LG is rightly proud of the camera in the LG G3. It has a raft of tricks up its sleeve to help you take better shots, but how does it all work?
The LG G3 is one of the biggest and best Android phones of the year, and a lot of what makes it special can be found in its camera. The G3’s sensor boasts a unique laser-focussing system that snaps onto whatever you want to shoot quicker than any other smartphone camera around, letting you capture everything as it happens.
To find out what kind of work goes into making such a pioneering cam, and to get an idea of what’s coming next from LG and the rest of the industry when it comes to smartphone snappers, we’ve been speaking to LG’s Shaun Musgrave. Read on to find out when you’ll be able to ditch the DSLR for good…
“In the G3 we’ve developed a fast, sharp-shooting camera,” says Shaun, “but we’ve kept the user experience extremely simple. That’s what it’s all about here: our main focus behind our products is ‘simple is the new smart’, and the camera is no different.”
Sounds good to us, but how exactly do you make a camera simple? And what does that mean for our snaps?
“What we mean by that is that we’ve de-cluttered some of the superfluous features, making sure that we’re focusing on the features that people really use,” Shaun explains.
“We’ve stripped back the whole user experience, so that when someone comes to take an image all they need to do is touch the screen where they want to focus, and the image will automatically be taken. Couldn’t be simpler!”
Touching the display to focus the camera isn’t a new concept in smartphone photography, but LG hopes to make the G3 stand out by making its lens the fastest around:
“When it comes to autofocusing, other manufacturers have used a variety of different approaches,” says Shaun, “from Phased focus, to dual cameras. But we’ve found that laser-focussing actually delivers quicker results, with lower latency than you get on any of those other camera types. It’s been used in DSLR cameras in the past and we felt that it was the quickest way of delivering a fast focus as soon as you open up the camera.
“The system broadcasts an unseen infrared laser in bursts of 40cm ranges.”
“The system broadcasts an unseen infrared laser in bursts of 40cm ranges – if it doesn’t find something to focus on within that 40cm distance, it will go a further 40cm, and will keep doing this until it finds something to focus on.
“This staggered approach is really just to save battery and increase speed, but the result is that as soon as you open up the camera, it only takes 276 milliseconds to focus, allowing you to take a great shot as soon as you touch the screen.”
276 milliseconds certainly sounds impressive, but we were keen to find out why LG thinks that fast focussing is the key to a smartphone camera’s success…
“From a user’s point of view, we all want to be able to capture a moment when we’re in the moment,” Shaun explains. “Focussing times have always been a major bugbear in a lot of smartphones – they’ve been very slow and very poor in terms of response times, and quite often people tend to miss the image or moment that they’re trying to capture. So focussing is extremely important; it’s an experience that people are used to in their digital cameras, so our goal is to recreate that in their smartphones.”
A camera fit for the ‘Selfie Generation’
With a 13-Megapixel, laser-focussing camera on the back, the LG G3’s got your serious snaps sorted. But what about the other side to modern smartphone photography?
“The front-facing camera is just as important as the rear one in the ‘Selfie Generation’ we’re living in today,” says Shaun. “Primarily, people want to capture themselves and their friends in the moment, but also, we live in a real celebrity culture – should that opportunity come about, the quickest and easiest way to capture themselves and a celeb is through that front-facing camera.”
“Some manufacturers are taking the position already to use the same resolution on the front facing cameras as the rear. We’ve taken a different approach, though – we’ve improved the actual image quality, rather than increase the resolution.
“For us it’s about being able to take the best image in the easiest way possible. There may be a point in the future where both front and rear cameras are on a par, but right now you can do lots of other things with a front-facing camera to improve the image quality, like increasing the pixel size, increasing the field of view, and by sharpening up the image processing unit to reduce noise and using gesture control to take a shake-free selfie.”
Before we let Shaun go, we were keen to find out what he thinks is coming next in the world of smartphone cameras. Will we soon be able to ditch our DSLRs completely?
“We’ve had a history of really great cameras in our phones. We introduced one of the first optical cameras on a phone with a Xenon flash with the LG Viewty, but doing that makes the unit quite thick. There’s always a tradeoff when introducing new camera technology – with optical zooming, for instance, you’re adding increased bulk to the device.
“With new manufacturing processes, it’s more about reducing the bulk of the existing lenses…”
“With new manufacturing processes, it’s more about reducing the bulk of the existing lenses and facilitating a slim design. As future technology comes about we’ll definitely be one of the front runners, but I think there’s enough we can do with our current CMOS lenses to deliver a great experience and to mimic optical lens technologies, to the point where it will almost reduce the need for prosumer DSLR cameras.”
So will we be able to leave our DSLRs on the shelf?
“From a professional level, I’m not so sure,” says Shaun, “but for people with an interest in photography, we’re not that far away. Smartphones are the quickest and easiest way to capture the moment, so it’s up to us to make sure that the consumer can do that no matter what their level of expertise.”
Get snapping… If the LG G3 sounds like the perfect match of power, size and smart specs, you can pick one up from vodafone.co.uk right now. For even more info, check out our talk with LG about how to make Android simple and smart at the same time.