Smartphone cameras: relentless marketing

Based on materials Android Authority

Buying a new smartphone can be a daunting task, especially if you are not into technology and do not want to be tech savvy. Mobile phone manufacturers often use dubious marketing tactics to increase sales, targeting users who particularly value smartphone image quality. Here are some tips used by marketers to attract smartphone photography enthusiasts. Be careful!

Using studio equipment …

Promotional photos and clips taken with studio equipment are a particularly annoying trick. Who among us has not seen all these photos on the company’s websites – the perfect downloads or videos are too good to be true.

Such advertising materials are often created using additional equipment such as studio lighting, tripods, stabilizers, etc., not to mention post-production using professional programs. Most manufacturers probably use studio lighting for selfies, macro shots and other examples that you can see on their websites. For example, here is a macro shot on the Redmi Note 11 page: it is doubtful that the 2 megapixel macro camera succeeded without help, such as stage lighting and subsequent editing.

The use of additives is not always bad. For example, high-exposure photography requires a tripod. The problem, however, is that some brands post such content without warning and make us believe that this is a normal shooting result available out of the box that can be easily repeated. So let the company proudly show the results of the shooting on its cameras, but high expectations will hurt you.

Or complete replacement of photos with studios

Some companies go further and do not just use studio equipment and process photos. There are cases where they showed photos or videos, claiming that they were taken on a smartphone, but in fact a professional quality camera was used.

One of the first examples of this approach was Nokia, which introduced the Lumia 920 smartphone in 2012. The company used a van-mounted DSLR instead of a telephone to demonstrate the capabilities of optical image stabilization. Then in 2018 they caught the Huawei Nova 3i. A photo of the model later deleted from Instagram * (an extremist organization banned in Russia) showed that she did not take a selfie on a smartphone, but instead was photographed on a DSLR.

Needless to say, you should not unconditionally believe the pictures posted by someone on the net. It is always best to test the device yourself, if possible, and not to rely solely on photos from the manufacturer.

Hide technical details

Companies like to talk loudly about the key features that make their devices stand out, but they are just as willing to keep quiet about details about features that seem less impressive. This happens very often with smartphone cameras.

For example, on the official Realme 8 5G page, among the specifications, there is no information about macro and monochrome lenses, ie their resolution. And more impressive details about the main camera are listed in all their glory. Companies are generally reluctant to disclose sensor size information for selfie and zoom cameras, but let you know when they use a large main sensor. Therefore, for features, you should go to third-party reviews and tables if the manufacturer’s website does not have camera information.

Technical terms that are misleading

Some smartphone makers like to muddy the waters using marketing terms for smartphone cameras, disguising them as technical terms, often simply to confuse the user. This practice is especially common when it comes to zoom technology.

For example, Samsung coined the term “hybrid optical zoom” instead of simply saying that the Galaxy S20 and S21 used hybrid zoom technology. The word “optical” may make one think that the devices have telephoto / optical zoom, when in fact they do not. With the release of the Galaxy S22 and S22 Plus, the base and Plus models are finally getting real optical telephoto lenses. So look for a phone with a telephoto lens, periscope lens or optical zoom if you want a camera that can take good photos from a distance.

Huawei and Realme are two other companies that use terminology confusion. The ad states that their smartphones are equipped with AIS and UIS image stabilization technologies, respectively. Of course, Huawei’s AIS uses AI technology for stabilization, so it’s a little different from traditional software stabilization. However, in any case, these are software solutions that will not give the same result as visual hardware stabilization. Therefore, if it is important for you to take blur-free shots and shake-free videos, you need to make sure that your smartphone has visual stabilization.

Emphasis on megapixels

The number of megapixels is one of the most ancient and valuable marketing tricks associated with smartphone cameras, which remains a problem for the market to this day. It is based on the misconception that bigger is better, which is definitely not the case when it comes to megapixels.

However, the pixel size of the camera and features such as optical image stabilization, lens iris, and software editing have a greater impact on photo quality than pixel count. This is especially important in low light scenes, where larger pixels will help capture more light and therefore a better image. In the meantime, optical stabilization will help you shoot with less blur in all conditions.

More megapixels can be useful in daylight, giving better detail for the subsequent cropping. However, the benefit of this benefit from the box is not always obvious. Many modern smartphones shoot at a lower resolution by default, using binning for sharper images. In other words, 108 megapixel sensors still produce 12 megapixel images. So instead of looking at the number of megapixels, look at the size of the pixels. A pixel size of less than 0.8 microns is considered small when it comes to smartphone cameras with a resolution of 48 MP or higher.

Interference in photo and video

Smartphone makers rely on software editing to offer higher resolutions and higher frame rates than hardware can handle. This is not always a scam, but some companies claim that their devices support the feature while their hardware does not.

This was the sin of many Chinese C-brands such as Oukitel and Doogee a few years ago. They claimed that their smartphones had a 13 megapixel main camera, although in reality there was an 8 megapixel sensor and the resulting images were improved to 13 megapixels with an upgrade. These brands often wrote upgrade / interpolation warnings in fine print, if at all. Fortunately, this practice is quite rare today.

Another common software ploy is the claimed support for ultra-slow 960 fps video, when the result is actually interpolated at a lower frame rate, such as 240 or 480 fps. This is Samsung’s fault. The Galaxy S22 Ultra captures video at 480 fps and then uses software to create video at 960 fps, which, unlike its siblings, it does not support. Huawei has also been seen to use interpolated slow motion video instead of supporting 960 fps video as it used to. The company’s latest flagships support 7680 fps slow motion video, which is inserted from the original 1920 fps.

Both Huawei and Samsung issue warnings on some of their promotional materials, but not all. Prospective buyers should watch it or alternatively go to third party websites such as Hi-Speed ​​Cameras, which are good at determining if a flagship phone records interpolated video.

What to do? (Who is to blame and it is clear)

And now a few words about what to look out for if the quality of the download on a smartphone is important to you.

One of the most important elements is image processing software and each brand offers its own solution in this area. For example, Samsung cameras tend to produce rich colors and a wide dynamic range, while Sony smartphones tend to have more realistic shades and use less HDR. Google’s solutions are known for their well-saturated colors and excellent low-light image quality. This is not guaranteed for all the devices of this company, but, in general, it is its advantage.

In terms of hardware specifications, the large main camera sensor, optical stabilization and relatively large pixel size will be important to you. For example, the most famous flagships on the market, such as the Galaxy S22 series, the Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra and the Google Pixel 6, offer optical stabilization and a main camera sensor with a pixel size of one size or another. It is best to avoid pixel sizes smaller than 0.8 microns for 48MP, 50MP, 64MP and 108MP cameras. There is a reason that $ 200 phones with a 50MP camera may not match $ 1,000 phones with a 50MP camera — their sensors are too small.

Finally, you need to decide how many extra cameras you need. Not sure what you know? Next, think about what kind of photos you will mainly take (close-ups, landscapes, sporting events, etc.). The best flagships usually have a wide-angle camera and a telephoto or periscope lens to meet all of these needs. You can find ultra-wide angle cameras in budget solutions, but telephoto / periscope cameras are more expensive and therefore less common in the mid-range and budget segment.

Have you ever succumbed to marketing tricks related to the photographic part of smartphones? Which devices have deceived your expectations?

Leave a Comment