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sanveer

Mobile Phone Camera vs Prosumer and Professional Cameras

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I have always wondered what is preventing mobile phone cameras from taking better image, and how long before the quality gap between them and high end point and shoot, or mid range DSLRs, is reduced greatly? 

Apart from the inherent physical limitations of the size of the sensor, and thus the size of individual pixels, mobile phone cameras have many more problems, most of which they have manufacturers to blamed for.

1. I find the DXO labs tests titled Perceptual MPix rather interesting, where they attempted to highlight how most lenses resolved lesser details than the sensors they were mounted on, and for many reasons connected with characteristics of lenses. They came to the conclusion that 45% of megapixels are lost due to lens or sensor defects, and that when the camera sensor is no longer the limiting factor in the combination, you see the quality benefit only with the better lens. 

My take on this is, that since some of the best Full Frame lenses resolve lesser detail than the sensors they are made for, it is extremely likely that mobile phone lenses, that are made for sensors that have 1/27th and smaller sized sensors, as compared to full frame sensors, will for obvious reasons (of optics) be resolving far lesser detail, and that resolution loss, apart from reasons attributed to the sensor size, will also be enormous (solely due to the lens' limitations). Also, IMHO this cannot be controlled or improved by merely using a regular lens adaptor, of a larger lens, but arguably changing the entire lens design, to make the lens much wider at its widest. 

2. A 21 Mp from a smartphone camera, and one from a DSLR or even a point and shoot will hold very different file sizes, and that is one of the reasons for macro blocking and other strange kinds of noise in photos (as well as for video), which makes pics lose detail, and thus look far inferior to DSLRs and point and shoot cameras. Mobile phone cameras should have much larger file sizes, to begin with, not saving on space, now that Micro SD cards have become much cheaper and much faster now. We did notice how pushing the Video Bitrate on Android video to 200mbps made the video so much better in terms of detail and noise. 

3. Considering the size of the individual pixels, I think it's only bad habit that makes camera phone manufacturers make lenses that are so slow. Even f2.0 is far from sufficient for taking pictures or video for mobile phone cameras, in anything but bright sunlight. IMHO all mobile phone cameras should have f1.0 lenses (or even faster lenses), and should be stopped down by variable NDs, during the day, instead of having slower lenses that use slower shutter speeds for gathering more light, especially considering how quickly and how drastically light drop makes photos come apart on mobile phone cameras. 

4. RAW is an option now, with various Apps, but I wonder how food or bad the compression is, and how it compares to RAW on DSLRs. 

 

What do you guys think?

 

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

I got Raw for the first time in a phone a year or two ago. And it is good for making minor adjustments to bring life into bland phone pics.

But it does in no way, shape or form compete even with jpegs from a full frame dslr.

Aaaaaaah, ok. What about bringing detail to dark areas? And, how much larger were the file sizes, to the original jpegs in the camera? Would you have comparison pics, especially ones that have scenes with noticeable contrast? That would be interesting. 

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Aaaaaaah, ok. What about bringing detail to dark areas? And, how much larger were the file sizes, to the original jpegs in the camera? Would you have comparison pics, especially ones that have scenes with noticeable contrast? That would be interesting. 

Lighting up shadows is pretty much what I use it for. But you cant push very far.

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Lighting up shadows is pretty much what I use it for. But you cant push very far.

Hmmm ... that's very disappointing.
Imagine it like this. If the size of the sensor is 1/27th, the size of the lenses would be proportionate (or hover somewhere around that range). This could be a reason, why so much detail is being completely thrown away. 

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Some recent mobile phones outperform compacts/P&Ss. I have two Samsung WB-something P&Ss that I bought to use as crash-cams (for their extremely wide FOV, 22mm FF equiv.) and side by side shooting the same scene with a Samsung note in 4K, the phone has a higher quality image. But of course fixed at 28mm. The P&S has the 22-400mm range advantage and IS. Plus a camera UI/Buttons.

Anyhow, the reason why cameras in phones are of lower performance (and always will be) is:

1- Sensor size. Phones are required to get smaller and thinner with each generation therefore sensors are getting smaller. This results in extremely poor Noise performance under anything but sunlight. And results in extremely deep DOF.

2- Lens. Phones have no optical zoom, you only get a wide angle 28mm-ish equ. This results in simply results in complete inability to get anything other than the wide angle aesthetic, phones will never get 85mm portrait with shallow DOF aesthetic, due to the physics of sensor size, focal length, aperture and subject distance. Only WA deep shots for phones.

3- Processor/firmware. Phone manufacturers are not selling these for professional videography nerds, so for the normal consumers' benefit they compress the images as much as humanely possible (aweful codecs) for easy transfer/sharing, while adding a lot of contrast (losing DR) saturation and sharpnening. to make images instantly pop. 

These limitations will never be lift off so phones will always be inferior to all equivalent imaging devices. 

