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Dual Cameras: What are the benefits of a cell phone having two lenses?

Dual cameras (also called stereo cameras) are the rave these days – whether in front of the phone or at the back. For clarity, dual cameras refer to setups where you have two lenses side-by-side, one another. The result is the camera can capture three-dimensional images. The primary camera works like a regular camera. The trick is usually with the secondary camera. Read on for explanations.

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What Does The Secondary Camera Do?

The secondary camera is usually able to do either of two things:

  1. add the ability to zoom or capture a wider area. In this case, the secondary camera usually has a wide angle lens
  2. capture depth of field in the image. In this case, the secondary camera is usually a monochrome (that is black and white) camera
Huawei P9 dual cameras

Our focus will be with dual cameras that capture images with depth of field, because this is the more popular scenario on dual camera smartphone. In such dual cameras, the objective is to create depth of field. One camera takes the regular photo. The other adds depth to it. The result is a photo that looks like something shot with a more professional camera.

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In dual cameras, one camera takes the regular photo. The other adds depth to it. The result is a photo that looks like something shot with a more professional camera.

Depth Of Field and Bokeh: Any Difference?

Bokeh and depth of field are closely related terms, though they are not the same. When you look at a photograph in which there is a section in focus, that’s a photo with depth of field. Bokeh refers to how the blurred part of the photograph is rendered. This blurred area can be smooth, jagged, or harsh.

bokeh - depth of field

The photo below was shot with the dual selfie cameras on the Lenovo Vibe S1. You can see how the objects in the background are out of focus and blurred away.

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So, you can see that bokeh and depth of field are related. For a photo to have bokeh effect, it must have depth of field. So, dual cameras that produce depth of field are great for taking photographs with the Bokeh effect.

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Note that some smartphones with really excellent cameras are able to add depth of field and bokeh without the need for a dual camera setup. Examples include the Nokia 808 PurView and Lumia 1020. While not traditionally regarded as a great cameraphone by many, the BlackBerry Passport pulls it off too with a single camera.

Advantages of Dual Cameras In Smartphones

In summary, here are the advantages of dual cameras in smartphones:

  • Faster focusing when shooting pictures
  • Greater depth of field in pictures
  • Refocus and other effects possible after the photos have been taken
  • Better low-light capabilities
  • Better picture clarity
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Note that how good a dual camera smartphone is will also depend on how well implemented the cameras are. But all things being equal, a dual camera smartphone is a step towards much better photography.

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One More Thing

Do not forget to ask what kind of dual cameras are on the smartphone that you are interested in buying. You don’t want to buy a camera phone for great depth of field images and end up with a dual camera that produces wide angle images.

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