A nine-camera smartphone prototype
The company launched in 2017 the first portable camera with 16 lenses.

The Nokia 1020 surprised us more than five years ago with its 41 megapixel camera. It was a device ahead of its time and that did not finish. So much so that it has ended up serving as a microscope and DNA sequencer. Now the megapixel madness seems to have calmed down but we have with us another trend that is slowly emerging. We talked about the race to add multiple cameras.

Once the double camera has settled completely among almost all mobile devices, we started to see projects and mobile prototypes with up to nine cameras. Let’s see what companies are behind, what is the use of having so many cameras and manufacturers are interested in adding more than two cameras on their smartphones.

What are the benefits of adding so many lenses to the mobile

Light is the company behind the L16 camera, a compact camera with 16 lenses. In total five lenses of 28mm f / 2.0, other five of 70mm and f / 2.0 and six more of 150mm and f / 2.4. An experiment that now we read in The Washington Post will have its equivalent in mobile. A mobile with nine cameras located in a circular shape. A device that Foxconn would help to manufacture and would be presented by the end of 2018.

Why do we need nine cameras in a mobile? Well, it would not be a matter of necessity but to know what can be achieved with such a combination. According to Light, this multi-lens system would allow images of up to 64 megapixels and with various depth effects to be achieved. Now that the portrait mode is being used so much, having several lenses makes it possible to improve this effect. Although as demonstrated by devices such as the Pixel 2 XL, artificial intelligence is also capable of achieving similar effects with a single lens.

Each photograph may require a different lens but in today’s phones we have little room for adaptation.

In addition to combining images and generating depth effects, having several lenses of different sizes allows us to adjust to each situation. One of the problems with mobiles is that the lens is fixed, while in the cameras we can exchange lenses. Beyond the MotoMods, modular smartphones have not been implemented and therefore offering several lenses is an option to improve the photographic capabilities of the mobile.

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The success of the Huawei P20 Pro opens the ban

When we talk about several cameras on a mobile phone, this year the Huawei P20 Pro inevitably comes to mind. A 40 megapixel camera, a secondary 20 megapixel monochrome and a third eight megapixel telephoto.

It is an ideal example of what it can be to have several cameras, since each one of them fulfills a specific function and allows the camera of the Huawei P20 Pro to stand out in concrete aspects that normally have not been worked well on mobile phones, such as the zoom case.

One RGB sensor, another monochrome sensor and one for zoom. The Huawei P20 Pro has added the triple camera to offer options that otherwise would not be accessible.

This approach clashes head-on with other ideas such as the variable aperture of the Galaxy S9. The two options are viable, but in general most analyzes have put more value on the game that gives three cameras to be able to adjust the aperture in the main lens.

Old projects without success

In the past other manufacturers have also had an approach to the concept of multiple cameras. Amazon was one of them. His Fire Phone was not successful and the following generations did not see the light. They were going to have six cameras that would help to track the eyes and display 3D images. A proposal that Amazon still wants to fulfill. Having several cameras can help the mobile to better capture the environment and offer a more accurate augmented reality experience.

The multiple cameras allow better capture of the mobile environment, which can be very useful for sectors such as the augmented reality.

The rise of augmented and virtual reality caused that a few years ago professional projects emerged, such as the Nokia OZO VR eight-lens camera. A device that had to say goodbye as virtual reality moves too slow. Projects ahead of their time that exemplify that the idea of ​​multiple cameras is not new. It will be necessary to see if as of this year the users put in value the possibilities that they offer.

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By the end of the year we will have more phones with multiple cameras

In addition to the Light prototype, other traditional mobile manufacturers will also be targeting multiple cameras. The LG V40 would be one of them. In the next flagship of the South Korean manufacturer we would have up to five cameras, although two of them would be on the front.

There are rumors that the future iPhone 11 could join the triple camera. And even has already been rumored about the Galaxy S10 + next year, which would also make the leap. We do not know if this trend will end up being imposed as it has done the double camera, what seems clear is that many manufacturers are considering it seriously.

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