In 2018, in the small world of mobiles, the big attraction was the front of smartphones: their screens grew visibly by devouring their margins. In 2019, we will probably have to look at the back of smartphones to gauge their evolution. Several three-goal phones have been announced recently, including the LG V40.
The Lenovo Z5 Pro goes further by embedding four goals. This will also be the case of the Samsung A9, the new mid-range mobile number one in France, announced on Thursday, October 11. A heavy choice of consequences, because under each lens hides a photo sensor that weighs a few grams, takes a few millimeters, costs a few euros, even a few tens of euros.
What justifies this stacking?
The multiplication of the objectives answers to a real problem, which penalizes the smartphones since their birth: the absence of optical zoom. The smallest compact camera at 70 euros now has an X5 zoom; however, the majority of smartphones are deprived of optical zoom.
Many users do not know because they can zoom in with their smartphone. It is, in reality, an artificial zoom. When it is used by spreading its fingers on its screen, the photosensor stops using all its pixels: it only uses the pixels of the center. The quality of the photos drops drastically.
Until recently, the best-equipped smartphones had a two-position X2 optical zoom, which took its first steps in 2016. Now, we can count on a three-position X4 zoom:
A spectacular super-wide angle, convenient for photographing buildings and landscapes.
A classic wide angle, the one that fits most smartphones.
A very modest telephoto lens that captures portraits that distort faces less and allows, occasionally, to get a subject a little bit distant.
Note the fundamental difference between compact cameras and smartphones. The first embark only one photo sensor and a single lens, a zoom, capable of traveling from wide angle to telephoto. Smartphones have several sensors and so many objectives.
There are many reasons for this. The first is that a zoom, like the one that fitted the Nokia N93 released in 2006, takes a lot of space. But the motives are their size wasp. The second is that the zoom lenses are optical compromise penalizing they leave less come to light. The more specialized objectives of smartphones capture more, which is a master advantage in the photographic competition that manufacturers are engaged in: their night photography is better.
What will be the fourth purpose of Samsung?
The fourth lens in the Samsung A9 will support the camera’s “portrait” mode, capturing the third dimension of the image. This allows you to better separate the subject from the landscape to recreate a nice background blur, which softens the photo. Google manages, however, to do without this depth sensor on its Pixel 3, which however offer a simulation of the background blur.
This detail aside, the multiplication of photosensors is really useful for photography enthusiasts. It would almost come to wish the coming off a fifth objective, a true “tele objective” which sees very far and authorizes beautiful photos of the sportsmen in the stadiums, musicians during the spectacles, boats on the beach, etc.