Why Smartphones Use Multiple Cameras?

There was a time when mobile phones used to have a single camera. Nowadays, literally every mobile phone comes with at least a dual setup of rear cameras. The question is – why do smartphones use multiple cameras now? What exactly has changed?

The reason behind smartphones using multiple cameras is simple. They have always been unsuccessfully competing with DSLR cameras and trying to match the quality. However, smartphones have a limit on space and size. Also, we cannot change lens according to the situation, unlike DSRLs.

DSLR sensors are different and mobile phone camera sensors can simply never beat it as per the current technology. I have already explained how sensors work in my other post. In case you missed it, here is the link:

[Read here | Difference between Smartphone cameras & DSLRs]

Here is the reason why smartphones use multiple cameras

Imagine a smartphone as bulky as a DSLR. It won’t even fit in your palms, forget about the pockets. So what is the solution to match the quality of DSLR cameras?

Smartphones need to compensate by using multiple camera sensors. They need to use 2-3 cameras to fill that gap.

Every camera sensor has a specific reason for existence. They are used only when the time demands.
No, not all of them are in use when you click a picture in normal settings.

Types of Camera Sensors in a Smartphone and their Usage

There are 6 major types of smartphone cameras for now:

Smartphones Use Multiple Cameras such as Standard Camera, Telephoto Sensor, Wide Angle Sensor, Macro Sensor, Monochromatic Sensor
  1. Standard Camera
  2. Depth sensor Camera
  3. Ultra-wide Sensor Camera
  4. Telephoto Sensor Camera
  5. Macro Sensor Camera
  6. Monochrome Sensor Camera

Every sensor has a unique characteristic of capturing an image. Also, not all of them work together.

Standard Camera

Your Primary smartphone camera is the main camera of your smartphone with standard specifications to capture normal images. It captures the image naturally with no enhanced effects or settings.

This standard camera is what you use while clicking live images for your social media. Most of the people don’t use anything apart from this camera.

So, if you are a regular smartphone user who is not into photography details then it is totally fine if you get a phone with lesser cameras. Just make sure that the primary camera is strong enough.

Depth Sensor Camera

Remember using portrait mode of your camera where the background is just blurred? A Depth sensor camera is used here. Most of the smartphones with dual camera setup has this sensor.

With a depth sensor, a camera comes to know the distance between an object and its background. As it understands that background and the object are different, it blurs the background image. This is how you get a highly focused image.

This is a great feature to click your portrait images for profile pictures.

Ultra-wide Sensor Camera

As the name suggests, an ultra-wide sensor camera captures the image at a wide-angle. If the object is too large to fit in a single frame, ultra wise sensors come to your rescue.

To get slightly into the technical part, the focal length for this lens is slightly shorter. Some of you might remember that focal length is inversely proportional to the viewing angle. Hence, you get a larger viewing angle when the focal length is shorter.

Didn’t understand? No worries. It doesn’t matter as such. Your camera is smart enough to handle it on your own!

However, the disadvantage of using a wide-angle camera lens is that the objects in the extreme ends appear large. In short, you will appear fat if you are not in the center of the image.

I have saved you from future embarrassments. Now you know where you need to stand while taking group pictures in wide-angle settings – in the center! 😉

Telephoto Sensor Camera

In simple words, a telephone camera helps to zoom in like telescope and capture an image. Don’t take the literal meaning of telescope. That was just a reference to explain the point.

If you try to zoom with a standard camera, the image will pixelate. You might have seen how an image loses its clarity when you zoom it too much. To solve this issue, a telephoto lens helps you out.

Obviously, you can’t go near the tiger in a sanctuary to get the perfect shot. If you zoom and click, the image will lose quality. Use your telephoto option here.

If you are into nature photography then look out for a smartphone with a telephoto sensor.

Macro Sensor Camera

Do you love clicking the images of minute objects? If yes, then macro sensors are for you.

Macro Sensor Cameras basically bring the objects closer and magnifying the objects. These sensors decrease the minimum focusing distance.

Short focusing distance helps the camera to click small objects with great details and sharpness.

For instance, you cannot go and insert your camera lens on a peacefully sitting insect. This is where the cameras with a macro lens come into the picture.

This camera is not too common yet. Some brands claim to offer but they are just pathetic. I’d rather say, smartphone cameras have not reached a level of satisfactory macro photography yet.

Monochrome Sensor Camera

In monochrome photography, different shades of the same colors are captured but not different colors. For example, a black and white image consists of all the shades from black to white.

Monochrome sensors give you sharp images without any disturbance. It provides contrast to the images.

Sure, you can click black and white images using a normal camera sensor but that processing is done using the software. Monochrome sensors are actually dedicated hardware for that purpose.

I won’t say it is widely used but it is good for monochrome photography enthusiasts.

Smartphones Use Multiple Cameras such as Standard Camera, Telephoto Sensor, Wide Angle Sensor, Macro Sensor, Monochromatic Sensor

Image Sources:
Phonify: Normal Mode vs Depth Mode
ExpertPhotography: Normal Lens vs Telephoto Lens
Reddit: Normal Lens vs Wide Angle
TechCrunch: Normal Lens vs Macro Lens
Flickr: Normal Image vs Monochromatic Image


These were some types of cameras found in smartphones for now but I will be updating this as the time proceeds. I am sure this trend of multiple cameras is going to increase.

Also, it is not all about number of cameras.

There are some companies that have triple rear cameras but they are no less than a joke. For the namesake, they provide other cameras of 2 MP! I mean, which era are we living in?
But many people fall for this because physically 3 cameras still look appealing than a dual or single camera.

Meanwhile, some camera-oriented smartphones still work with single or dual cameras. For example, an iPhone or a Google Pixel. They are still working with a minimum number of cameras unlike Chinese smartphones and yet remain the industry leaders.

Because in the end, it is all about how a smartphone processes the images. It’s not all about megapixels and the number of cameras.

Want to read more details?
[Must Read | Camera Quality – Is Megapixel Everything?]

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