-With P&Ss you take limitation no. 2 off, you get a big optical range.

-with SLRs you take no. 1, 2 and 3 off. 

Does it mean phone photography is stupid? of course not. A phone is a multitasking device (a computer, telephone, note, calendar, music player, camera) that we carry all day in our pockets, and having a high resolution wide angle camera at ALL times is a magnificent key feature for capturing life at all times. That's the point. 

Otherwise, if you can carry a P&S/MILC/SLR then yes it's pointless to shoot on a phone, as point & shoots that are 1/5 the cost of a phone performs hugely better. The point of the camera in a phone is giving everyone a camera at all times. 

Do camera phones have interest for us working filmmakers/photographers? no, we will not use phones in our work as we can carry better cameras.

Do we use them? yes, because despite their limitations they have one un-rivaled feature, they're with us all the time.

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Some recent mobile phones outperform compacts/P&Ss. I have two Samsung WB-something P&Ss that I bought to use as crash-cams (for their extremely wide FOV, 22mm FF equiv.) and side by side shooting the same scene with a Samsung note in 4K, the phone has a higher quality image. But of course fixed at 28mm. The P&S has the 22-400mm range advantage and IS. Plus a camera UI/Buttons.

Anyhow, the reason why cameras in phones are of lower performance (and always will be) is:

1- Sensor size. Phones are required to get smaller and thinner with each generation therefore sensors are getting smaller. This results in extremely poor Noise performance under anything but sunlight. And results in extremely deep DOF.

2- Lens. Phones have no optical zoom, you only get a wide angle 28mm-ish equ. This results in simply results in complete inability to get anything other than the wide angle aesthetic, phones will never get 85mm portrait with shallow DOF aesthetic, due to the physics of sensor size, focal length, aperture and subject distance. Only WA deep shots for phones.

3- Processor/firmware. Phone manufacturers are not selling these for professional videography nerds, so for the normal consumers' benefit they compress the images as much as humanely possible (aweful codecs) for easy transfer/sharing, while adding a lot of contrast (losing DR) saturation and sharpnening. to make images instantly pop. 

These limitations will never be lift off so phones will always be inferior to all equivalent imaging devices. 

-With P&Ss you take limitation no. 2 off, you get a big optical range.

-with SLRs you take no. 1, 2 and 3 off. 

Does it mean phone photography is stupid? of course not. A phone is a multitasking device (a computer, telephone, note, calendar, music player, camera) that we carry all day in our pockets, and having a high resolution wide angle camera at ALL times is a magnificent key feature for capturing life at all times. That's the point. 

Otherwise, if you can carry a P&S/MILC/SLR then yes it's pointless to shoot on a phone, as point & shoots that are 1/5 the cost of a phone performs hugely better. The point of the camera in a phone is giving everyone a camera at all times. 

Do camera phones have interest for us working filmmakers/photographers? no, we will not use phones in our work as we can carry better cameras.

Do we use them? yes, because despite their limitations they have one un-rivaled feature, they're with us all the time.

Considering that companies like Apple have billboards all over saying that the pic on that particular billboard has been taken with an Apple iPhone, I believe it is only fair to have better quality photos.

While I agree that mobile phones right now produce very mediocre quality photos, especially in bad lighting or in high contrast situations, I do not agree that they should not get better. As a matter of fact, IMHO they can vastly improve by making tweaks to their bitrate (a few times the bitrate), and getting much better optics.

See it like this, a lot of mobile phone companies are selling their phones by paying hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of US$ to professional cameramen to pretend that they can shoot movies and ADs on their mobile phones.

While it's great that they are doing it,  why don't they actually improve what can be improved. 

If mobile phone cameras like the Honor 6 Plus can have an f.95 lens, I am sure it should not be an issue for others to follow suit. Also, considering how tiny mobile phone cameras are, having built-in NDs  on mobile phone cameras would be many many times cheaper than those on camcorders or DSLRs (DSLMs). 

Also increasing bitrates or colour depth cannot be such a big issue, considering that they already have the hardware in place (sensor and processor). It would only be a matter of implementation. 

If they have issues regarding money, they can go the GH4 way and charge for the same (a lot of camera apps are paid anyways).

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Also increasing bitrates or colour depth cannot be such a big issue, considering that they already have the hardware in place (sensor and processor). It would only be a matter of implementation. 

If they have issues regarding money, they can go the GH4 way and charge for the same (a lot of camera apps are paid anyways).

Sanveer, not sure you're listening to the answers given by others above ;)  Sensor size issues are similar to the saying in automobiles, "there is no replacement for displacement".  Certainly a turbo-charged 4 cylinder car match a large engine at high speeds, but not at low ones.  Similarly, in good light and wide DOF cell phone cameras can hold their own.  In LOW light, or when shallow DOF is needed, nothing works as well as a full-frame sensor.  A lot of it is physics.  It is NOT because the companies aren't trying, or are purposely crippling the cameras (for example, why would Apple care if it hurts Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc?).  

