In a new blog, Qualcomm stated how its recent chips, such as the Snapdragon 810 and Snapdragon 808, found in the LG G4, One Plus 2, Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X, can improve low-light photography.
Although high-end smartphone cameras can now deliver amazing pictures when taken outdoors in good lighting conditions, there is still much work to be done when it comes to low-light photography and video recording.
Smartphone camera sensors are much smaller than those in professional cameras, which means they are able to capture much less light. The smaller their pixels are, the less light can be captured. This is why Google decided to go with only a 12MP resolution for a 1/2.3" sensor, while others have started using 16MP or 23MP on similarly sized, or smaller, sensors. Google managed to increase the size of the pixels to 1.55um this way, while competitors' pixels are still only 1.0-1.1um.
This gives Google's new Nexus phones such a large advantage in low-light situations that the company thought it could do away with the Optical Image Stabilization found in the previous Nexus 5.
Even so, Qualcomm said that sometimes there's just not enough light for the pixels to capture. As a response to this, most smartphone cameras try to raise the light sensitivity for those pixels, but that comes with an increase in noise.
The company said that it tries to reduce noise in pictures with the help of a fast Image Signal Processor (ISP) and through technologies such as wavelet noise reduction (WNR) and temporal noise reduction (TNR) that clean up noisy areas in the photos. The Snapdragon processors also use a local tone mapping (LTM) to brighten areas where it's needed, without any compromise in the exposure or detail of the photos.
The upcoming Snapdragon 820 promises to boost low-light performance and image clarity even more. The new Spectra ISP, the Hexagon 680 DSP and the Adreno 530 GPU will all work together to improve the quality of photos in Snapdragon 820-powered smartphones. In the future, we should continue to see significant gains in smartphone photography from new sensors, but also from the ever more powerful smartphone chips, which aid with the image processing.
Lucian Armasu joined Tom’s Hardware in early 2014. He writes news stories on mobile, chipsets, security, privacy, and anything else that might be of interest to him from the technology world. Outside of Tom’s Hardware, he dreams of becoming an entrepreneur.