Mobile phone cameras image quality is getting better and better

October 5, 2015

DxOMark site has almost become a standard for image quality tests for both digital cameras and mobile phone cameras. It’s an excellent source for evaluating a camera performance for both stills and video recording. If you visited the site lately, you probably notice some significant changes in the mobile rating table.

The Sony Xperia Z5 has conquered the top position, moving Samsung S6 Edge to the seconds place, followed by the new Google Nexus 6P in the third place and LG G4, which was only recently reviewed, in the forth place. We can see that each generation of new phones bring improved image quality with it. This includes better better low-light performance and video recording capability.  Phone manufacturers continue to push digital imaging forward. At the most basic level nothing too significant has changed. The main reason for the top performing camera is mostly larger pixels, utilizing the most advanced sensor technologies and a fast aperture lens.

Lets tale a look at the top 5 mobile phones on DxOMark mobile rating list and inspect its specs.

  • Sony Xperia Z5 – 1/2.3″, 23MP, 1.12 micron pixels, f/2.0 lens
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – 1/2.6″, 16MP, 1.12 micron pixels,  f/1.9 lens, OIS
  • Google Nexus 6P – 1/2.3″, 12.3MP, 1.55 micron pixels, f/2.0 lens
  • LG G4 – 1/2.6″,  16MP, 1.12 micron pixels, f/1.8 lens, OIS
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – 1/2.6″, 16MP, 1.12 micron pixels, f/2.2 lens, OIS

I didn’t state the sensor models, but all of those rear cameras for these designated phones use a back-illuminated sensor.  We can see that the Google Nexus 6P has the largest pixels among the five and it also utilizes a fast aperture lens, which it the main reason for its strong performance.

Many of the other smartphone cameras that were at the top positioning in the past has been pushed back. This included the Moto X Style, Sony Xperia Z3+, Apple iPhone 6 Plus and others. Each year we see a marginal improvement in the overall performance of mobile phone cameras, including better low-light performance, faster and more accurate AF performance (Nexus 6P has the best AF performance to date according to DxOMark) and video quality.

The idea is to find a good balance between all of the variables that effect image quality and keep the phone affordable at the same time. Phone manufacturers could have opted for larger sensors, but this would negatively effect the price. This is why we don’t see any major changes. The camera image sensor is the key factor for the difference in image quality. Sony is the leader in that field, and we can expect to see more phones using its stacked BSI sensor which is already proven to offer the best IQ yet.

Of course we can expect to see more marginal improvements, but obviously that the best is yet to come, and we can expect to see some revolutionary technologies in the future that will solve some of the limitations that current mobile phone camera have and help improve the overall image quality performance and features over what current-gen mobile cameras offer.