The best in smartphone photography 2013
1 Smartphone camera trends of 2013
2013 has been an exciting year for mobile imaging with lots of new features and technologies, as we've been covering here on DPReview Connect. We've seen innovations in sensors, new software features and a general tendency to focus on the imaging capabilities of mobile devices. As we reflect back on the past year and look forward to even more interesting advances in 2014, we're sharing our thoughts on the most important trends in smartphone imaging in 2013.
Despite the fact that these days far more images are captured with mobile devices than dedicated digital cameras, for a very long time smartphone users have had to make do with the smallest image sensors on offer. The tiny 1/3-inch or even 1/3.2-inch sensors that have been the standard in smartphones for many years are smaller than the chips in even basic compact cameras and in general produce inferior image quality.
Launched in February 2012 the Nokia 808 PureView was the first smartphone with a larger sensor. Its 1/1.2-inch sensor is almost the same size as the 1-inch chips you would find in a Sony RX100II enthusiast compact or Nikon's 1 system cameras. But the device launched running the already outdated Symbian operating system and the 808 never stood a chance in the marketplace, despite the outstanding image quality of its camera.
In 2013 Nokia finally combined the 808's innovative imaging concept with a modern OS and launched the Lumia 1020 Windows Phone. Its 1/1.5-inch sensor is not quite as large as the 808's, but the camera applies the same concept. The sensor captures very high resolution images that are then downsampled to output a high-quality 5MP image. The same technology also allows for a much better than usual digital zoom. The full 41MP files remain accessible to those who want to use them.
The Sony Xperia Z1 is the second smartphone with a larger than usual imaging sensor that was launched in 2013. Its 1/2.3-inch sensor is nowhere as extreme as the Nokia's, but it is the same size as sensors found in consumer level compact cameras. The improvement in image quality over the typical smaller sensors is much less noticeable on the Sony than it is on the Lumia 1020 but nevertheless it's good to see that manufacturers are working to make larger sensors fit and work in thin smartphone bodies.
Nokia's brand new 6-inch "phablet" Lumia 1520 which combines a 1/2.5-inch 20MP sensor with PureView technology is the latest model to implement a sensor that is larger than what has been the standard so far. We'll have to see what sensor sizes manufacturers will pull out of their sleeves in 2014 but there is no doubt that we can expect more larger sensors in the next generation of devices.
Optical Image Stabilization
Optical Image Stabilization systems have been around in digital cameras for a long time and have helped photographers capture blur-free images at slow shutter speeds and smooth video footage, either by moving the image sensor or an optical element of the lens in order to counteract camera shake.
However, it's taken a while for this feature to trickle through to smartphone cameras. With the Lumia 920 Nokia was the first manufacturer to offer OIS in a smartphone in late 2012 and since then all high-end Nokias have come with the feature, including the latest flagship Lumia 1020.
In 2013 OIS has become something of a mainstream feature, with several top-end Android phones, such as the HTC One, LG G2 and Google Nexus 5, jumping on the bandwagon. Apple users currently still have to make do without OIS, but there is not doubt that it's a useful feature that can help improve your images in certain situations and we would not be surprised if it was implemented into the next generation iPhone.
Bigger screens with more pixels
It started with the Sony Xperia Z, revealed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada at the beginning of January, which was the first mainstream phone to be launched with a 5-inch screen and 1920 x 1080 pixel full-HD resolution. After the Sony's debut, other top-of-the-line Android smartphones, such as the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy S4 and Google Nexus 5, have all been launched with the same display specs. LG's G2 comes with the same resolution but a slightly larger 5.2-inch display.
The thinner bezels on those latest generation devices mean that the overall dimensions of the phones aren't any larger than the 2012 models with their 4.7 or 4.8-inch screens and 720p resolutions.
Outside the Android world things look a little different though. Apple didn't adjust the iPhone 5's 4-inch screen size or 1136 x 640 screen resolution when it launched the 5s and Nokia has stuck with 4.5-inch 720p screens on its smartphones for a while now.
