Essential phone first camera samples and dual-camera setup explained

Andy Rubin's (supposedly) soon-to-be released Essential phone has been the topic of heated discussion since it was revealed in late May. As much as there is excitement surrounding the new smartphone venture helmed by none other than the father of Android himself, there is no shortage of controversy tied to it either. But let's leave all that aside for a moment, and instead of mulling over how the Essential phone could fail, let's instead take a look at one of its most exciting features—no, not the almost edge-to-edge display—the dual camera setup on its back!

Although dual camera setups are a big craze right now and every other phone features one, and although Essential's vision is not ground-breaking by any means, the company says it's working very hard on perfecting the formula. So, let's take a quick behind-the-scenes tour that will hopefully shed more light on how the Essential phone's camera system was developed and how it will perform in the field!

Everything camera-related in Essential is handled by Ms. Yazhu Ling – an MS in Color & Imaging and a PhD in Human Visual Perception. Impressive! But let's see how these titles actually translate to impressive results.

If you're not up to speed with the Essential phone, it uses a dual-camera system that combines an RGB (color) sensor and a monochrome sensor that work in tandem to deliver better results. It is a setup that's already been explored by Huawei and Leica in various devices, and Essential's take on it is very similar, in that the Essential phone too is designed to combine image information from both the color and monochrome sensors to create superior, composite shots.

“When taking a still picture, Essential Phone activates both cameras at once. The monochrome and color images are then fused to create a final photograph with rich, deep clarity,” explains Ling who's been working on the Essential camera since October 2016.

Essentially, by introducing a second camera with a true monochrome sensor to the equation, the phone is capable of taking higher resolution photos (because it doesn't need to interpret color information and interpolate), and also perform better in low-light situations, which has always been a problematic area for smartphones. And here's an example:

In order to achieve this result, Essential's camera must employ complex Image Signal Processing (ISP) algorithms. When you fire up your smartphone camera, it has to first evaluate your surroundings and factor in the light (or lack thereof), after which ISP kicks in to compensate accordingly by adjusting different parameters such as white balance, exposure, vignetting and more. This is called "objective" image tuning and its purpose is to deliver an adequate image from the get-go. But we all know that this often times does not cut it, andhat's why so many photographers shoot RAW, which yields dull-looking pictures with a neutral response curve that are ideal for editing in post. But with smartphones, we want our photos to look great with the tap of a button! And since that's really, really hard to achieve, as you probably already know, that's where "subjective" image tuning comes into play.

"The key to subjective tuning is capturing all types of pictures in the wild, identifying systematic image quality problems, and adjusting the ISP setting to address them," Ling writes, "it is a painstaking, iterative process—but also one I find incredibly rewarding."

All of this is done because, while a camera may take perfect shots in a lab, when it comes to the field, it'll be met with thousands, if not millions, of different scenes, at different distances, and in different lighting conditions. That's why Ling and her team have been tasked to take and analyse copious amounts of photographs – so they can fine-tune the subjective ISP algorithms running in the background to deliver uniformly good-looking results across the board. Now, will everyone like them? No. Just look at how divisive Samsung's smartphone cameras are. They deliver great detail and have top-notch low-light performance, but many people can't stand Samsung's processing algorithms, due to their penchant for oversaturating colors and warmer tones.

The above samples showcase impressive results for a smartphone camera shooting at ISO 1800, which is a very high value for small sensors such as the ones used in smartphone cameras.

"Our subjective tuning process began in January 2017, and during that time, we have gone through 15 major tuning iterations, along with countless smaller tuning patches and bug fixes. We have captured and reviewed more than 20,000 pictures and videos, and are adding more of them to our database every day. We’re almost there, but I’m not going to stop tuning the camera on our phone until the last possible minute to provide the best photographic experience possible."

What little we've seen from Essential's camera thus far is impressive indeed. However, since these images included in this article are for preview purposes only, we'd rather postpone any definitive judgement for until after we get our hands on the bezel-less Essential phone. Which, we hope, will happen sooner rather than later.

Don't forget to check out some more camera samples from the Essential phone in the gallery below! Head over to the official Essential blog (link at the end) for the full story on Yazhu Ling's photo adventures with the new phone.

source: Essential



1. NoToFanboys

Posts: 3231; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Impressive, I can actually see some improvements on the combined color+monochrome image.

3. DoggyDangerous

Posts: 1028; Member since: Aug 28, 2015

Titanium body also impressed me.

2. 99999

Posts: 142; Member since: Jul 25, 2017

Nothing will overtake the Lumia1020 and Sony K800, with optical and Xenon. The S8 takes better than this.

7. w1000i

Posts: 250; Member since: Jul 22, 2015

How old r u ?

10. Finalflash

Posts: 4063; Member since: Jul 23, 2013

Can't you read? 9 9 9 9 9... hes 9 years old has read many forums about the famed lumia 1020.

20. Sealblaighter

Posts: 429; Member since: Jan 26, 2014

Sony Ericsson K800 does not even has optical zoom!!! Check your facts. I had the K800, and it is not a great camera phone. The best camera phones from this year are the S8, Iphone 7, and the Pixel. And anyway it is too early to talk about the Essential.

4. Dr.SamX

Posts: 244; Member since: Jan 19, 2015

The thing is, I really like the design of the PH-1 and the camera seem plenty capable, but if I have to decide between this and the Pixel 2, I need to know that Essetial will release timely software updates for at least 2 years!

8. AdamLeonard

Posts: 61; Member since: Aug 24, 2011

And the delay is release of the hardware, coupled with the turnover in executive staff doesn't give a lot of confidence that 2 years of timely software updates is likely to occur.

5. Diego!

Posts: 876; Member since: Jun 15, 2009

These are some really impressive features! I love the combined tone of the picture of the dress. It's stunning!

6. foreverNOOB

Posts: 167; Member since: Jul 07, 2017

Looking great! But one thing i don't like about PH-1 is front camera position, it's "in your face" kind of thing and its make bottom chin to be waste of space.

9. PryvateiDz

Posts: 444; Member since: Jul 31, 2011

I'm excited. Nokia 8(9), LG V30, Hauwei Mate 10 (maybe), and maybe the Pixel 2 (but probably not with that potential price tag)

11. jove39

Posts: 2147; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

Looks good...I hope other oems use second camera for improving image quality instead of just using it for 2x zoom.

17. trojan_horse

Posts: 5868; Member since: May 06, 2016

So, you're saying that 2x zoom does not improve image quality whatsoever? Just chill. 2x zoom and monochrome are equally important features.

12. Sparkxster

Posts: 1240; Member since: Mar 31, 2017

Pixel 2 xl, Moto z2 force, Huawei mate 10, and Sony bezelless phone are what im excited for. Essential phone I feel unsure about but the pictures it takes look promising.

13. Sparkxster

Posts: 1240; Member since: Mar 31, 2017

Nokia 8 and Nokia 9 im excited for those too!

14. jacky899

Posts: 431; Member since: May 16, 2017

Looks good so far. Wonder if the final camera will match the quality of the Google Pixel and HTC U11.

15. p51d007

Posts: 705; Member since: Nov 24, 2013

Dual cameras is 80% nothing more than helping make up for the fact that you have a super tiny image sensor. If you want to really improve the image quality on smartphones, you MUST increase the SIZE of each image sensor, not the number of sensors. A good 8mp sensor is capable of outputting a photo, that would print on 11x17 (A3) paper. More megapixels just allow you to zoom, without as much distortion. When they continue to pack more and more sensors onto a tiny surface, it just runs the risk of introducing crosstalk (Signal to Noise). When they crank up the voltage on the sensors to help them with low light sensitivity, along with the tiny distance between each sensor, crosstalk pops up. Then the camera imaging software has to try to knock down the noise, which can result in a flat image that does not "pop". Samsung, a few years ago, had the right idea with their non smartphone camera thingy called the Samsung Zoom. A REAL type compact size PDA CAMERA with the hump on the back, a real zoom lens. But, in today's smartphone terms, it isn't "fashionable or stylish" enough. "A hump? On the back of the phone? Yuck!" would be the screams from the gotta have something stylish crowd. Maybe at some point, people will quit being wowed by silly colors and fashionable phones, and they can go back to being just that. A SMARTPHONE.

16. Arashmahmoodi25

Posts: 132; Member since: Apr 07, 2017

f**k this phone

18. gamehead unregistered

It doesnt have all the features of a flagship phone imo

19. Chidoro

Posts: 168; Member since: Sep 20, 2016

Looks like a similar setup to the Z2 Force. Looks promising.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.