Smartphone cameras step closer to high-end power - Weekend

Smartphone cameras step closer to high-end power

EXPECT sharper, clearer selfies this year.

Samsung Electronics Co. has beefed up the camera in its Galaxy S5 smartphone due for April release and added smarter camera software, following Sony and Nokia in their upgrades of handset cameras.

The tweaks mean smartphone photos, ubiquitous nowadays because of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, will be closer in quality to images captured by digital single-lens reflex cameras, also known as DSLR.

SAMSUNG GALAXY S5. The new Samsung Galaxy S5 is displayed at the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile phone trade show in Barcelona, Spain. Samsung Electronics Co. has beefed up the camera in its Galaxy S5 smartphone due for April release and added smarter camera software, following Sony and Nokia in their upgrades of handset cameras. (AP FOTO)
SAMSUNG GALAXY S5. The new Samsung Galaxy S5 is displayed at the Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile phone trade show in Barcelona, Spain. Samsung Electronics Co. has beefed up the camera in its Galaxy S5 smartphone due for April release and added smarter camera software, following Sony and Nokia in their upgrades of handset cameras. (AP FOTO)

The gap is getting narrower thanks mainly to improvements in camera software and other technologies.

The global wireless show that wraps up in Barcelona on Thursday showed smartphone makers using software trickery to offset their camera weaknesses: inferior image sensors and lack of optical zoom lens. The companies are also making photo manipulation on the phone easier to learn than manually controlling DSLR cameras.

One trend in smartphone camera this year will be phase detection autofocus, previously available only in cameras with interchangeable lens, said Chris Chute, a director at research company IDC.

Samsung showcased the feature in the Galaxy S5, the latest version of the South Korean company’s flagship smartphone. It reduces the time it takes to focus on a subject to 0.3 second so even when the subject is moving, the image can be captured with a sharp edge, said Seshu Madhavapeddy, Samsung’s senior vice president for US product and technology.

“Now that phones are starting to have this, consumers will only be more likely to use phones for not just everyday pictures, but more and more for special event photography,” Chute said.

Winning over photographers could be the next trophy for smartphone makers. In the next page, find out what Samsung, LG, Nokia and Sony have in store for their newest line of smartphones.

Smart, fast features

Instead of touting their smartphones as thinner, lighter or bigger screened, Samsung, Sony and LG were boasting how their latest mobile gadgets can record ultra-high definition videos known as 4K, take big-pixel pictures without a second of delay and capture clearer images even at a low-light settings and when a subject is moving.

All these handsets from Samsung, Sony and LG can record ultra-HD picture quality video, something that isn’t widespread among stand-alone cameras.

“This trend is happening much faster than most predicted,” said IDC’s Chute of the 4K video recording in high-end smartphones.

Check out what other features the newest line of smartphones has to offer.

Sony Xperia Z2
Sony Xperia Z2

Sony Xperia Z2

Announced at the Mobile World Congress, Sony’s Xperia Z2 smartphone has a rear camera with 20.7 megapixels, same as the predecessor Z1, but Sony upgraded the camera’s video-recording power to 4K. The Z2 is also equipped with technologies that allow users to capture moving subjects blur-free.

LG G Pro 2
LG G Pro 2

LG G Pro 2

LG showed off how its high-end G Pro 2 smartphone can selectively blur and sharpen a picture by tapping the area that a user wants to adjust. This feature, which adds depth to a photo, was a major trait in DSLR cameras.

Galaxy S5
Galaxy S5

Galaxy S5

With the 16 megapixel rear camera in the Galaxy S5, it is possible to preview the result of applying high dynamic range imaging to pictures. HDR imaging usually helps create better pictures in extreme lighting conditions but with digital cameras, it is processed after snapping a photo.

Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020

Nokia Lumia 1020

Also betting big on powerful camera features to lure buyers from Samsung and Apple Inc. is Nokia. Among Nokia’s major products is the Lumia 1020 smartphone announced last year, which can take 38 megapixel images. (AP)

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