How smartphone photography will change in 2022

2021 has been a banner year for smartphone photography. With Apple and Google pushing the limits with Samsung and OnePlus dramatically improving their offerings, it’s been a great year for the best camera phones. But now that 2022 is here, what’s next? Where do these phone makers go from here?

We have thought about this for a long time and we have some ideas. Obviously, we won’t know what the big names have in store for us until we get our hands on the new flagships, but we can make guesses based on what we saw in 2021 and the rumors surrounding it. the most anticipated phones, including the Galaxy S22 and iPhone 14.

Here are 5 things we expect to see in the cameras of 2022 phones.

Zoom lens improvements

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In 2021, we saw several improvements to zoom lenses. The Galaxy S21 Ultra, for example, maintained Samsung’s dominance in full zoom capabilities. Meanwhile, the iPhone 13 Pro received a 3x bump (2x on the 12 Pro and 2.5x on the 12 Pro Max in 2020) and the Pixel 6 Pro saw a 4x bent optical lens.

Expect this trend of higher optical zooms this year. We believe that many phone makers will start using bent optics, which means you’ll get a more powerful zoom without the need for bulkier hardware (i.e. a camera bump).

And we also believe that more and more phone makers will improve their digital zoom technologies, much like Google did with the Pixel’s Super Res zoom. This would result in much sharper enlarged images.

Macro photography with ultra-wide lens

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With the iPhone 13 Pro models, Apple introduced macro photography using the ultra-wide lens. We’ve seen Android phone makers include dedicated macro lenses on mid-range and budget phones with questionable success. But the iPhone has one of the first useful macro modes because not only does it perform great, it also uses existing camera hardware.

As usual, expect Android phone makers to copy Apple here and start adding macro modes to ultra-wide lenses. That could be a really interesting thing, and the Galaxy S22 Ultra’s main camera is designed to offer macro mode. We also expect high-end phones like the Pixel 7 to use this feature. And if a device can use existing hardware, it could cut costs since the manufacturer wouldn’t have to include a macro lens.

Real-time filters and effects

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With the iPhone 13, Apple introduced the photographic styles. These act as real-time filters, allowing you to see different color calibrations and more before taking the photo. It seems like a small feature, but it requires a lot of artificial intelligence to work.

With Google’s second-gen Tensor chip and the newly announced Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, Android phones could get something similar. In the past, some phones used something akin to photographic styles, but the filter is still applied in post-processing. Apple’s method does this in real time.

Of all the phones in 2022, we believe the Pixel 7 will be the closest to what Apple has done, but the significant image signal processing upgrades on the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 could come close as well.

Portrait video

Apple has moved forward on portrait video, called cinematic mode. This allows for dynamic adjustments to focus in a video frame. Everything is done in real time, which is a huge challenge for many mobile chips. This is an interesting option if you like “artistic” videos. The only downside is that it’s limited to 1080p.

Qualcomm said the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 will support portrait video (via a hardware bokeh engine) up to 4K, potentially giving phones using this chip a head start over the iPhone 13. So we think definitely that the Galaxy S22 Ultra and OnePlus 10 Pro will have portrait video. And who knows, Google may have found something similar with the new Tensor chip that we’ll see in the Pixel 7 Pro.

AI and Machine Learning Improvements

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In 2021, Apple’s A15 Bionic and Google’s Tensor chips set the standard for what is possible with AI and machine learning in photography. Simply put, you will find that Google and Apple have the strongest offerings. It all comes down to the software and post-processing that the iPhone 13 and Pixel 6 do.

It’s obvious at this point that the iPhone 14 and Pixel 7 will be photography behemoths, but what about other Android phones? Qualcomm talks about the new AI / ML capabilities of the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 Image Signal Processor (ISP). Qualcomm’s new chip handles all image-related AI / ML tasks on the ISP itself, without them. unload on other parts of the chip, which could greatly improve the efficiency.

All of this to say that we think 2022 will see a lot of powerful camera phones thanks to the upcoming A16 Bionic, second gen Tensor and Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. From Samsung to OnePlus, choosing entries for the best list of device phones photo could become quite difficult this year.

Smartphone Photography Outlook 2022

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At first glance, you might think that smartphone photography has indeed reached its peak. In some cases, yes. Hardware improves iteratively every year, but the real magic comes in software. This is how Google and Apple kept their crowns for years.

2022 could see some features become mainstream, like Apple’s ultra-wide macro mode. Some things may seem marginally useful, like real-time photo effects and video portraits, but that’s how many smartphone camera features work.

It’s easy to get bored with smartphone photography, but keep in mind that all the features we’re used to these days, even night mode, started somewhere. Remember portrait mode for stills seemed like a gimmick back then, and now see how many people are using it. It is quite possible that something like this will happen again.


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