What are cell phone lenses?

Time passed and mobile phones moved from one camera to two, three, four and even five sensors. This development brought many benefits, such as the ability to take pictures with wider angles and small objects. However, having several lenses can cause some confusion when buying a new smartphone. Therefore, I will explain to you the purpose of each of them.




What are cell phone lenses?

What are cell phone lenses?

Photo: Vitor Pádua / Tecnoblog / Tecnoblog

index

  • the basic
  • Wide, Extra Wide, or Extra Wide Angle
  • Telephoto or telephoto
  • monochrome
  • Flour
  • Depth
  • ToF (time of flight)
  • periscope

the basic



Photo captured with Galaxy S21 FE main camera

Photo captured with Galaxy S21 FE main camera

Photo: Darlan Helder / Tecnoblog / Tecnoblog

The main camera is usually the most used in everyday life. In this sensor manufacturers invest more in technologies and resources, such as artificial intelligence and a smaller aperture for greater light capture. The goal is simple: to increase the quality of the images with each new release.

Usually, this lens can be identified with some ease, as it usually has a higher amount of megapixels when compared to other lenses. This means that, for the most part, it is the main camera that records your important moments.

  • Smartphones with this lens: basically all of them are available in the market.

Wide, Extra Wide, or Extra Wide Angle



The photo was taken with the iPhone 13 Mini's Ultra Wide Camera

The photo was taken with the iPhone 13 Mini’s Ultra Wide Camera

Photo: Darlan Helder / Tecnoblog / Tecnoblog

Although there are many names, the role of a wide-angle lens is the same: to take pictures at a wider angle, which makes it possible to record a larger number of subjects, people or parts of a landscape. The angle depends on the manufacturer, but is usually about 118 degrees.

Imagine that this sensor is equivalent to, for example, taking a few steps back to get a wider field of view, giving the impression that the user is very far away. Pictures taken with this camera may have slight distortion at the edges, but in most cases the software can apply corrections to make them almost imperceptible.

  • Smartphones with this lens: iPhone 13 Mini, Galaxy S21, Xiaomi 12, Galaxy A53 5G, Moto G52.

Telephoto or telephoto



Photo taken with 10x zoom on Galaxy S22 Ultra

Photo taken with 10x zoom on Galaxy S22 Ultra

Photo: Darlan Helder / Tecnoblog / Tecnoblog

A telephoto or telephoto lens operates in reverse for a wide angle. While the Ultra Wide angle expands the angle to fit more items, this sensor zooms in to bring the frame closer and take a close shot of the subject or subject, without the user having to get physically close.

Depending on the model, it is possible to apply optical, digital or hybrid zoom. The first option zooms in by reflecting light from a set of lenses to reduce quality loss, while the second option uses the same software to simply “stretch” the frame and deliver a similar effect, resulting in poor photos. The hybrid, in turn, merges the two to deliver better visuals.

On some devices, this type of lens is also used to create a “portrait mode” effect, which blurs the background of an image and highlights a subject’s face, or to take pictures of small objects, zooming in for more detail.

  • Smartphones with this lens: iPhone 13 Pro Max, Galaxy S22 Ultra, Galaxy A72, Xiaomi 11 Lite 5G NE, Xiaomi 12.

monochrome



Photo captured with OnePlus 9 Pro monochrome lens

Photo captured with OnePlus 9 Pro monochrome lens

Photo: Reproduction / GSMArena / Tecnoblog

Unlike the color sensors, monochrome only allows you to take black and white photos. Although it is not as popular as the others, many well-known manufacturers have already adopted it. This lens has the advantage of being able to collect more detail than is possible with the RGB color sensor.

This is because monochrome images provide a greater dynamic range. So the cell phone can capture the light more effectively without the color filter in the foreground. The images captured with this lens provide better color ratio, clarity and contrast.

  • Smartphones equipped with this lens: OnePlus 9 Pro, Infinix Note 10 Pro, OnePlus 8T and OnePlus 9R.

Flour



The photo was taken with the Galaxy A53 5G Macro Camera

The photo was taken with the Galaxy A53 5G Macro Camera

Photo: Darlan Helder / Tecnoblog / Tecnoblog

As the name suggests, the purpose of a macro lens is to take pictures of close-up objects. This sensor provides an extremely short focal length, which allows the user to get close to the subject to take pictures with greater detail, often imperceptible even to the naked eye.

Although the manufacturers are interesting, they do not invest much in this type of lens. Therefore, most offer fewer megapixels and a lower quality sensor, which results in only decent photos in adequate lighting environments.

  • Smartphones equipped with this lens: Galaxy A53 5G, Realme GT 2 Pro, Poco F4 GT, Realme GT Master Edition, Poco X3 Pro.

Depth



Redmi Note 11 depth sensor helps remove blur

Redmi Note 11 depth sensor helps remove blur

Photo: Darlan Helder / Tecnoblog / Tecnoblog

The depth sensor is responsible for creating the effect of a “blurry background” in portrait mode. The lens works by taking a 3D reading to calculate the depth of field of the environment and understand the position of objects. Thus, the device can combine several images to produce camouflage.

However, this sensor is not only used for this purpose. In fact, it also renders images better than apps that use augmented reality. Unlike other lenses, the user cannot manually activate the depth lens. This means that it only “comes into action” when the program really needs it.

  • Smartphones equipped with this lens: Redmi Note 11, Galaxy A73 5G, Galaxy A33 5G, Motorola Edge 30 Pro.

ToF (time of flight)



iPhone 13 Pro Max has a ToF sensor

iPhone 13 Pro Max has a ToF sensor

Photo: Disclosure / Apple / Tecnoblog

ToF (time of flight or time of flight in Portuguese) technology is usually built into high-end mobile phones. The function of the sensor is to make 3D maps to determine the distance between objects from emitting light.

It works like this: the system can calculate what is in the “background” using a pulse of infrared light emitted by the sensor itself, which is reflected on the captured image and returned to the inner lens. Depending on the time of return, the device can understand what is far and what is close.

In addition to improving image capture in portrait mode, this technology is also being applied in 3D facial recognition biometric systems and in virtual or augmented reality applications.

  • Smartphones with this lens: iPhone 13 Pro Max, Huawei P30 Pro and Galaxy S10 5G.

periscope



Periscope lens process

Periscope lens process

Photo: Disclosure / Samsung / Tecnoblog

The name is not just marketing: the periscope lens is actually inspired by the periscope, an object of military origin used in battle tanks to monitor the approach of enemies from outside the vehicle. The purpose of this sensor is to apply a large amount of magnification without losing a lot of detail.

For this to happen, inside the camera module, some of the lenses are positioned perpendicular to the device sensor. Only one lens is inserted into the back of the phone, and below it is a prism that reflects the light 90 degrees toward the sensor, but not before the light passes through other lenses.

The zoom effect occurs because the cell phone uses a magnetic mechanism that moves the lens according to the need to approach, leaving the object closer or further away. Although the process is similar to a telephoto lens, the periscope camera offers a more advanced technology to avoid information loss.

  • Smartphones equipped with this lens: Galaxy S22 Ultra 5G, Huawei P50 Pro, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra 5G, Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra.

Macro, telephoto, ultrawide, ToF: What are cellphone lenses?

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