Mobile photography: everything you need to know about the camera in your smartphone (Topic)

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Mobile photography: everything you need to know about the camera in your smartphone


Every modern smartphone has a camera, and despite the fact that they all have the same structure, the results of shooting will always be different.

Some cameras shoot better in low light than others, some record video in 4K, and some perfectly stabilize video even when shooting from a moving vehicle. What is the reason for these differences? Let's try to figure it out.

How does the camera work?

Inside, all cameras are arranged approximately the same. They have:

  • transmissive lens;
  • a sensor that receives light from the lens;
  • software that analyzes data and turns it into an image file.

The combination of these three things determines how well (or badly) your smartphone will shoot.


MP is a unit used to measure the resolution of a photo. 1MP is a million pixels (1000x1000). A 20MP photo has 20 million pixels, or 20 million dots, that make up the image.

It is generally accepted that the more MP, the better the picture will turn out. It can be enlarged and trimmed without the fear of crisp, straight lines turning into ugly ladders. However, the image quality depends not only on the MP alone. Sometimes a photo from a 12MP camera looks clearly better than what was taken under the same conditions with a 20MP one.

Matrix size

A sensor that picks up light waves is called a matrix. Usually, the size of the matrix in a smartphone does not exceed one square centimeter, but there are models where the matrix is two or even three times larger. The larger the matrix, the larger its pixels are. If we take for comparison two smartphones with the same number of MP, then the one with a larger sensor will be better to shoot.


The most common sensor types in smartphones are CCD and CMOS. The first is older, it was used in the very first smartphones, it is still used in economy class models. CMOS sensor is more complicated and more expensive. Each manufacturer has its own sensor manufacturing technology, so the same type of sensor can give different shooting results in different devices.


In the most general sense, aperture is a hole through which light enters the camera's matrix. Its aperture is measured in stops (or f-numbers): for example, f / 2.0, f / 2.8. The lower this number, the larger the aperture, which means that more light enters the matrix and the quality of the images will be higher. In low light conditions, the smartphone with an f / 1.8 or f / 1.6 camera aperture is better.

ISO and shutter speed

In addition to the aperture, other characteristics affect the quality of images. Shutter speed is the amount of time the camera will keep the lens open for shooting. ISO is the camera's sensitivity to light. Both of these characteristics can be adjusted via the camera app.

The higher the ISO value, the more sensitive the camera will be to light. Increasing the sensitivity often results in noise — a grainy effect — in the photo. Therefore, in different lighting conditions, it is recommended to experiment with ISO, starting with low values.

The faster the shutter speed, the longer the lens will be open, the camera will pick up more light, but it will become extremely sensitive to shaking. The slightest movement will blur the picture. For sports photography, the shutter speed should be as low as possible, and for a beautiful photo of fireworks or lightning, the value should be set higher.

Image Stabilization

There are two types of stabilization:

  • digital;
  • optical.

Optical stabilization usually works better than digital stabilization, especially at dusk and darkness. A video shot with very strong shaking will not work properly even with the best editor.

HD and 4K

Both characteristics apply to video recording. HD - high definition, 1920x1080. 4K (UltraHD) has twice the resolution, 3840x2160. The numbers show the number of pixels in the horizontal and vertical lines. The advantage of 4K video is that it can be enlarged during editing without any visible loss in quality. The disadvantage is the large weight of the video file.

RAW format

Absolutely all smartphones can save photos in JPEG. It is a format that automatically optimizes and compresses images to save memory space. Some premium devices support RAW. This format does not use compression, images captured in it take up a lot of space, but they look more natural and are easier to process in the editor.


Even with a large sensor, optical stabilization and RAW support, the image can be poor. Bad software can nullify all technical specifications of the device.

It's worth spending a little time experimenting with different camera applications, as they all differ in the amount of settings available and how the data is processed.

The Topic of Article: Mobile photography: everything you need to know about the camera in your smartphone.
Author: Jake Pinkman