You're overpaying for your iPhone's camera

Just as I've mentioned in my summary on why you're overpaying for your high-end smartphone's camera, here are my thoughts specifically about the iPhone's dual camera setup and why you're overpaying for it.

iPhone camera

I got a dual camera first in the iPhone X, so I personally wasn't familiar with it on the iPhones 6 Plus, 6s Plus, 7 Plus and 8 Plus (which was presented along the iPhone X).

First, I was sold on the 2x camera since quite few of my photos started making more sense with having objects to be bigger to be recognizable and framed better in general. I also had to do less movements trying to capture something and not having to physically get closer to it.

But then I stumbled upon some article comparing 2x optical zoom from the second lens to the 1x lens digitally zoomed in two times. And somewhere in that article I noticed the author mentioning the fact that the 2x camera might not even being used depending on the conditions. Whether the phone would use 2x or not mainly depends on outside lightning. So at times when you're surrounded with dim light, and take 2x photos, they are actually taken with the 1x lens and 2x digital zoom.

Here's an experiment: go to a place with dim lightning, close your 2x camera with a finger and switch to 2x. You'll see the image zoomed, even though your finger is clearly in the way. And since you paid for the 2x camera which is not always used, it means you overpaid on the promise of it.

I get that's no surprise the 2x isn't always used, because with that tiny telephoto lens and tiny sensor you can't fight the laws of optics. But Apple is still not shy selling the zoom feature like it's the best in the world and people buy and pay for that idea and not the actual thing. And I get this is pure corporate marketing BS aimed to boost sales but previously I never felt that mislead like I do this day. And from now on each time I will hear about camera improvements pushed so hard each year as one of the biggest on the market I would be much more skeptical to what is being promoted and promised.

Continue reading my thoughts on the potrait photo letdown when that post goes up.

You're overpaying for your phone's camera

If you're using your phone camera for posting on social media, which cram the photo quality a lot, you might be overpaying for your phone's camera.

Camera-blind-test

The recent objective winners backed up by thorough tests in the phone camera department are:

  1. Google Pixel 3 XL
  2. iPhone XS
  3. Samsung Galaxy Note 9

But as MKBHD's blind camera test shows - buying a more expensive phone with a presumably better camera is not worth it if you mainly use the taken photos to post on social media. Like me, all of MKBHD's friends were blown away with the results.

If you take photos to keep the best, more natural version of the moment for a long time, then the more expensive phones are for you. But if you use your phone's photos to post on social media, and because of how they compress the images and their quality, you can actually achieve even better results with cheaper smartphones rather than posting photos from a more expensive ones.

The thing is that people assess pictures based on how they look in general, not based on the theoretical or technical details. And nowadays you can go really far just by improving the pictures with software. This is where the cheap phone shined in this review. Not only you can't see all the tiny details that more expensive phones provide because of the photos being compressed, but the over-exposed (usually just brighter) pictures from the cheap phones which use a ton of software enhancements actually feel better than the more precise photos taken with more expensive devices.

The winner of this test, Huawei Mate 20 Pro which is not a cheap phone by any means and actually has a really great hardware camera setup won because Huawei is known for their software processing for the photos. And the Pocophone F1 (Xiaomi's sub-brand) which costs only $300 came second out of 20 phones, beating the iPhones and Samsungs of this world also mostly because of improving the pictures with its software. Pocophone's camera lacks details if you zoom in the uncompressed version, but no one cares about those details when they're looking at the compressed pictures on Instagram or Twitter.

The bottom line is you can take a visually much more pleasing picture with worse hardware but then improve it with software. In fact, photo filters and manual adjustments have been there for a while enabling people posting awesome shots from not that great devices. So next time when a brand sells you how truly great their camera is, if you're doing photos just for social media, you can easily ignore that. That is what most people actually do already. Because hardware means less and less, and software wins again. But even Google who is great with their image processing algorithms lost with their Google Pixel 3 XL in the first round of comparison. And two top spots in the test won two Chinese companies, usually not very well known for their software achievements. But tables have turned.