That said, there are never-ending rumors that Apple will launch an iPhone with a larger screen and Nokia just came through with the Lumia 1520 "phablet" with a 6-inch 1080p screen. Realistically though it is hard to see how even higher resolutions on 4 -or 5-inch screen make ergonomic sense. There is no doubt we will see more innovation in the screen department in 2014, but we would expect the focus not to be only on pixels but also viewing angles and color reproduction. And of course there will be more curved screens.
Phablets, as smartphones with screens larger than 5-inches are commonly called, are definitely here to stay. When Samsung launched the original Galaxy Note in 2012 there was some doubt about whether the unusual dimensions would catch on with consumers, but in 2013 these devices carved out a fairly large niche for themselves.
The third and current generation of the Note has been one of the hottest devices of the year and virtually every manufacturer offers at least one 5-inch-plus device in their line-up. HTC launched an oversized version of its flagship model One, the One Max, and Nokia's brand new 6-inch 1520 comes with a 20MP 1/2.5-inch sensor that we are keen to get our hands on.
Camera App Features
Smartphone manufacturers not only showed us some innovative camera hardware in 2013 but also released a slew of software features. New functions included 360 degree panoramas, composite images, picture-in-picture effects using the front and rear cameras at the same time, the removal of unwanted subjects in your frame, animated GIFs and the ability to refocus images after they've been taken.
In addition to those new features existing ones were improved, with panorama modes capturing much bigger images and HDR functions producing more balanced results and dealing better with moving subjects in the frame. While some of those features are genuinely useful others are firmly based in the gimmick camp.
We have no doubt that device manufacturers will surprise us with all sorts of useful and not-so-useful new functions in their camera apps in 2014, but the beauty of using a smartphone for taking pictures is that you've got access to an abundance of apps. So, if you are contemplating a device that does not offer one or another software feature there is a good chance you'll find a third-party solution in the app store of your choice.
4K TV sets are the latest big thing in display technology. The high-resolution screens were omni-present at this year's consumer electronics trade shows and are by now widely available in retail stores too. Unfortunately there is not a whole lot of 4K content available at this point in time which is why it only makes sense that manufacturers are starting to implement 4K capturing capabilities into their devices.
The Acer Liquid S2 and the Samsung Galaxy Note III were the first two smartphones launched in 2013 that can capture 4K video footage but as the displays become more affordable there is no doubt that 4K capturing will catch on in both digital cameras and smartphones. Expect to see many more 4K-capable devices in 2014.
A lack of RAW capturing capability is an often-cited reason enthusiast photographers say they won't shoot with smartphones. However, there are a lot of signs on the horizon that this is about to change. Nokia's 1520 "phablet" was the first smart device that is capable of saving DNG RAW files from its 20MP CMOS sensor and a firmware update recently added this feature to Nokia's flagship smartphone, the Lumia 1020, too.
But soon it won't only be Windows Phone users who can play with their images in Adobe ACR or other Raw editors — Google also announced the implementation of RAW capturing capabilities in future versions of Android. We'll be interested to see how that pans out with so much variation in Android hardware but nonetheless it seems RAW capture is about to become a standard feature, at least on high-end devices, and we are looking forward to modifying the white balance or reducing noise reduction on some of our smartphone pictures in the near future.
Dec 21, 2016
Dec 21, 2016
Dec 19, 2016
Dec 15, 2016
Nikon's D850 development announcement is extremely light on details, so we assembled a wish list of upgrades and features we'd love to see.
Nikon has announced the development of the long-awaited replacement to its full-frame D810: the D850. Nikon says that the D850 will build on the strengths of its predecessor and offer 'new technologies, features and performance enhancements.'
Lens manufacturer Voigtlander has introduced a 65mm F2 macro lens for Sony E-mount that it says "rates as one of the finest in the history of Voigtländer."
The UK released a preview of their upcoming drone safety regulations, and it looks like drone pilots will have to both register their device and pass safety awareness tests.
