Smartphone is getting a lot smarter these days and the camera feature of phones is getting better. In fact, Smartphone camera is among the most developed feature of smartphone aside from the obvious SOCs that is the engine that binds the phone together.

Looking back some eight years ago one can hardly believe that the single camera placed at the back of the early released smartphones will evolve to the point of possibly having five cameras at the back. And there is the new feature of pop up selfie camera that is disrupting the market. Vivo recently burst into the market the Vivo V17 Pro that featured a dual pop up selfie camera.

In truth, the cameras of smartphones have really improved tremendously thereby almost driving traditional photography out of the market. I mean, why go and buy a single digital camera if you can get a phone that will take pictures at almost same level and also enjoy other features of the phone that a single digital camera won’t offer.

Thank God for photo studio and professional digital cameras, else day to day users and photo lovers would have completely abandoned the use of digital camera and just stuck with what their phone camera has to offer.

That been said, in this article we’ll be introducing you to the various classes and types of camera that is available in smartphones. There will also be a brief explanation and differences between these camera types. As always, we bring our explanation to the lowest level possible for our readers to understand.

Quick Note: This article is not focused on technical and engineering parts of these types and classes of cameras. We focus on user hence we try to explain in simple terms what these cameras can do. Also, we might be going back to some little history but we won’t be mentioning dates and events.

To begin let’s have a quick throw back on the cameras that came with the early phones.

The Early Camera of Smartphones

Can you remember the very first android or smartphone you used? What was the camera like and how many cameras was placed at the back? Well my first smartphone was the Tecno P5 which has a little upgrade to the Tecno M3 used by my younger brother. If you are wondering if my younger brother was the first to use a smartphone then YES you are very correct. Don’t worry I’ll give you details some other time lets focus on the camera.

My Tecno P5 came with a single 5MP rear camera which was the best for me at that time. And I believe that other smartphones that was released at that time also came with the single rear camera. But there was a need for upgrade, the single camera at the back could only capture in one mode.

For example, the camera is wide and it can’t be used to capture the environment very well, it can’t capture ultra-wide area and object that is far away because the more you zoom in the more blur the images became. This gave birth to the era of the dual camera because a secondary camera was needed to help improve the camera performance.

The Dual Camera Era

As the name implies, dual camera means two cameras at the back. Mobile phone companies saw the need to include a secondary camera in the back. So along with the primary camera of the phone, they also include a depth sensor camera. The main purpose of the secondary depth sensor camera is to capture 3D images.

This means that while the primary camera focuses on the object, the secondary camera focuses on the surrounding or background. With this newly introduced camera, the image qualities of the camera became better. And again, my younger brother was also the first to switch to a dual camera phone. But there was also need for an upgrade as the dual camera is also limited in some areas.

The dual camera can only take photos of two things that is, the object in focus and the background. But sometimes we want to take pictures of wider areas, take photos from a long distance and even photos of smaller objects. This gave birth to the modern era of camera which is the triple and quad rear camera (three and four back camera smartphones).

Triple and Quad Camera

Triple means three and quad means four. So, a smartphone with triple rear camera will have three cameras at the back and a phone with quad rear camera will have four cameras at the back. Modern phones now have more camera options placed at the back of the phones.

Basically, they now have the, wide camera (usually referred to as the main camera), the ultra-wide camera, telephoto, depth sensor and/or the macro camera.

Up front, smartphones have always come with a single selfie camera. Although the early selfie cameras of smartphones were with low MP. My Tecno P5 was having 0.3MP as its front camera. But recently, we have seen some major changes in front cameras of smartphones.

The Front Camera of Smartphones

The front cameras now enjoy more Megapixels up front for selfies. Most mobile phone companies placed as big as a 32MP camera for selfie. Also, the introduction of a bazerless screen have also brought about a pop-up selfie camera. And to crown it all, Vivo placed two pop up selfie cameras in its recently released Vivo V17 Pro.

That is a wrap up of a brief history of how the cameras of smartphones have evolved over the years.

Classes of Smartphone camera

The cameras of smart phones can be categorized into 8 section and it might be 9 in the near future.

  • Single rear camera
  • Dual rear camera
  • Triple rear camera
  • Quad rear camera
  • Penta rear camera (possibly more in the future)
  • Single front camera
  • Dual front camera
  • Pop-up front camera

Single Rear camera: Single camera refers to smartphones with just one camera at the back. The first set of smartphones made use of this single rear camera to take pictures. It was then upgraded to the dual camera so as to include additional features for users.

Dual rear Camera: This refers to smartphones with two cameras at the back. Sometime after the first set of smartphones, mobile phone companies decided to add additional feature to the back camera of smart phone. Smartphones with dual cameras have what was called the primary and secondary camera. While the primary camera focused on the object, the secondary camera focused on the background.

Triple Camera: Smartphones that make use of three cameras at the back. Two more cameras were added to the main or primary camera of these smartphones. The addition of these new cameras made it possible for smartphones to have more functions. Most smartphones still make use of the triple rear camera but the era of quad cameras is fast approaching.

Quad Camera: These are phones with four cameras at the back. As the option to add more camera function became available, most mobile phone companies are trying to make it possible for phone users to have more options when it comes to camera.

