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Camera Phone Technology 101

Final Thoughts

There’s a lot of technology—and artistry—that goes into capturing high-quality photos and videos. A hardware deficiency in the lens assembly, CMOS sensor, or ISP can easily compromise the camera experience. Both hardware and software features such as OIS and HDR are also critical to producing the best quality images.

With all of this discussion about hardware, it’s important not to forget the role software plays in image quality. We’ve seen several examples of smartphones using the same camera sensor produce wildly different results. Failing to compensate for lens deficiencies and overly aggressive noise reduction algorithms can ruin the output of even the best hardware. The role of software and the ISP is becoming increasingly important as pixel size and device thickness shrink, placing greater constraints and compromises on camera design. The table at the beginning of the article showing what specifications and features to look for can help narrow down your choices, but, ultimately, a picture is worth a thousand words.


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Matt Humrick is a Staff Editor at Tom's Hardware, covering Smartphones and Tablets. Follow him on Twitter.

Leonid Yankulin is an Associate Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware, covering Smartphones and Tablets.

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  • blackmagnum
    Thanks for the informative article. You might have just cured my insomnia.
    Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    A very informative and nicely presented article, thank you.
    Reply
  • wtfxxxgp
    Thanks for the informative article. You might have just cured my insomnia.

    Geez. That was a cruel comment! hahaha

    Seriously though, that article was very informative for those of us who like to know a bit about everything :)
    Reply
  • David_118
    Great article. Very Informative. It would be useful, knowing these concepts, if there was a studio that took mobile cameras and used them on some standard set of scenes, either photographing paper with test patterns, or constructed scenes in low light, or whatever, that could measure things like signal-to-noise, HDR performance, optical abberations, shutter speed, etc. Anyone know of such an outfit?
    Reply
  • MobileEditor
    Great article. Very Informative. It would be useful, knowing these concepts, if there was a studio that took mobile cameras and used them on some standard set of scenes, either photographing paper with test patterns, or constructed scenes in low light, or whatever, that could measure things like signal-to-noise, HDR performance, optical abberations, shutter speed, etc. Anyone know of such an outfit?

    There are several labs, such as DxOMark, Image Quality Labs, and Sofica, that perform these tests. We're considering adding some of these tests to our reviews, but they require expensive equipment and software to do it right. Hopefully, we'll be able to expand our camera testing in the future--budget and time permitting.

    - Matt Humrick, Mobile Editor, Tom's Hardware
    Reply
  • Albert Rampo
    Toronto Everywhere !!!
    Reply
  • sr1030nx
    Any idea what Autofocus method the lumia 950 uses?
    Reply
  • falchard
    I wish they introduced an updated version of the Lumia 1020. 41mp *drool*
    Reply
  • zodiacfml
    Good job. Finally, someone who really knows about what's being written. The tone and some information though might be too much for someone who has not even heard of shutter speeds or aperture. I also feel there's information overload as each topic/headline deserves its own article including investigation on megapixel/resolution spec.

    Reply
  • dbdarrough
    Excellent article! This is why I go to Tom's Hardware for articles like this.
    Reply