This year, Huawei P20 Pro, the world’s first phone with a triple camera set-up at the back, was launched. But that was just a start when it came to cameras and phones. By October, Samsung had introduced the Galaxy A9 with four cameras at the back and in December we got to know that LG might have a five-camera phone ready by MWC 2019. In 2018, we also saw smartphone companies like Oppo and Vivo play with the positioning of front camera to achieve near bezel-less display on smartphones.
However, what really evolved in 2018 was how smartphone cameras saw a drastic improvement in low-light, wide-angle photography as well as bokeh shots. We saw more use of software to boost camera results, with Apple and Google pushing the use of computational photography.
Google also introduced a new Night Sight mode on its Pixel phones to show how far it could push the limits of smartphone photography in low-light by relying just on software.
Here is a look at the top smartphones of 2018 that stand out for their camera technology:
The triple rear cameras on Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro managed to stand out as they are comparable to an affordable DSLR. The cameras are Leica-branded, a combination of primary 40MP RGB camera along with a 20MP monochrome camera, and a third 8MP telephoto camera with up to 5x hybrid zoom.
The phones use a ‘Light Fusion’ technique that ensures sharper and crisper images by letting four times the light into a pixel. The front 24MP camera has 3D Portrait Lighting feature that lets the user add different lighting effects to their self-portrait shots.
Huawei Mate 20 Pro, just like the P20 Pro, has triple rear cameras with built-in AI features as well as Night Mode, slow-motion videos. The Mate 20 Pro also has a Super Macro shot feature. It takes excellent photos with great details and colours in varying light conditions.
Google Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL
Google Pixel 3 is one of the best camera smartphones in the premium segment. The phone continues with a single rear camera that relies on software to take bokeh or Portrait shots. The phone has single 12.2MP Dual Pixel back camera that doesn’t compromise on picture quality.
When it comes to Portraits, very few phones can compete with the Pixel 3, even those with dual-sensors at the back. Google has introduced Night Sight for better low-light photography which can drastically change the image.
In our review, we said Pixel 3 is arguably the best camera smartphone of 2018, thanks to Google’s software and HDR+ technology that merge eight separate exposures to deliver better, sharper photos.
Apple iPhone XS series, iPhone XR
Apple’s iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR take advantage of hardware and software for computational photography, which stand out on the phones. The camera on this year’s iPhone XS and iPhone XR was a significant improvement over the previous generation iPhone X and iPhone 8 series.
Computational photography essentially combines multiple photos at different exposure rates to create one image. This is what Google Pixel 3 is also doing.
One can also adjust the depth of field on photos shot using the portrait mode. The Smart HDR feature has also improved along with low-light Portrait shots.
In terms of hardware, iPhone XS series has a 12 primary wide-angle camera with f/1.8 aperture and 12MP telephoto secondary camera with ƒ/2.4 aperture. The iPhone might not come with three cameras at the back, but it still remains one of the top camera choices to consider in our view.
The iPhone XR despite the single-camera also delivered some exceptional results as we noted in our review.
Samsung Galaxy S9 series, Note 9
Samsung introduced Dual Aperture on the Galaxy S9 series for improved low-light performance. The 12MP camera on the phones have dual apertures – f/1.5 and f/2.4 – that automatically switches between light conditions for best results.
The feature is available on Samsung Galaxy S9 as well, which has a single 12MP rear camera, compared to dual 12MP cameras on Galaxy S9 Plus. The feature is available on Galaxy Note 9 as well.
Samsung’s Galaxy S9 and Note 9 do come with excellent cameras, and the photos are bright and vivid, even at night. The Galaxy Note 9 in particular is a great device with its camera, performance and 4000 mAh battery.
Oppo Find X and Vivo Nex get special mentions on the list for their motorised pop-up selfie cameras, which is definitely unique. To achieve a near bezel-less screen, both the phones have a mechanism where the selfie camera pops up when front camera is launched in the camera app.
We found both the Oppo Find X and Vivo Nex’s rear camera performance also impressive for the price. Now, Samsung and Honor are experimenting with the idea of a cut-out inside the display to hold the front camera, which will increase viewing space.
Let’s not forget how Samsung went a step ahead and packed four rear cameras in its Galaxy A9, which is also the first smartphone globally to have this feature. It also launched the Galaxy A7 in 2018 with triple cameras.
What stands out on these mid-segment premium devices is the way they capture ultra-wide angle shots. It adds a new perspective to a scene, we said in our reviews.
On the Galaxy A9, the primary camera is ultra-wide 8MP with 120-degree viewing angle along with a 10MP telephoto lens, a third 24MP camera and fourth 5MP “live focus” depth camera.
Samsung Galaxy A7 has good triple rear cameras with 24MP+8MP+5MP lens. The Galaxy A7 is also among few phones in the mid-range segment to offer ultra-wide angle camera with 120-degree point of view, supported on 8MP lens.
However, the camera still needs work as we noted in our review of the Galaxy A9. It was certainly the first to offer four cameras at the back, but definitely not the best camera in its segment.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines