Why don't we have a phone with triple rear cameras?

Why don't we have a phone with triple rear cameras?
The Apple iPhone 7 Plus is the first mainstream smartphone to come with a secondary telephoto lens and this turned out to work out great for it: early reports say that people are buying more iPhone 7 Plus devices than the smaller iPhone 7, and the camera is one significant reason to pick the larger one for many.

While this new dual-camera system with a secondary telephoto lens is new for the smartphone world, dual-camera systems per se are not: even the cheapest Chinese phones from Xiaomi these days feature a secondary sensor that helps with computational photography, and the higher-end Huawei P9 has a monochrome sensor that works great in low-light.

These are all great ideas, but probably the most impressive and useful implementation of the secondary camera idea in the Android world comes from the LG G5. Its secondary rear camera is a wide-angle one, or should we say super wide-angle one? It features a 135-degree view that is not only impressive, but also genuinely useful for a ton of video and image enthusiasts out there. Ask vloggers who record their videos in a small room, those who need to sell their car or brokers that want to take pictures of various rooms and need the widest angle camera, fitness and dance instructors trying to showcase their routines in tight spaces. The list just goes on and on, and not least reason to have a wide-angle camera is to get that extremely cool wide view for landscape shots.


So yes, it might be a bit too early and there certainly are technical intimidations to make this a reality: but the idea of a triple camera system, one that combines a regular lens, something similar to the iPhone's telephoto lens, and a super wide-angle lens a-la LG G5, would really make for an extremely versatile photographic tool. Imagine a camera that would allow you to shoot at 10mm, 28mm, and 56mm, a versatility that even DSLRs can only achieve using two separate lenses and requiring lengthy and tiresome lens swaps.

So who will be the first company to actually be this bold and make such a smartphone? Only time will tell, but in the meantime, let us know: do you think that this would be a valuable feature?

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35 Comments

1. sergiobr

Posts: 718; Member since: Feb 25, 2013

Why not 1" sensor and solve it all !

4. dimas

Posts: 3335; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Or have a really small dslr, ultra sensitive sensors in our phones. But not in our time, technology will still be too expensive. At least now we have something that can replace separate point and shoots.

29. sgodsell

Posts: 7157; Member since: Mar 16, 2013

The new Lenovo Phab 2 has three cameras on the back. However they are used for depth sensing and ranging which is used in AR. Plus it has a 16 mp camera on back.

8. Harambe unregistered

Panasonic lumix c1 has a 1" sensor and it's huge. 1" sensor is just not going to happen unless we get some breakthrough which makes all laws of optics we know of wrong. 1/2" is definitely possible though. But OEMs will focus more on gimmicks like needless faster focus than useful things.

15. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

How is faster focus needles? You sound crazy/ Think of this. Many things happen in life very fast. So when you need to take a shot, where you have a phone in your pocket, you double tap and the camera is available in 0.7 secs, and it focses the instant you hit yoru target is a must have. When I went to Disney last year, I had so many blurry shots because were were in a moving vehicle and I was tryign to get pictures of animals and the camera simply took to long to focus. But you think that is gimmicky? You must don't take pictures. Or maybe you only take a picture when the object you want is standing still. But when you are on a safari where you need a quick shot, you don't have time to wait for a phone to take nearly 2 secs to focus. But you think that's gimmicky? You are entitled to your opinion, but at least don't let it be stupid. The faster a camera can focus the better. Oh and liking your own post from another account is also very stupid!

26. Harambe unregistered

Blurry photos have nothing to do with focus speed. It's shutter speed. And current phones with phase detection focus faster than you framing the shot and tapping capture anyway. So no, faster focusing is not needed. I'm not against faster focusing, just Samsung's implementation as that sacrifices image quality by splitting every pixel in 2.

33. MrElectrifyer

Posts: 3960; Member since: Oct 21, 2014

"Blurry photos have nothing to do with focus speed" That's outright BS! If you keep moving the camera (chasing the subject), it'll be taking time to re-focus on the subject. If you don't give it that time, the subject will be out of focus, and no matter how fast your shutter speed is, it'll result in the subject being blurry in the photo as you're focused on something else. Fast autofocus mitigates that concern as you follow the subject and is in no way a gimmick. What image quality it sacrifices, I'm not sure what you mean, 'cause it still outperforms the current competition and will only improve with future devices.

34. Harambe unregistered

That's not called blurry photo, that's called a photo not in focus. Blurry photo refers to motion blur which is caused by lack of shutter speed. Outperforming current devices is a stretch. The photos look really good when you view them normally. But as soon as you zoom to 100% crop, it starts to look really bad. Read any review from a person who knows cameras and you know what I'm talking about. Here is an excerpt from Anandtech review of the S7: "However, in the case of the Galaxy S7 I suspect that there’s more to the story, because the dual pixel AF system means that for each 1.4 micron pixel each pixel needs two photodetectors. In order to make phase detection work, there has to be sufficient spatial separation to make this system work properly, so some of the benefit of these larger pixels will inevitably be eaten up in order to enable PDAF that works in basically all lighting conditions. Unfortunately, the Galaxy S7 is just a bit disappointing here. The LG G5 is just clearly better here as noise reduction is better in pretty much every way and it looks a lot more natural due to less obvious sharpening halos. I would also argue that the HTC 10 is also better here due to its better texture detail and better handling of shadow detail, even if edges are softer. The Galaxy S7 also has this strange streaking light flare with bright sources that I just couldn’t get rid of despite wiping the lens multiple times with a clean cotton cloth, which was done for every phone in this test before taking the picture. In fairness, the Galaxy S7 is still the fastest camera out of everything in this test, but it comes at the cost of rather disappointing output for me. The Galaxy Note5 looks like it might even be slightly better than the Galaxy S7, which is a weird regression when the general idea of going to a larger pixel size is to get better low light performance. As alluded to earlier, the cost of the dual pixel AF system may be sensitivity due to the dual photodiodes and light barrier to generate a phase detection pixel. While this is just one test example I’ve spent a lot of time playing with the camera on the Galaxy S7 and in general its low light performance is fairly similar to what you see above. The only time where I really see the Galaxy S7 lead is in extreme low light conditions where everything is reaching ISO and shutter speed limits. Overall, while the user experience of the Galaxy S7's camera is industry-leading, the Galaxy S7 represents a somewhat unfortunate sidegrade in camera quality at best. I would argue that Samsung has gone in the wrong direction with their camera processing as they seem to be relying on strong noise reduction and sharpening more than ever before. The Galaxy S7 also retains the oversaturated color rendering of the Galaxy S6. Hopefully with their next device they manage to maintain their class-leading speed, but with better post-processing and overall image quality."

