Dual cameras are not new – in 2011 there was a short-lived fad with 3D cameras. The market quickly snuffed it out. Dual cameras are back and with greater success. They are now seen almost essential for a flagship!
But what does a “dual camera” do? LG was the first to resurrect the dual camera and gave the second sensor a wide-angle lens. Once that setup moved from the selfie camera (V10) to the main camera, landscape photography became a breeze and videos had that cool “action cam” look.
Huawei was next to jump on board (with Leica riding shotgun). It chose a monochrome camera for the second slot, to help with low-light shooting (an area where tiny smartphone sensors typically struggle). Xiaomi has also adopted this setup.
Then came Apple, which decided to add a telephoto lens. Oppo, OnePlus and Xiaomi again joined in. Phones with an optical zoom mechanism are rare beasts, Nokia’s 41MP “lossless digital zoom” didn’t catch on as the huge sensor didn't fit in modern slender smartphones, so this leaves a dual camera setup as the only practical way to zoom and keep image quality.
And it really helps with the Portrait mode shots with soft bokeh backgrounds. Apple’s is perhaps the best, but other dual camera phones do a decent job of it (even ones without a tele lens). Bokehs are cool, but are another thing small sensors are not good at.
So, now that it is clear that dual cameras are here to stay, which breed do you prefer?