National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes talks about light, and why you need to learn how to 'see' and not just 'look' at your subject.
Photographer Alessandro Barteletti shares the story behind his National Geographic Italia cover, shot with a 10-year-old DSLR and an iPhone flashlight.
Fashion catalog photographers in China have some next-level models to work with. In this video, you see one model hitting 30 poses in 15 seconds as the photographer snaps away.
Photographer Paul Adshead breaks down 11 photography-related smartphone apps he couldn't live without—from a pocket light meter to a lighting diagram app.
Fast-growing Chinese flash brand Godox is teasing a brand new flash trigger... for smartphones. The Godox A1 is a 'phone flash system' that can act as both flash and 2.4GHz trigger.
On July 12, Canon opened its newest Technology and Support Center, designed to serve the motion picture industry, in Burbank, CA. DPReview got a sneak peak and takes you behind the scenes.
The Sigma 14mm F1.8 Art is truly one-of-a-kind. It offers the fastest aperture of any lens that shares its focal length, produces beautiful sunstars and is incredibly sharp to boot. If you're in the market for a fast ultrawide prime, this looks to be the one to get.
In this article, expert macro photographer Thomas Shahan shares advice for successful closeup photography of bugs, insects and small animals.
DJI's new firmware makes it difficult to fly in restricted airspace, even when you have proper clearance. Is DJI placing themselves between professionals and the FAA?
Go behind the scenes with National Geographic photographer Renan Ozturk and see what it takes to capture a dangerous, harrowing, stunning Nat Geo photo essay.
Erez Marom tells the story behind this ominous photo of the sand 'reaching up' towards the mountains at Skagsanden beach in Norway. He calls this photo 'Torment.'
DPReview staffer Carey Rose has taken the Panasonic Leica DG 15mm F1.7 along for everything from a city-side boat ride to a bachelor party across the mountains. Find out how the little Leica fared.
Canon just unveiled the largest 12-ink printer on the market. The new imagePROGRAF PRO-6000 printer can make prints from 17 all the way up to 60 inches wide.
"Standing in one of the holiest places on earth, I felt uneasy," writes Wired's Jason Parham. "Most of my fellow visitors, I realized with a brief bloom of nausea, were taking selfies."
Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk has been receiving great reviews, but it's a challenge to see it in its full glory. This handy infographic reveals the aspect ratio chaos that is wrought as the industry retreats from film.
Anti-bullying organization Ditch the Label's Annual Bullying Survey 2017 reveals yet again that Instagram, more so than any other social network, has the worst effect on youth mental health.
It's been a crazy day for innovative patent news. Apparently Sony is thinking of developing a medium format curved sensor camera.
An update to the Silkypix Raw converter fixes some bugs and adds support for several popular new cameras.
This crazy custom-built underwater camera shoots 8x10 large format film. It's supposedly "the first successful underwater 8x10 ever made," and it can be yours for $5,800... plus shipping.
Blackmagic just reveled a new accessory for their Cintel Film Scanner. The Cintel Audio and KeyKode Reader can capture KeyKode data and high-quality audio from film in real-time as it is being scanned.
A new Nikon patent shows a lens designed for a curved full-frame sensor. Could this be the high-end Nikon mirrorless camera people are hoping for?
The ability to shoot images at 1,000 fps first appeared in a Sony smartphone sensor. Now the Japanese manufacturer is using the same feature for industrial applications.
Astronomy expert and photographer Dr. Tyler Nordgren thinks you should "see your first eclipse, photograph your second." But if you do plan on taking photos this August, here are a few tips from someone who's been there.
How confident are you that you can spot a manipulated photo? A recent study at the University of Warwick shows that many people are pretty bad at it.
If you purchased a Leica TL2, do NOT attach Leica's Visoflex electronic viewfinder. Leica is working on a fix, but for now, it's possible the viewfinder will break your camera.
Google just released Motion Stills for Android. Unlike the iOS version, the Android app uses a redesigned video processing pipeline that processes each frame of a video as it is being recorded, creating instant results.