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Does the aperture size of a phone camera really matters?

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A smartphone flaunting four rear cameras and a ring LED flash

Mobile phones have evolved to become the central hub of digital entertainment for both youths and adults. With today's smartphones boasting of large screens, powerful processors, substantial amount of RAM, high-end GPUs, and big batteries, they have become the goto for people who want to enjoy unlimited entertainment on-the-go.

We are no longer limited to doing certain tasks using specific device; we can watch movies, listen to music, play games, take pictures, and do a whole lot more on our smartphone with ease without any expertise required.

The advancement in technology has improved the standard of hardware used in modern phones and they are now more capable of doing things that were deemed impossible years back. Among the areas that experienced drastic change is the camera; photography on mobile phone has greatly improved and we now have more control over "how we want our phone camera to take a picture" and "how we want our captured picture to look like".

Today's smartphones are more than just point-and-shoot as they allow us to finely adjust the camera before we take a picture. Most phones nowadays have manual mode (or pro mode) where users can manually adjust the ISO, shutter speed, lens focus, exposure, metering, and more. However, one of the areas often talk about in mobile photography is the lens aperture.

The aperture size of a camera lens is one of the three factors (the other two factors are ISO and shutter speed) that determine how bright or how dim a photo will look like aften taken. It is what controls the amount of light that enter through the lens into the image sensor. Since it is one of the factors that determine the amount of brightness of a picture taken, it cannot be under-emphazied and is considered to be of importance when it comes to mobile photography.

Different smartphones have different cameras with different aperture sizes, however, the f/2.0 aperture seems to be the most commonly used in the last three years. There are camera phones that have apertures as large as f/1.5 and as small as f/2.6. In general, the smaller the F-number (or F-stop) the larger the size of the aperture. Some phones have multiple cameras with different lenses and different apertures for maximum flexibility.

The most usefulness of a large aperture in mobile photography is that it help users capture more details in low-light, such as in the evening during sunset or at night when there is less lighting to brighten the object, as it let more light in through the lens to the image sensor to improve the brightness of the image.

Aperture sizes of phone camera
Different camera lens aperture sizes

Large aperture size is not specifically important during the day or where there is abundance of light, that's why some tech manufacturers such as Samsung implement variable-aperture in some of their smartphones camera that auto switch back and forth (f/1.5 - F/2.4) depending on the amount of light available in the environment where the object is when an user wants to take a picture i.e Galaxy Note10, Samsung W20 5G, and OPPO R17 Pro.

Phones that have cameras with large aperture sizes are must for users that are into night photography, and is of great importance when taking picture indoor such as in a dim lighted room. These are where it matters. But the overall quality of the picture is not determined by the aperture alone - in fact the aperture is but one of the fragments that decide how great the photo will look like.

Other things such as the pixel size of the image sensor, shutter speed, and the type of lens used also matters. How optimized the camera software is and how it process the image captured by the image sensor before it output it matters as well. It is not only about the hardware but also about how developed the software is when interpreting the image captured by the sensor.

A phone with an f/2.0 aperture and a phone with an f/1.7 aperture will both take great pictures in a sunlit garden, but at night the later will perform better. If the phone with an f/2.0 aperture have better software processing and larger image sensor than the phone with an f/1.7 aperture, it may perform better, even in low-light.

The aperture is but one of the specs that determine if a phone camera is good or not; it shouldn't be the major factor of weighting the quality of a camera and how well it will perform. The type of image sensor used and the size of the image sensor are of critical importance as well and should not be overlooked.

Mobile photography has come to stay whether we like it or not and is already replacing the old Point-and-shoot digital cameras that some are used to. We can expect it to get better as time goes on.

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