35. Harambe unregistered

The above comment ran out of space( PA does have a word limit it seems ), so I will continue my comment here. S7's camera was not focused on image quality like the S6 was. It was focused on speed, ease of capture and a good camera in every lighting condition. Some people including you like it, and I have got no issue with that. But I would prefer a slow camera with great image quality over a fast camera with good image quality. Calling S7 a great camera isn't a wrong statement. Heck, I don't even disagree if you call it the best smartphone camera on the market. But calling the image quality from S7 good is an insult to photography. Even the slow, clunky and featureless camera from the Nexus 6P can outperform the camera on the S7 in most scenarios in terms of image quality.

24. Guaire

Posts: 876; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

You will get a 20mm thick phone with it at best case. That's why. Also it won't have neither wide angle nor zoom.

30. RaulBlas

Posts: 47; Member since: Mar 31, 2014

Big sensors requiere bigger lenses, both wide and deep...!

2. NoAllegiance unregistered

Anybody remember the Light L16 camera? https://www.light.co/camera#tech-specs

5. dimas

Posts: 3335; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

Wow. Any oem who'll get this will have a cheesehole phone and make apple pricing look like a bargain.

6. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

I was thinking, why not just cover the back of a phone with a bunch of sensors like that one camera that I can't remember the name of lol.

19. TrackPhoneUser

Posts: 256; Member since: Oct 21, 2015

That tango phone?

22. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

Tango phone? Project tango maybe and it's not the same thing. I was talking about the camera that the OP posted a link to.

3. dimas

Posts: 3335; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

I only think of one answer: Too expensive. Put 3 rear cameras and oem will find ways to cut corners to have lower price.

7. Harambe unregistered

I would prefer one good 1/2" sensor than 3 small ones. All phones with dual cameras have mediocre primary ones because the money is spent on the gimmick and not where it is supposed to be spent.

9. marorun

Posts: 5029; Member since: Mar 30, 2015

Yeah right LG G5 camera is mediocre... love ppl who talk whitout knowledge..

12. Harambe unregistered

It's not a bad camera but certainly not comparable to phones from other brands. It uses the exact same sensor and lens as G4. which was good for 2015.

28. sobit81

Posts: 39; Member since: Apr 18, 2015

My friend, it has the best camera around. Offcorse, this is pa.....

10. dimas

Posts: 3335; Member since: Jul 22, 2014

G5 camera is very good. Better than g4 in my opinion.

13. Harambe unregistered

It uses the exact same camera as the G4. Needless to say the images are exactly same.

11. torr310

Posts: 1645; Member since: Oct 27, 2011

Because the makers aren't insane...yet

14. TechieXP1969

Posts: 14967; Member since: Sep 25, 2013

Because the concept would be stupid. The best thing I think is Samsung had the Galaxy Zoom. The concept was great. But take that concept and make it smaller. Just make a up to 25MP sensor, that still has 1.4-1.7 aperture and has the ability to physically zoom via the hardware or make some type of sliding mechanical mechanism that can slide over the lens when you need to zoom, and I think that would take away the need of dual or even triple lens. Unless you design the 2 or 3 lends to give you a combined shot, that is stiched together with an invisible line, for a really wide angled shot, or allow you to choose using one lens, or 2 or even the thrid would be OK. But you don't need 2 or 3 lenses, if you make the single sensor larger enough. The Lumia has a 41MP sensor. Imagine a sensor that large, with larger pixels to increase light intake, hovering around 25MP or so, with a larger dual tone flash on both sides of the lens to send light at a wider angle . Standard DSLR cameras have a single lens. To take shots from farther way, you attach a telephoto lens. But there has to be a way to bring something similar to the smartphone. To me multiple lens detract from the phones look and design appeal. Just place a very large lens in the middle with enough size to increas pixel size and give it a high aperture. I was hoping the Note 7 would have instead of just using the S7's cameras, would have taken the 16MP shooter from the S6 and simply increased the pixel aperture to 1.7 and that would have made it a much better shooter than 12MP with the same. Seems they would go up and not down.

16. Guaire

Posts: 876; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

One of the Chinese brands can do this. They are less shy about adding a bit cost. Lenovo already put three camera to the Phab Pro 2 for different purpose. Not a bad idea at all.

17. jove39

Posts: 2145; Member since: Oct 18, 2011

"...So who will be the first company to actually be this bold and make such a smartphone?..." I bet chinese android oems are already working on this :)

20. lallolu

Posts: 732; Member since: Sep 18, 2012

No, they usualy wait for a major brancd to add a feature before they do. I guess LG will be the first to do it again.

23. Guaire

Posts: 876; Member since: Oct 15, 2014

HTC was first, though it was limited. Also at least 3 significant Chinese OEM done it before LG as well I know.

18. nctx77

Posts: 2540; Member since: Sep 03, 2013

I can see someone doing three.

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