June 27, 2023: Like the proverbial tail wagging the dog, smart phones have become cameras on steroids, incidentally offering voice calls, text messaging and Internet acces
The proliferation of social media short videos through Instagram Reels, Facebook Stories, and the now defunct Tik Tok, among other mobile apps has spurred a demand for pro-level video sensor capabilities in mobile phones.
Today, most smart phones come with features that enable you to shoot high-resolution short videos indoors and outdoors, even while moving. Earlier, these capabilities were reserved for the vastly more expensive Single lens Reflex( SLR) and Digital SLR still cameras, but today, even below-Rs. 20,000 phones are featuring them
Shake without fear
One such feature used in leading smartphone cameras is optical image stabilisation (OIS) enhancing image quality especially in low-light conditions, eliminating blur and enabling smoother videos to be recorded even when on the move. If your hand shakes slightly when you’re shooting a photo, the phone can compensate by recognizing that shake and moving the lens to the same side.
Traditionally, OIS is achieved by moving the lowest mass component, the lens – hence the term Lens Shift OIS. However, the balance of lowest moving mass has now shifted from the lens to the image sensor.
Currently, a new camera sensor technology is making news – Sensor Shift Stabilization – which enables videography even while the shooter is travelling – either along the X axis or Y Axis. Smart phones of the earlier generation produced good videos only if the shooter was stationary while the subject moved. Today, both the subject and the shooter can be in motion, and the sophisticated AI-related technology inside the sensor produces pro-level videos.
OIS stabilizes images by allowing the lens to move on its axis, while sensor shift does so by moving the sensor instead of the lens
The underlying technology of sensor shift is something called in-body image stabilization (IBIS), which stabilizes the sensor by physically moving the sensor inside your camera to compensate for camera movement. Built-in gyroscopes and accelerometers are able to calculate the motion and rotation of your camera and move the sensor accordingly to keep the image stable
In turn, this increases image resolution and improves colour information in real-time. This technology, which was previously known as pixel-shifting resolution system, pixel shift multi-shoot mode, and pixel mode, has been a feature exclusive to DSLR camera offerings from Panasonic, Sony, Olympus, Canon etc. (Various stabilisation technologies including sensor shift are explained here
Phones with sensor tech
While certain elements of sensor shift technology have slowly started inroads into premium smartphones – Apple introduced it in the iPhone Max 12 Pro ( see a YouTube video where the iPhone’s sensor shift stabiliser is exposed)
Tecno became the first economy brand to feature the technology in its new range of phones. A few days back, it launched the Camon 20 series of devices, in India priced between Rs. 15,000 and Rs. 20,000, with in-built sensor shift. Tecno’s sensor shift claims to compensate for and neutralize shakes of up to 5000 times per second.
White added to RGB
It also added another imaging enhancing technology: RGBW Pro ultra-sensitive sensor, with AL algorithms for low light performance.
All cameras have filters for the three primary colours Red, Green and Blue (RGB). RGBW Pro essentially adds another filter –White--which allows 208% light intake for image capture in low-light conditions.
The Camon 20 series of phones come with 6.67 inches AMOLED dot-in display, a 64 megapixel (MP) rear camera with additional 2 MP camera for bokeh ( background blurring) and a 2MP camera for macro or wide angle. There is a 32 MP front (selfie) camera The primary RAM is 8 GB ( with additional 8 GB of virtual RAM), with 128 GBG of in-built storage. The battery is 5000mAh,making this a phone meant for millennial social media consumption.
The asking price for all these high-end imaging features is Rs 14,999 for the Camon 20 and Rs 19,999 for the Camon 20 Pro which is 5G ready.
I have been trying out the Camon 20 Pro for a week now and while it has not been easy to set up a condition where both the camera and the action are in motion, it does make a tangible difference. Plus I can vouch for the sharpness of the images even with my age-related shaky grip on the camera. ( Fuller details of the Camon20 Pro 5G here)
Recently, the trend of young millennial India taking social media videography too seriously, has made news with multiple instances of risky, often inappropriate behaviour in public transport such as the Delhi Metro, supermarket aisles, aircrafts, malls, etc. While there is palpable excitement in shooting live action videos from moving platforms like cars or trains, enabled by technologies like sensor shift, the final call lies with the owner of the device, to strike the fine balance between artistry and intrusion . Having said that, the tech is here to stay. Let’s make healthy use to capture the goodness nature and technology offers us.
For illustrations,click here
This article has appeared in Swarajya