A brief history on some of the most innovative camera centric phones

If Mobile World Congress 2018 showed us anything, it's that there's still a lot of innovation surrounding the cameras in our mobile devices. The Samsung Galaxy S9 might've have been regarded as an incremental upgrade, but its camera's variable aperture is something unseen before that should help its sensor to gather in more light, for a better low-light performance. Meanwhile, the Sony Xperia XZ2 tackles the other end of the spectrum with video centric features – like its incredible slow-motion footage capture at 960 FPS in 1080p and 4K HDR recording.

These are just a few of the innovations we saw introduced at this year's Mobile World Congress, showing us exactly that there's still a ton of buzz and excitement when it comes to cameras. That honestly shouldn't surprise anyone, seeing that it's a feature that most users would proclaim as being one of the most important in a phone. While these are just two of the latest innovations in the space, there have been many other innovations in the past that paved the way for them.

In this piece, we're going back down memory lane to uncover some of the most innovative camera centric phones that pushed the limits. The list below is arranged in chronological order, to better provide oversight in the chain of events that allowed these camera innovations to flourish and become reality. Just to think, there was a time when phones were just phones – without cameras of course. Try to imagine that nowadays, it's almost unbelievable to imagine that was the case during the early years.



34. sleepypandaeyes

Posts: 422; Member since: Apr 12, 2015

I would be even more impressed if the variable aperture when up to f5.6 or even f8, Imagibe how cool that would be for landscape or macros (I love shooting macro s**ts with my S8). I also have concerns with the resilience /and the durability of the Aperture eye opening and closing all the time. Imagine if that shot jams from overuse, but I'm sure Samsung know what there doing.

27. pixelated

Posts: 108; Member since: May 03, 2015

Nokia N8, N86????

26. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

23. HenryBlank

Posts: 18; Member since: Jun 19, 2014

Why no mention of Huawei UEs ? Their implementation of Leica optics (albeit s/w collaboration) was revolutionary.

18. shield

Posts: 899; Member since: Sep 12, 2015

First LG 3D no HTC.

24. An.Awesome.Guy

Posts: 636; Member since: Jan 12, 2015

He mentioned both in the video, I don't know why he mentioned only HTC on photos though.

16. Trex95

Posts: 2384; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

HTC M7 has better camera than M8 due to the OIS.

13. Demo-jay

Posts: 105; Member since: Feb 13, 2018

What about the sony Ericsson C905 Cyber short?was my best 8mp ever...with a xenon flash light,face and smile detection...and its a 2008 phone

12. TypicalGeek

Posts: 220; Member since: Feb 19, 2015

Decent list. I really can't argue with those given there are only 20 phones mentioned.

11. vincelongman

Posts: 5826; Member since: Feb 10, 2013

Also should have: Nexus 6. Introduction of HDR+ Nexus 6P. HDR+ and big 1/2.3" sensor, camera quality was way ahead of the competition, even a year later only the 2016 Pixel surpassed it, another year later still barely a hand fill of phones have surpassed it 2016 Pixel. Zero shutter lag HDR+

20. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Sony Z1 had 1/2.3".. Ask any photographer, they will say 6p does bad

22. miazga

Posts: 17; Member since: Mar 01, 2018

"had 1/2.3" and frightful algorithms, you forgot to mention that. Ask any unbiased person and he/she will tell you that Sony has had the worst image quality among all the companies since the very first high-end phone from Z-line.

28. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017

Ask tech sites to compare properly. Point and shoot is wrong. Not even pocket cameras are compared this way. Even most users use auto only. Phones have different focal lengths, different values of f.. They dont scale all to same resolution.. Take a shot from Z5, S6 and 6s+ then check all them.on a 50" screen. You will see the advantage of Z5

29. chenski

Posts: 791; Member since: Mar 22, 2015

6p was good, big camera improvement over its predessesor

10. worldpeace

Posts: 3135; Member since: Apr 15, 2016

No love for blazing fast dual-pixel AF? or the amazing HDR+ on first pixel?

9. GreenMan

Posts: 2704; Member since: Nov 09, 2015

I wonder why you have to spednd big bucks if you need even a semi-decent camera on a smartphone? I'm a photography enthusiast and would LOVE to see camera close to the capabilities of Google Pixel 2's camera on a $200-$250 budget smartphone. IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK? Besides, dedicated cameras might be dead but that's because not many people know about cameras. They've 'much' bigger sensors, variable apertures, physical camera shutters, powerful flash lights, as high as 20x optical zoom and sensors that work with extreme ISOs without completely destroying the image. But... People couldn't care less about sensor sizes and exposure when they're posting selfies on Instagram. The enthusiasts are being shoved aside by normal, dumb, rich people... That's how businesses work! Sad...


Posts: 2817; Member since: Oct 03, 2012

Why mention the iphone? It should not belong in the list because they came much later. And there was no innovation there! Everyone knows that Nokia is the true innovator camera wise. Missing the Nokia N8, Sony Ericsson Satio.

17. Trex95

Posts: 2384; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

Hater gonna hate.

6. toosmoove

Posts: 914; Member since: Sep 28, 2017

Good read. Nice trip down memory lane. I wanted the t68i. Then Motorola came out with the t720i that jonathanfiuwx mentioned. Had to get it.

5. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3197; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Where's the Samsung i8910 with the first ever HD capture? Where's the Sony Z5 Premium with 4K recording? Where's the Sony XZ Premium with the first 960 fps camera? What did the iPhone 4 provide that was more innovative than those I listed? C'mon guys, you can do better.

14. UglyFrank

Posts: 2200; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

The Z5 premium didn't introduce 4k recording, that came out two years prior with S800 devices.

19. Humanoid

Posts: 1226; Member since: Dec 11, 2017


31. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3197; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

My bad, first 4K display. An obscure Acer was first with recording but not the display so what was the use?

4. ijuanp03

Posts: 703; Member since: Dec 30, 2014

Oh HTC.. whatever happened to my favorite phone company. They got lost trying to keep all their cash and forgot to spend on marketing.

3. LetThereBeLight

Posts: 117; Member since: Nov 20, 2014

I don't really understand why is the iPhone 4 there except for the "every article should mention iPhone" sickness nowadays. What was the revolutionary in that particular phone? It was the same as the competitions in that time or I might say some of the other brands handsets had better quality cameras. Anyway HTC was a 'prodigy' with the dual camera I guess but as always they were stupidly "quietly brilliant!"

2. jonathanfiuwx

Posts: 184; Member since: Mar 10, 2017

You forgot essentials dual camera with one color and one mono. Also, Motorola was innovative on the camera department. I owned one and remember it well. It was the t720i and had a camera adapter that attached to the bottom of the phone. It was made in 2002 for TMobile http://www.extragsm.com/images/phone/big/Motorola/T720i/Motorola-T720i-01.jpg

15. UglyFrank

Posts: 2200; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

Huawei did that before essential.

1. legiloca

Posts: 1676; Member since: Nov 11, 2014

My baby HTC Desire Eye got mentioned! Has hell frozen over??? I can honestly say, not only I enjoyed it's selfie camera, but the phone's performance is just fantastic if not for the battery life somewhat middling.

7. AVVA1

Posts: 228; Member since: Aug 01, 2017

Nokia N86 is missing the first triple variable aperture and also LG Viewty, Sony Ericson Satio, Samsung Omnia HD, Sony Ericson K850i, Nokia N8, Motorola Zn5

21. yann

Posts: 616; Member since: Jul 15, 2010

I had NOKIA N8 back in 2010. iPhone 4 was like a gimmick compared to it, but isn't even mentioned. Typical John V.-elasko....biased as usual.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

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