Also, zoom lenses HAVE trade-offs.  Look at a RAW file BEFORE IN CAMERA ADJUSTMENTS and you will see this.  Even prime lenses have their issues with DxO makes software to deal with.  As you point out, most lenses don't resolve their sensors.  Think about that!  You're wondering why cell phones aren't as good as DSLR but recognize that DSLRs still aren't as good as they should be!  I agree!

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Sanveer, not sure you're listening to the answers given by others above ;)  Sensor size issues are similar to the saying in automobiles, "there is no replacement for displacement".  Certainly a turbo-charged 4 cylinder car match a large engine at high speeds, but not at low ones.  Similarly, in good light and wide DOF cell phone cameras can hold their own.  In LOW light, or when shallow DOF is needed, nothing works as well as a full-frame sensor.  A lot of it is physics.  It is NOT because the companies aren't trying, or are purposely crippling the cameras (for example, why would Apple care if it hurts Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc?).  

Also, zoom lenses HAVE trade-offs.  Look at a RAW file BEFORE IN CAMERA ADJUSTMENTS and you will see this.  Even prime lenses have their issues with DxO makes software to deal with.  As you point out, most lenses don't resolve their sensors.  Think about that!  You're wondering why cell phones aren't as good as DSLR but recognize that DSLRs still aren't as good as they should be!  I agree!

Hahaha. Actually, I am listening to everyone. TBO, except for Mattias, I am not sure the other have understood. 

See, many a car's CC Displacement if not the only thing pushing it faster. Apart from turbochargers, the nature of the engine and many other things govern how fast a car makes it to 100 kmph. Similarly, the amount of detail that a camera will hold, is governed by the size sensor, yes. But, that is not the sole deciding factor. 

Also, the look and quality of a sensor and lens are 2 completely different things. Shallow DoF is more of a look thing, and has little to do with quality.

I am not suggesting companies are crippling them on purpose. Either they are unaware of the same, or there aren't enough companies supplying faster lenses, or the lens division on smartphone companies are not in the same league as the lens division, on, say, companies that make cameras like the RX10 series or the Panasonic FZ1000 or many others like that. Also, this problem is not endemic to Apple, or Samsung or whoever else. It is there across the board in all mobile phone camera lens makers. The main reason may be due to the fact that like sensor suppliers like Sony, lens suppliers are also limited, and people just pick stuff off the rack, without actually giving exact design specifications to lens manufacturers. This is why when one has a damaged lens, one can pick up the extremely poor quality lens from eBay or somewhere else, and replace it themselves at home (obviously outlining the extremely poor level of craftsmanship). 

e93a1d48-101a-49fe-b932-8f6af77f2532.thu

Also, lens design, right now, on interchangeable lens cameras (and point and shoot too) revolves around a design where the lens just about covers the four corners of the sensor, by circumference. This has been a constant for the longest. And, in cameras with smaller senses, when one adapts larger lenses, only a smaller portion of the lens is used, and thus, it doesn't really add much to the detail in the image. Now, if mobile phone cameras had lenses whose circumference was much wider than the sensor, and had another lens in between to aid the image to be spread uniformly on the sensor (like the Metabones Speedboosters), that would actually add more surface area to the sensor, in terms of light. And, faster lenses, stopped down, during the day. They would, thus address 2 of the biggest issues that plague mobile phone sensors (and thus cameras).

I will try and change the lens on a mid-range mobile phone and then check the results. I am actually afraid of screwing up an expensive phone, since I have already lost a few phones to hardware issues in the last year or two. I have a few great Nikkor Lenses laying around from a camera that stopped working due to bleeding batteries (and subsequent bad service). Will test them with my experiment and then post the results. 

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Also, the look and quality of a sensor and lens are 2 completely different things. Shallow DoF is more of a look thing, and has little to do with quality.
 

Shallow or controllable DOF IS quality to me and I bet every cinematographer who ever pointed a camera at anyone ;)  

One of the interesting aspects of photography is many inventions are created by lone wolfs.  So Go Sanveer!!!!!  However, you might take some classes in optics, or read some books, before you start taking your phone apart, not that I follow my own advice here :)  

Why don't you get a Raspberry PI and the camera module?  That's how I'd try out your ideas.

https://www.raspberrypi.org/products/camera-module/

 

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My panasonic CM1 (1 inch sensor, leica lens) might not match the dof/fov of a full frame sensor but I'd say it's on a par or better than the a7s and an average lens...

 

cm1: https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/655/21377397474_9e3223d17e_o.jpg

 

a7s+Hassleblad110/f2: https://c1.staticflickr.com/1/487/20243312581_9ab559e2d5_o.jpg 

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