Samsung has just unveiled its Galaxy S9+, and the camera’s the talk of the town. But what makes two lenses so much better than one? We asked editor of Amateur Photographer magazine, Nigel Atherton…
In five years as editor of the world’s longest running consumer photography magazine, Amateur Photographer, Nigel Atherton has seen smartphones introduce millions of people to the joy of picture taking. But while the quality of smartphone cameras has improved year-on-year, he says they’ve never quite nailed depth of field – until now…
Equipped with the first ever dual aperture camera seen on a smartphone, Samsung’s Galaxy S9 is changing the game. Like a human iris, its camera automatically adjusts to let more light in when it’s dark and less when it’s light, for photos that are crisp and clear in almost any condition.
Pair this with dual lenses (as Samsung has done in the S9+) and you’re getting closer than ever to a DSLR camera. But what makes dual lenses so much better than one, and why are more and more manufacturers opting to include them?
We put the question to Nigel…
Single vs dual lens
According to Nigel, one of the biggest drawbacks of single lens smartphones is being stuck with a wide-angle at all times:
“That’s great for views and group shots, but it’s not very flattering for portraits or recording anything further away,” he explains.
“The enormous depth of field you get, where everything from about one metre away to infinity is in focus, makes it impossible to isolate a person from a distracting background by blurring what’s behind them.
“This ‘shallow depth of field’ is one of the indicators of a professional photo to the casual observer. Dual camera phones overcome this, to an extent, by offering a zoom lens.”
How the lenses work together
“With dual cameras, one has a longer focal length lens (or telephoto lens),” Nigel says, “which is better for further away subjects and more flattering for portraits, while the wide-angle lens can be used for views and group shots.
“Some phones are even going a bit further by using the information gathered by each lens to simulate a quite convincing blurred background effect, and in time you can expect to see smartphones offer an even longer optical zoom range. This is more effective than a digital zoom, which reduces image quality, and is basically just the same as cropping.”
With the Galaxy S9+, you can easily swap between the two lenses with a tap of the screen, as you enjoy 2X optical and up to 10X digital zooming capabilities.
So how can you use dual lenses to enhance your snaps?
1. Conquer Dual Capture mode
One of the features first seen in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 was Dual Capture. This is similar to iPhone’s Portrait Mode, and allows you to take two pictures at a time – a standard wide-angle shot and another in Live Focus, which zooms in and blurs the background.
With a tap of the Live Focus button you’ll be presented with a slider to control the strength of the ‘depth of field’ effect. You’ll be able to see the blur (known in the photography world as bokeh) before you take the shot. But, press the Dual Capture icon as well and you’ll take both the wide-angle and telephoto shot simultaneously – allowing you to choose between two different shareworthy shots.
2. Keep your phone steady
Using optical zoom with a dual camera smartphone is fairly straightforward. With Samsung’s Galaxy S9+ you simply tap the screen. However, while optical image stabilisation is a big help, keeping your phone nice and steady can help you capture the best shots. Whether you invest in a tripod, or use a stable surface like a bench, table or best friend’s shoulder, doing what you can to hold it still is always your best bet.
Keeping your phone nice and steady can help you capture the best shots.
3. Get familiar with your camera settings
To make the most of your dual camera set-up, spend a bit of time getting to know your camera app and settings. Every system works slightly differently. The more time you spend experimenting and discovering, the better your photos will be.
Hint: to manually toggle between the aperture settings on the Galaxy S9 and S9+ you’ll need to switch to Pro Mode.
4. Try a third party app
If you’re really looking to level up your smartphone snaps, you may also want to opt for a third party app. There are oodles of apps out there that allow you to tinker with settings and shoot in RAW.
Check out this post on alternative camera apps to help you on your way.
Pre-order your Samsung Galaxy S9 or S9+… Find out what sets Samsung’s new flagship apart from the Galaxy S8 and order your S9 today.