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Only a dual-camera Galaxy can make a Galaxy out of the dual camera


Last updated: December 30th, 2016 at 12:01 UTC+02:00

The dual camera setup on smartphones is becoming a trend, with a few manufacturers such as LG (G5, V20), Huawei (P9), and Apple (iPhone 7 Plus) having jumped into the race. And, with Samsung being the most dominant player in the Android scene, it’s natural to wonder if (and when) Samsung will ever enter into the dual camera competition with its rivals (perhaps the Galaxy S8 Plus will present such an opportunity).

The claim behind the dual camera setup is that, with smartphones getting thinner and lighter these days, a single lens cannot provide the optical zoom that could come by way of a second rear camera designed for it. Smartphone cameras should be as thin as smartphones themselves (few want a camera bulge as an acceptable design), and the key to that is to thin out the camera along with the smartphone. To do that, though, one either has to find a new way to stack sensors or eliminate some.

Optical zoom is a plus for photography professionals and quality photos in general, but it would require making smartphone cameras larger (thereby creating the dreaded camera bulge). Create a second camera that’s equipped with lossless zoom, however, and presto – you’ve got the perfect second camera that everyone wants. It is also the case that secondary rear cameras improve bokeh, that sexy blurriness that true photography lovers never stop loving. Better bokeh effects are all part of the appreciation of photography as an art form.

It’s an argument that appears to make sense, though smartphone manufacturers having already released dual-camera smartphones haven’t made the most or best of it. First, manufacturers have released secondary rear cameras that don’t perform as well as the primary rear cameras do; next, the camera quality of the primary rear cameras don’t perform as well as, say, the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge.

If the primary rear cameras don’t perform well, what makes the consumer put any faith in OEMs to get the secondary rear cameras right? You can’t start a second garden, for example, and leave the first garden in shambles.

Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 edge, though, are the best of the best this year in mobile photography, so it makes sense for Samsung to perhaps stick with a single rear camera for the Galaxy S8. The impression sent by the dual-camera-drooling crowd is that single rear cameras are “so 2015,” but Samsung’s “Galaxies” this year have shown that mobile photography for primary rear cameras has not yet been exhausted. I wish other manufacturers would take notes.

There will come a time though, when, like USB Type-C charging, Samsung will make a decision to step into the dual camera race. Only a dual-camera “Galaxy” can make a Galaxy out of the dual-camera, and I hold this view for a few reasons. Let’s look at them below.

First, a dual-camera “Galaxy” will make a Galaxy out of the dual camera because the secondary rear camera will have the same f/x.x aperture as the primary rear camera. Just look on the market, and you’ll see that most dual-camera setups have a secondary rear camera with a higher aperture than the primary one. Take the LG G5 from this year, for example: its primary rear camera has an f/1.8 aperture, but the secondary camera has an f/2.4 aperture.

With a higher aperture, photos will come out less than stellar (in other words, they won’t have the appeal of photos with lower apertures). I’m looking for a smartphone with a dual-camera setup that doesn’t compromise lowlight performance on either rear camera, and a dual-camera Galaxy will do just that.

Next, a dual-camera “Galaxy” will make a Galaxy out of the dual camera by way of its megapixel count. Secondary rear cameras can provide a great “panorama” view of a scene, but their lack of sufficient zoom quality makes them a pain to use at this point. Megapixel count isn’t everything, but it helps to have photos that show greater detail because they have greater zoom than photos with a smaller (and reduced) megapixel count.

It just seems weird to me to see the primary rear camera of the LG G5 take 16MP photos while the secondary rear camera takes 8MP photos. I’m looking for a dual-camera Galaxy that will make taking photos with the secondary rear camera as fun and as quality as using the primary rear camera.

A dual-camera “Galaxy” will make a Galaxy out of the dual camera by revamping the panorama camera mode. The current implementation as it is on smartphones mandates you pan around the scene with your smartphone as the camera “stitches” each small scene together to make a large one. The scene, in the end, doesn’t come out cleanly. Perhaps the best way to make the most of a dual-camera setup is to provide a secondary rear camera that can capture the sweep of a scene without needing me to “manually pan around.”

Last but not least, a dual-camera “Galaxy” will make a Galaxy out of the dual camera setup by providing a 360-degree, VR mode that lets you take 360-degree photos without needing another camera. The goal of smartphone cameras has been to help DSLR users replace them with their mobile phone instead. While we now have 360-degree cameras such as the Gear 360, some users still want to do everything with their smartphone.

Providing a 360-degree, VR camera mode on an upcoming “Galaxy” will make a second camera relevant. I’m a believer that a secondary camera should do more than the primary camera. If the secondary camera only does what my primary camera does (and doesn’t even function as well), then a secondary camera serves no purpose.

It is for these reasons that I believe a dual-camera Galaxy, when Samsung chooses to unveil it, will make a Galaxy out of the dual camera setup. Current dual-camera smartphones are trying to figure out what purpose a secondary camera should serve, and, even then, provide questionable photo quality. Samsung’s 2016 Galaxy lineup is already making the case for the purpose of smartphone cameras. Now, Samsung need only add a secondary rear camera with VR capabilities and make secondary cameras rival primary rear cameras. In so doing, Samsung’s “Galaxy” would create a ripple effect throughout the smartphone world, and make a “Galaxy” out of the dual camera.

And the real significance of dual cameras is just what consumers are waiting on. A dual-camera Galaxy will give purpose to what is merely a hardware race for now.

Opinion Dual camera
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