Taking photos with our phones is one of the most frequently used features of these devices. That’s why cameras have been improving over time and their quality getting so good that it seems as though there is less need for consumers to pick up point-and-shoot cameras. This is very convenient as users have to carry fewer devices and most flagship smartphones include camera sensors with more megapixels than those found on compact cameras. Even as modern smartphones seem to take pictures instantly, manufacturers of mobile devices have been integrating technologies to reduce the time it takes to focus on objects, providing better results in most conditions, particularly in low-light scenes. Some cameras are assisted by lasers and some others include hybrid autofocus technologies, while other sensors have larger pixels to absorb more light.
Of course, most modern smartphones include an LED flash to illuminate dark environments, some of them with different light tones, one warmer than the other, in order to provide more natural colors. Still, the flash has a limited range and some elements can get overexposed. Not using the flash is also challenging, as any movement would result in blurry images. Having the best hardware to take pictures is only one part of the story, as there are software optimizations and after processing to enhance the taken picture. Qualcomm Snapdragon processors are powering most Android smartphones, including those with very powerful cameras, so they are partly responsible for creating better low-light pictures.
When there’s not enough light, camera pixels will increase their sensitivity to light, but just like the audio degrades in an audio amplifier when it reaches a volume that is beyond its limit, the high sensitivity of those pixels might result in digital noise, so the picture will look grainy. Some Snapdragon processors include noise-reduction technologies, so images will turn out crisp and grain-free, even in low-light conditions. The processors include fast image signal processors (ISP) so that noise reduction is made very fast and technologies like wavelet noise reduction (WNR) and temporal noise reduction (TNR) identify noisy areas and clear them up with Qualcomm’s state-of-the-art algorithms. The local tone mapping (LTM) integrated into these processors brightens up some areas that need it while keeping the exposure and level of detail in the photos.