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Home » Have we reached the limit of hardware? Why can’t smartphone cameras still achieve that 3D camera look?

Have we reached the limit of hardware? Why can’t smartphone cameras still achieve that 3D camera look?

I was playing around with my RX100 on the weekend, for those that don’t know, it’s a camera with a 1″ sensor released in 2012. And I came to a realization. It clipped light, was blurry at lot and overall was nowhere near as easy to use as my Pixel 4a, but it managed to do something Pixel 4a cannot. And that is to make images look like they came out of a dedicated camera. Every photo, even blurry ones, came out with that “look”. Images look 3D. It is an effect effect that smartphones cannot seem to be able to create. I think it is due to the lens.

Here are some examples:

[Dashboard]( – The light is clipped. Colour accuracy can be argued. The image itself is not super sharp in the center, it has shake in it. But, there is nice blur behind and nice blur in front, creating depth and focus.

[My little buddy]( – 3D effect. Blur is bit weird on top of his head, don’t know what happened there, but otherwise nice image.

[The other little buddy]( – This picture is in focus and sharp. And it has a very nice 3D effect.

Smartphones generally destroy dedicated cameras in imaging when used by average users. Even DSLRs. Take Google Pixel. It is the ultimate imaging tool. When you absolutely, positively need to capture the surroundings with the maximum accuracy and capture as much as possible, you need a Pixel. It’s not always pleasant and nice looking (I’ve mentioned before, bright shadows, grain, noise, haze), but you will get maximum information in the image. There is more chance that you will get a usable unprepared (no tripod, no setup) shot on your smartphone than on your full-frame DSLR because all the intelligence smartphone cameras have. But they cannot achieve that camera look. Hence, it’s an imaging tool to me and not a photography tool, a camera, if you get what I mean. It cannot achieve the 3D camera look.

Software is close to perfect with pretty much every trick in the book thrown in.

I thought 1″ sensors would make that difference but they seem to have made little to no difference (look at MKBHD’s comparison, IMX363 won that. Xiaomi 12S Ultra lost, a lot!). I can’t imagine they’ll be getting any bigger.

And lenses that are included with them seem to be awful. And that is probably my main point of discussion here. What happened to the lenses of smartphones? RX100’s blur is pleasant, it’s got smooth roll off whereas on smartphones it has actually regressed. It’s unpleasant and adds ghosting.

Here are some examples:

Pixel 4a, [check the text on the edges]( It looks awful! In comparison [Lumia 950’s lens is much better](

[Pixel 4a Skechers]( The text looks like it’s evaporating. Nokia 808 on the other hand [looks fine](

[Medjool dates]( Lots of ghosting on the of the writing in the back. [Lumia 950] (, blur, but no ghosting.

Finally, [document](, that’s on Pixel 4a, check the top of it, and the bottom of it. There is ghosting on it. It makes taking pictures of documents almost useless. 950 on the other hand [captures it fine]( Top and bottom are sharp.

I thought this may have been just Pixel 4a. But then I went and checked and it seems pretty much all of the modern smartphones have this issue. Here’s [Pixel 7]( from GSMArena. There is so much ghosting around the perimeter. [Lumia 950]( [Xiaomi 12S Ultra]( Older phones like LG G4, Moto G4 do not have ghosting like this at all. It started at around the time OG Pixel came out. Even Nexus 5X does not have this. Is it because of bigger sensors? Does your phone have this issue?

Have we reached that point where we have we squeezed out what we could out of smartphone cameras in terms of hardware?

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