How Smartphone Cameras Have Developed

Smartphone cameras have evolved drastically over the last decade. What started out as a simple point-and-shoot camera has now become a camera that can rival a DSLR in terms of quality and cost. Smartphones these days are capable of shooting high dynamic range photos, take wide-angle shots, shoot RAW images and even record 4K videos. However, it wasn’t always this way. When smartphones first appeared on the market, most had barely any camera at all. They were essentially tiny versions of the original Nokia 3310 with a camera so poor it was almost unusable. But things have changed dramatically over the past decade, with smartphone manufacturers vying to make their cameras as high-end as possible.

From Point-and-Shoot to VGA and Beyond

The first smartphone cameras were incredibly basic, just like the smartphones themselves. They were essentially simple point-and-shoot cameras with a few extra features for transferring the photos over to a computer. But the quality of these cameras was fairly poor, with most having the same 1.3-megapixel sensor (MP) as the original Nokia 3310. The Nokia N95 was the first smartphone to feature a more modern-style camera. It came with a 2-MP sensor for capturing photos, as well as a VGA video capture. It was also the first smartphone to come with an LED flash, allowing you to take photos in the dark.

The first real “smartphone camera” appeared in the form of the HTC Touch, which featured a 3.2-MP sensor without an LED flash.However, it was the iPhone 4 that saw the first real breakthrough in smartphone camera technology. The iPhone 4 came with a 5-MP sensor, a significant increase in pixel count compared to other smartphones released around the same time. The iPhone 4 also introduced the idea of image stabilization when taking photos, allowing you to capture a much steadier image compared to the blurry photos taken by other smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S also came with a 5-MP sensor with image stabilization, although the image sensor used was slightly different to that used in the iPhone 4.

The Megapixel Arms Race

The first smartphone cameras were only capable of producing a very low resolution image, perhaps around 1-3 MP. However, the first signs of the megapixel arms race appeared in 2009, when the first smartphone cameras with a sensor capable of producing 5 MP images were released. The iPhone 4 was upgraded to 8 MP, while a number of new Android smartphones released around the same time came with a 5-MP sensor. The HTC Evo 4G was one such smartphone that featured a 5-MP sensor capable of capturing decent images. The Samsung Galaxy S II, released in 2011, came with a 8-MP sensor – the first smartphone to feature an 8-MP sensor. Although the sensor was still only capable of capturing photos at a pixel count of 3264 x 2448, it was enough to put this sensor ahead of the iPhone 4’s sensor.

The Galaxy S II was a much-loved smartphone, and it was the first to feature a dual-core processor. The Pixel Shifter technology used in the camera allowed the user to capture multiple shots in quick succession, and then combine them into a single image with reduced noise and increased colour accuracy.

Image Stabilization

One of the major breakthroughs in smartphone camera technology came in 2011, when the first smartphones with built-in image stabilization were released. It was only a matter of time before this technology would be implemented into smartphone cameras, allowing you to capture much sharper images regardless of how steady your hands were. This breakthrough was most notably seen in the iPhone 4S, which featured a very similar 8-MP sensor to the one found in the Galaxy S II. The only real difference between these sensors was that the one in the iPhone 4S came with image stabilization technology.

The Galaxy S III, released in 2012, came with an improved 12-MP sensor. This sensor was capable of capturing images at a much higher resolution, as well as with a much wider dynamic range. The sensor also featured a special HDR mode that allowed the user to capture images with a greater contrast between the light and dark areas of an image.

The Year of HD Recording

In 2012, Samsung saw fit to update one of its best-selling smartphones with a brand new camera that allowed HD video recording. Other manufacturers noticed this and followed suit, and soon enough, smartphones were capable of recording in high definition. Before this, smartphones had fallen short in the video recording department, with many users complaining that their videos looked grainy and pixelated. But with the advent of HD recording, smartphones could suddenly record videos in a way that was comparable to a basic digital camera.

This was one of the most significant changes made to smartphone cameras in recent years, and it’s one that has been welcomed by countless users across the globe. Now, it’s common for people to record important moments using their smartphone, rather than a dedicated video camera.

Ultra Wide Angle Lenses, Professional Features, and 4K Video

In 2013, smartphone cameras took a big leap with the introduction of wide-angle lenses. Before this, most smartphone cameras could only shoot images that were shot straight ahead. But with wide-angle lenses, smartphone cameras could now take in much more of their surroundings. At the same time, however, many smartphone lenses started to lose their ability to zoom in, so the ability to take close-up shots diminished. Wide-angle lenses are a common feature among high-end smartphones, with many manufacturers including them on their flagship devices. Wide-angle lenses have been criticized because of the “fisheye” effect, where images appear distorted and circular. However, this is easily avoidable as some smartphone lenses offer a “normal” view, where the lens doesn’t give an exaggerated view.

The Rise of Slow Motion and Phase Detection Auto Focus

In 2014, smartphones started to include slow motion modes, which allowed users to record videos in slow motion at a speed of up to 240 frames per second. Some manufacturers, such as Sony, had slow motion modes on their smartphones as far back as 2011. But 2014 was the year that slow motion really came into its own. Sony’s Xperia Z3 was the first smartphone to offer a slow motion feature, and it quickly gained popularity among mobile users. These days, it’s common to see smartphones with slow motion modes, as they’re considered to be one of the best ways to capture a moment.

Although Sony is often credited with popularizing slow motion modes, other smartphone manufacturers have also released devices capable of recording in slow motion. Samsung, for example, has included a slow motion mode on some of its recent smartphones. The Samsung Galaxy S5 was also the first smartphone to feature an image sensor capable of shooting 4K video.

Dual Camera Shootings & More Sensor Size Diversity

In 2015, the first smartphones with dual camera setups were released. These cameras were designed to take photos with a shallow depth of field, which allows the photographer to selectively focus on a certain object in the image. Dual camera setups have been available on DSLRs for many years, so it was only a matter of time until they appeared on smartphones. Many smartphone manufacturers have started to include dual camera setups on their flagship devices, and they’re designed to create photos that are much more detailed and crisp than those taken on a single-lens camera. Some smartphones with dual camera setups have also included a monochromatic sensor, which is designed to improve color accuracy and detail.

Apart from the rise of dual camera setups, sensor sizes have also become more diverse. Smartphones have traditionally been equipped with sensors that are either 1/2.3 inches or 1/2.5 inches. But in 2015, Sony released the Sony Xperia Z5, which featured a 1/2-inch sensor. It was also the first smartphone to feature a hybrid image sensor that combined the benefits of both CCD and CMOS sensors.


Smartphone cameras have evolved drastically over the last decade. What started out as simple point-and-shoot cameras has now become a camera that can rival a DSLR in terms of quality and cost. Many people use their smartphones as their primary camera because they’re small and convenient. They can also be used for taking pictures in situations where a regular camera is impractical. Smartphone cameras have more features than ever before, and most are comparable to high-end cameras. Nowadays, smartphones can shoot in RAW, record 4K videos and even shoot high dynamic range (HDR) photos. This is a massive change from the simple camera phones of the early 2000s.