What is Computational Photography? Computational photography is responsible for the dramatic advances in smartphone cameras over the past decade.
What is computational photography and how does it work? In the following, we will answer these questions.
The Miracle of Computational Photography
Computational photography uses digital software to adjust images taken using the phone’s camera. This technology is widely used in smartphone cameras. In fact, the main responsibility for producing great images on smartphones lies with this computational photography.
The rapid improvements in the camera of the handsets in the last few years can be attributed more to the improvement of the software than to the improvement of the physical sensor of the cameras. Some smartphone companies, such as Apple and Google, are constantly upgrading their gadgets’ imaging capabilities. Interestingly, this happens without making extensive changes to the camera’s physical sensors.
Why is computing photography important?
We continue the answer to the question “What is computational photography” by discussing its importance. Shooting a digital camera can be divided into two parts: the physical part and the image processing. The physical part refers to the process by which the camera lens produces an image of the subject. This is where sensor size, lens speed, and focal length come into play. It is in this process that a traditional camera, like DSLR cameras, shines brightly.
The second part is related to image processing. In this process, the camera software uses processing techniques to modify the image. These techniques vary from phone to phone and from manufacturer to manufacturer. In general, these techniques work together to deliver the right image to the user.
Even flagship phones tend to have slower sensors and lenses. The reason for this is due to the size limit of these devices. That’s why smartphones are turning to image processing to provide a decent image. Computational photography does not necessarily matter more or less than the physical characteristics of the camera, it is just a different category.
After all, there are things a traditional camera can do, but a smartphone camera can’t do. The main reason for this is that the former is much larger than the latter and also has giant sensors and interchangeable lenses.
Of course, there are things that a phone’s digital camera can do, but a traditional camera lacks the ability to do. Naturally, computing photography is the reason why smartphones excel in such fields.
Computational imaging techniques
There are several computational photography techniques that phones use to capture the right images. One of these is image stacking. In this process, at different times, with different exposures or focal lengths, several images of the subject are produced. These images are then combined with each other by the software and also the best details of each image are kept.
The stacking technique is responsible for the dramatic advances that mobile photography software has made in recent years. This technique is also used in most modern phones. Accumulation is also the basic technology of things like HDR photography.
Since the dynamic spectrum of each image is limited due to the limited exposure of the same image, in the HDR technique, an image is recorded at several exposure levels. Next, combine different impressions, the darkest shades and the lightest highlights to create an image with a wide range of colors.
HDR photography is one of the main pillars of any flagship phone.
Pixel binning is another technique used by high megapixel cameras. Instead of stacking multiple images on top of each other, this technique combines adjacent pixels into one high-resolution image. In this way, the end result will be a more detailed image, with less noise and, of course, lower resolution.
Today, flagship phone cameras tend to use neural network technology. A neural network is a set of algorithms that process data. In fact, this technology tries to simulate how the human brain works. The neural network can detect the performance that makes up a great image. Therefore, the camera software will continue to deliver an image that is pleasing to the user.
Computational photography in practice
Above we tried to answer the question “What is computational photography?” Let’s pay. In practice, computational photography is used to apply automatic changes to any image captured by the phone’s camera. In any case, smartphones in recent years have been equipped with the following features. These are some of the manifestations of the software enhancements of these cameras:
Night sight: This process uses HDR processing techniques to combine images captured with different exposures. This improves the dynamic range of the images in low light. The final image is more detailed and naturally brighter than an image captured through a single exposure.
Astrophotography: One of the derivatives of night mode. This feature is available in the camera of Google Pixel phones. This feature allows the phone’s camera to capture detailed images of the night sky, thus better displaying stars and other celestial objects.
Portrait mode: This mode has different letters. In general, this feature creates a depth-of-field effect, blurring the background behind the subject (usually a human being). This feature uses software capabilities to analyze the ratio of subject depth to other components in the image, and then blurs items that are farther away.
Panorama: A shooting mode found on most modern smartphones. This mode allows you to put the captured images together and then combine them into a large, high-resolution image.
Deep Fusion: This feature was introduced on the iPhone 11. Using neural network technology, this technology dramatically reduces noise and also improves the detail in images. This mode is more suitable for shooting in medium to low light conditions and indoors.
Colors: Using this feature, the colors in the recorded images are automatically optimized. This is done before you manually edit the images.
The quality of the features mentioned above depends on the phone manufacturer. Capabilities such as setting colors can vary greatly from company to company. Google’s handsets have taken a naturalistic approach. Samsung phones, on the other hand, usually deliver high-contrast images and saturated colors to the user.
If you are planning to buy a new phone and its camera is very important to you, then it is better to see some samples of photos taken with that phone before buying. This way you can better choose your ideal option.