Photography Explained

Are Phone Camera Lenses Any Good? Lets Find Out

June 01, 2021 Rick McEvoy Episode 67
Photography Explained
Are Phone Camera Lenses Any Good? Lets Find Out
Chapters
Photography Explained
Are Phone Camera Lenses Any Good? Lets Find Out
Jun 01, 2021 Episode 67
Rick McEvoy

Are Phone Camera Lenses Any Good? Lets Find Out. Hi and welcome to Episode 68 of the Photography Explained podcast.

I’m your host Rick, and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing to you in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details. What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience. And not Google.

Here is my answer
Phone cameras have much smaller lenses than mirrorless or DSLR cameras, but they have extraordinary image taking capabilities considering their size. Camera lenses on phones operate in the same was as they do on cameras, directing light onto the imaging sensor in the body of the phone. The combination of these remarkable lenses with the technology built into phones offer remarkable image taking possibilities - all from a phone.

Listen for more, or check out the transcript and even the blog post - so many ways to find out more!

What’s next?
Glad you asked! In Photography Explained Podcast 69, How Can I Improve My Mobile Camera Lens? This Is New To Me Too!

What to ask a question?
Head over to the Want Me To Explain Something? page on the Photography Explained website and fill the form in and you are done!

Check out my my blog
Check out my photography blog where you will find lots more photography stuff all written by me.

Did you enjoy this episode?
If you did please do the following, which will help me and not take too much time.
·         Rate and review my podcast
·         Subscribe
·         Tell anyone you think might like my podcast

Thank you very much for listening and see you on the next episode.

Rick McEvoy – Photography Explained Podcast

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/Rickmcevoy)

Show Notes Transcript

Are Phone Camera Lenses Any Good? Lets Find Out. Hi and welcome to Episode 68 of the Photography Explained podcast.

I’m your host Rick, and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing to you in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details. What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience. And not Google.

Here is my answer
Phone cameras have much smaller lenses than mirrorless or DSLR cameras, but they have extraordinary image taking capabilities considering their size. Camera lenses on phones operate in the same was as they do on cameras, directing light onto the imaging sensor in the body of the phone. The combination of these remarkable lenses with the technology built into phones offer remarkable image taking possibilities - all from a phone.

Listen for more, or check out the transcript and even the blog post - so many ways to find out more!

What’s next?
Glad you asked! In Photography Explained Podcast 69, How Can I Improve My Mobile Camera Lens? This Is New To Me Too!

What to ask a question?
Head over to the Want Me To Explain Something? page on the Photography Explained website and fill the form in and you are done!

Check out my my blog
Check out my photography blog where you will find lots more photography stuff all written by me.

Did you enjoy this episode?
If you did please do the following, which will help me and not take too much time.
·         Rate and review my podcast
·         Subscribe
·         Tell anyone you think might like my podcast

Thank you very much for listening and see you on the next episode.

Rick McEvoy – Photography Explained Podcast

Support the show (https://www.buymeacoffee.com/Rickmcevoy)

Are phone camera lenses any good? Let's find out. Hi, and welcome to Episode 68 of the Photography Explained Podcast. I'm your host Rick, and in each episode I will explain one photographic thing to you in plain English in less than 10 minutes (ish) without the irrelevant details. What I tell you is based on my lifetime of photographic experience, and not Google.

Before I go on, if you have a question you would like me to answer just go to photographyexplainedpodcast.com/start. That's photographyexplainedpodcast.com/start. In less than a minute here is the first error!

Right here is the answery bit.

Phone cameras have much smaller lenses than mirrorless or DSLR cameras, but they have extraordinary image taking capabilities considering their size. Camera lenses on phones operate in the same was as they do on cameras, directing light onto the imaging sensor in the body of the phone. The combination of these remarkable lenses with the technology built into phones offer remarkable image taking possibilities - all from a phone.

Right, that's the answer.

Here is that the detailed bit, only a little bit obviously.

First question, how are these lenses so good?
Well, if you think about it, the manufacturers of these devices are the real tech giants. You’ve got Apple, Google, and Samsung to name just three. Apologies to all of the other manufacturers of phones, but they're the first three that sprang to mind.

I need to say here that I use an iPhone, so my knowledge is based on an iPhone (only), I've never used an Android phone in my life, rightly or wrongly.

These devices combine precise engineering of the optics with ultra-powerful processing of images. It is the combination of the optics and the software that make these cameras so good. The software does a lot of stuff. 

Now with my DSLR I shoot in RAW, and there is no processing applied to an image. With a phone there is a massive amount of processing done. A lot of the errors in older phone cameras are corrected at the time the photo is taken.

I'll explain these in another episode, but the main ones you need to know about are these

  • Chromatic aberration
  • Vignetting
  • Optical distortions

These things used to make photos taken with a phone look a bit rubbish, but they are now corrected instantly. It's just remarkable how they've done this.

What is the best camera lens on a phone?
Well, it's like saying what's the best camera? I mean, the best camera is the one that you have. There are lots of phones, obviously. There are lots of different cameras and lenses. And as you probably expect, the newer the phone, the better the lens in very general terms.

I mean, iPhones have got pretty good lenses. Samsung have got pretty good lenses. Google Pixel - they're meant to be a little bit better, a step above.

But let's not forget, we're comparing amazing with more amazing.

We're not comparing rubbish to amazing - we're comparing levels of, to be honest with you, amazing.

Okay, what do I use?
I'm using a three year old iPhone XS. And it is amazing. All right. I'll reiterate the point.

My iPhone is amazing. It's not brand new. It's not the latest tech, but it's still amazing. Sure the iPhone 12 Pro is more amazing, but can you really tell the difference in the photos?