Penta Camera: Penta Camera refers to phone that has five cameras at the back. Well, as at the time of writing this article, there is only very few phones phone that uses five back cameras yet but its just a matter of time before more phones starts to bring Penta camera phones. The likes of Xiaomi Mi Note 10 has five cameras at the back.

Single Front camera: These are phones that make use of just one camera at the front. Most mobile phones still make use of the single front camera but we think the time for a dual front camera is just around the corner.

Dual Front Camera: Dual front camera phones are smartphones that uses two front cameras. So far there have been some few phones that have the capability.

Pop-up Front camera: This refers to phones that uses a motorized pop-up camera to take selfies. Instead of the regular static camera placed at the front of the camera, the selfie camera comes up once it is summoned to be used. This is the next generation selfie camera as most phone companies are fighting to give users larger screen.

The Difference between dual and triple camera Smartphones

Dual camera smartphones are smartphones that comes with two cameras at the back while triple camera smartphones are smartphones that comes with three cameras at the back. Dual camera smartphones have a main camera (usually wide) and a depth sensor. Triple cameras smartphones have a main camera (usually wide), a depth sensor, ultra-wide, a telephoto or a macro camera.

The Difference between triple and quad camera smartphones

Smartphones that have three cameras at the back are called triple camera smartphones while the ones that comes with four cameras at the back are referred to as quad camera smartphones. Usually they have a main camera (usually wide), a depth sensor, ultra-wide, a telephoto or a macro camera.

Types of Smartphone camera

There are different types of cameras that is placed at the back of your phone. They don’t perform same functions and they don’t also come with same Megapixels. There are currently five main types of cameras that can possibly come with any smartphone.

  • Wide camera (main camera)
  • Ultra-wide cameras
  • Telephoto
  • Macro camera
  • Depth sensor

Wide Camera: These are the cameras used to take photos of wide areas. Maybe a landscape, compound etc.

Ultra-wide cameras: They perform same function as the wide camera but they take photos of larger areas. This feature was introduced so that phones can take photos of really wider areas.

Telephoto Camera: Telephoto cameras in smartphone enables the smartphone to take photos of objects from a distance. Wide and ultrawide are not used to take photos of distance. Reason because the more zoom in the camera the more blur it becomes. With the telephoto camera in your smartphone, you won’t have to worry about taking photos of an object in a distance.

Macro Camera: Macro cameras in smartphones are used to take photos of small object from a close range. The macro camera helps the smartphone to take in every single details of the object including its surrounding. Taking a photo of insects and flowers from a very close distance can be done using the Macro camera of a smartphone.

Depth Sensor: Depth sensor is the camera that link your background to the object in focus. To understand what the Depth sensor does, if you have a phone with portrait mode features, try the experiment below.

  • Open your phone camera
  • Switch to portrait mode
  • Focus the camera on the object you wish to snap
  • Click the snap button

Now repeat same procedure but this time use the normal mode of your camera. You should notice the following difference between the two pictures.


You will notice that the object was more in focus and less the background in the first scenario. In the portrait mode, the depth sensor camera focus on the background but made it blur as you only wanted to the see the focus object more. While in the normal mode, the depth sensor linked the background and the object in focus thereby making it seem that object and background are same.

Simply put, the depth sensor camera is the link between your focus object (image) and the background of the image.

Some cameras of the smartphones are meant to take normal photos. Others are meant to capture really wide and big areas. Some are meant to enable users take photos from a far distance. While another is meant to take small objects up close.

Whichever phone you use you might have one or four of these features in the camera of your phone. You should know when to use them to allow you capture incredible pictures.

The Future of Smartphone camera

It’s a little bit too early to start prediction what the future of smartphone cameras will look like. But we know there is more to be explored by the mobile phone companies and we are looking forward to see these incredible changes as they occur.

Right now, mobile phones make use of the Wide cameras, Ultra-wide, telephoto or macro camera and depth sensor. We think that in coming years, mobile phones might just include the Telephoto and macro camera in a phone which will make that phone has a five-rear camera. And this might just be the next possible step for smartphone camera.

Or like Xiaomi, mobile phone companies might just decide to have 2x, 5x and even 10x optical zoom cameras which will make the phone have up to 6 cameras (possibly even more) at the back. If this eventually happens then we are talking about a whole new era of image quality produced by the cameras of smartphones.

For those who wants to know if my younger brother upgraded to the triple and quad camera before me, just to satisfy your curiosity YES he did. Maybe I will be the first to upgrade to the Penta camera, who knows.

The differences between the cameras of the smartphones can be seen from its explanations. You can see how mobile companies have upgraded the cameras of smartphone over the years. From a single rear camera to a quad rear camera with multiple options. The introduction of the bezerless screen gave rise to the pop-up selfie.

Dual front camera is just around corner and with time maybe there might be triple or even quad front camera. You can see that smartphone camera can perform almost all the task that a digital camera will do.

Tell us what you think about the smartphone camera and you experience with the one you are using. Don’t forget to use the share button below to share our posts on social media platforms. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel and enjoy phone comparison videos.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *