you take your usual pictures well but will also provide wide coverage of the scene wherever needed. And in a combination like that of LG G6, one doesn’t even have to worry about losing out on detail as both the sensors are of 13 megapixels. And in cases like Oppo F3 Plus, for those who love selfies of themselves and their gangs, this can be a perfect addition.

Monochrome and color: It does matter if you are black and white

Another combination of sensors which is pretty popular in the smartphone world is the monochrome and color (RGB) sensor combination. In this setup, one camera, primarily the main sensor captures all the details in color while the other one takes pictures in monochrome (black and white). The smartphone then combines the two pictures through software to give a better-detailed image. Huawei P9, Honor 8 and the recently launched Moto G5s Plus are some devices that come with such sensors. This setup not only provides better color and detail but also better low light performance (as the monochrome sensor should logically capture more detail) and can also be used to take just monochrome pictures.

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Good for: this duo is all about color and detail. There is no fancy 2x optical zoom or wide area coverage. So, those who would just want a great photographic experience with good detail and color can opt for this combination.

Depth enabled: the (budget) bokeh maker

One of the features that have been largely associated with dual cameras has been bokeh or depth of field (those blurry backgrounds behind sharply focused subjects). But while almost all dual camera setups claim to deliver bokeh as one of many tasks (such as those mentioned above), some are dedicated to delivering just that – generally found in the lower price segments, these are phones that provide dual cameras with bokeh or depth of field as their USP. The Honor 6X and recently launched Lenovo K8 Note, and K8 Plus are examples of smartphones that have dual cameras that focus on blurring out the background. In these smartphones, there is generally one camera that actually does the photography, while the second (generally with a lower megapixel count) collects depth of field information, enabling deeper bokeh or perfect depth of field in the picture. The second camera studies the depth of field and blurs out the background, helping the subject to stand out in the picture.

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Good for: this is one of the most popular camera combinations present in the dual camera segment because it is seen in the affordable, budget segment. This camera setup can be very useful for people who like taking close-ups and portrait shots, as this will make their subject pop out of the picture by blurring the background. Perfect for portrait snappers on a tight budget.

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