You probably can but then again, is that really that important?

The early days
You need to think back to when the first camera phones came out and you got those little square images that were, well being generous, they weren't great were they? 

So yeah, a three year old phone is still fine.

Now there's some stuff I did not know.

What focal length are camera phone lenses?

The main lens
I've spoken about this on previous episodes (focal lengths). On the iPhone XS, the wide angle lens has a focal length of 4.25mm.

This is equivalent to 26mm on a full frame camera. I didn't know that.

The second lens
Neither did I know that the other lens, the telephoto lens, has a 6mm focal length, which is equal to 52mm on a full frame camera.

The irony of this is that the main lens is a wide angle lens, and it's quite wide at 26mm. And the other lens which is called the telephoto lens is actually the equivalent of a standard lens in photography terms.

You have got to think about things differently with a camera phone.

The selfie lens on the front.
That front facing lens has got an equivalent focal length of 32mm. I’m going to be honest with you now I couldn't find the actual focal length but you get the point.

Are camera lenses prime or zoom?
Well take my iPhone again, it has two prime lenses, sorry, three, because I forgot the one on the front. The one known, almost deprecatingly (a big word for a Wednesday morning) as a selfie lens.

What aperture are iPhone camera lenses?
I didn't know this either.

Sticking with my iPhone XS, because that's the only one I have, the wide angle lens has an aperture of F 1.8. The telephoto lens has an aperture of F 2.4. And the front lens has an F 2.2 aperture.

So the apertures are fixed.

Depth of field is control via software and not stopping down the aperture.

And again, that's why you have to think about camera phones differently from cameras because you are using them in a different way completely.

Are phone camera lenses autofocus?
Yes, you can't get a manual focus phone lens, so it must be autofocus. I don't know a phone that has got focus in points in it. Just think about that. You wouldn't want manual focus on a lens on a phone would you?

Can you change the lenses on phone cameras?
You can't change them as far as I'm aware, I don't know of any lens that you can remove and swap for another one.

You can add lenses to a phone (though) right?

That's it - that's just reminded me - you can add lenses to a phone. I need to know more about that. That's the next episode sorted. So I'll just take my spreadsheet and we'll do that.

Can you tell the difference between phone and full frame camera photos?
Probably the most important question, can you actually tell the difference? Now if you go on the internet, you'll see more and more of this, you can see comparisons where people are asking you to spot the difference and say which one was taken with a phone, which one was taken with, for arguments sake, a full frame camera.

And you look at them, and well, you can't tell can you?

And this is it's another part of this really, is that we view photos differently.

Now I'll come onto this is another episode, but if you think about it, how many photos do you view on the screen on your phone, and your tablet, on the monitor?

How many times do you make a large print and look at it? You can tell the difference then between a phone and a camera photo, but we're not looking at photos like that now, which does get onto the point...

Do you need a camera really?
It’s a question isn't it, which leads me on nicely to say this, almost as though it's intended!

Can you use a phone to take professional photos?
The answer? I'm going to come on to that on another episode. Because I think there's a lot I can say about that. And a lot of it is to do with the way that we view photos now, but if you want an answer for this episode, that's fine.

You can use a phone to take professional photos and people are doing it are making a decent living out of it.

What do I do?
Well I use an iPhone XS. I use my phone for day to day snaps, behind the scenes shots, and a video content. I've taken photos on the phone and put them next to photos taken with my Canon 6D and guess what?

If you look at them casually, you can't see a great difference. I know the difference. I know there's benefits to RAW photos taken on a full frame camera (not “off all Frankham rubber” as the transcript though). Think about how we look at photos these days.

And another thing
These amazing cameras that you get made by Apple, Samsung, and everybody. Do you know what - you can do this thing with them where you, you, you can phone somebody up and speak to them.

Just saying.

Okay, I'm going to finish off with the talky bit.
I was meant to be talking about lenses and this has opened up another endless subject that I really want to talk about, this is obviously going to be popular. Mobile phone photography. It's so obvious now when I think about it. I'm not really sure why I didn't come up with this one sooner, but I got there in the end.

Yeah, camera lenses has naturally led me down this path. It wasn't the plan. I did have plans but they're put on the back burner for now. Or further down the list of episodes as you can see on the photographyexplainedpodcast.com/episodes.

Phone cameras work in different ways.

Think about this one. You don't choose an aperture. You don't set a shutter speed. You don't set an ISO, you just press a button and it's all done for you. And we love that don't we?

And you can share things instantly.

Sorry, I'm digressing now going way beyond the subject which was lenses on camera phones.

Camera phone lenses, my one line summary.
Camera phone lenses offer extraordinary image capture capabilities considering their size and the fact that they're in a phone. I think we sometimes forget that when we're looking at phones and going, this phone is better than that phone etc, this camera is better than that camera - it's a phone is not a camera. Get over it. They're all (pretty much) amazing.

Okay, so next episode, Episode 69.
To be honest, I'm sticking with this train of thought. Now, as I said before, how can I improve my mobile camera lens? This is new to me too. Yep, that's my snappy title.

Okay, I'm done.
Thanks for listening to my small but perfectly formed podcast. To find out more and do stuff to help me check out photographyexplainedpodcast.com/start.

Brought to you by
This episode was brought to you by several coffees and some water to rehydrate myself.

I've been Rick McEvoy, thanks again very much for listening to me, and for giving me a less than 12 and three quarter minutes of your valuable time and I will see you on the next episode.

Cheers from me, Rick.

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

lenses, phone, camera lens, camera, full frame camera, iPhone, photography, aperture, photos, focal length, image, episode, millimetres, XS, amazing, difference, wide angle lens, optics, next episode, imaging sensor