The Best Smartphone Camera Releases from MWC 2019

28 January 2019

It’s the last day of the world’s biggest mobile trade show – the Mobile World Congress (MWC) – and alongside foldable phones and AI headsets, there were some exciting new smartphone camera advances to boot .

Held in Barcelona, the four-day conference played host to thousands of brands.  Of these, Nokia took the opportunity to announce a new Android phone with five cameras, Sony released Xperia models with DSLR-like features such as Eye AF, and Chinese brand Oppo teased its 10x lossless zoom.  Read on to find out more…

Nokia 9 PureView

Nokia has been known in the past for its nostalgia-laden designs, with revamped versions of its models from the early 2000s.  But not this time.  The brand, owned by HMD Global, unveiled a flash new Android smartphone with not two, not three, but FIVE cameras.

It’s certainly not the first to release a handset with multiple rear cameras, but unlike other multi-camera phones like the Samsung Galaxy S10 or the LG V40, which offer different lens types on a single device, the Nokia 9 PureView works slightly differently.

Each camera has a 12-megapixel sensor and an f/1.8 lens, two of which shoot in colour and three of which are monochrome.  When you press the shutter, all five cameras shoot different exposures at the same time, which are then merged together into a single, ultra-detailed shot.  Nokia says that each camera can even shoot multiple exposures separately to add even more data to the final image.

The combined sensors can also create extra-high-resolution depth maps, capturing up to 1,200 layers of depth information to more realistically mimic depth-of-field.  This is especially good for bokeh in portrait shots.

The camera can shoot in RAW, spitting out DNG files, of between 28-30MB, and can also capture timelapses with exposure times of up to 10 seconds.

To achieve all this, Nokia partnered with Light, which released its 16-camera compact early last year.  It’s the first time Light has contributed to a smartphone camera but not the last.  Light announced at MWC that it would be working with  Sony and Xiaomi to develop more multi-lens devices in the future.

Sony Xperia 1, 10 and 10 Plus

The most notable new feature of Sony’s new Xperia models is that they come with an unusual, cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio, making them taller and thinner than most other smartphones, with an impressive 4K HDR OLED screen aimed at movie-watching.

But Sony says it has also brought pro-quality features to its triple-camera system, by integrating technologies from its Alpha camera range.

Eschewing the trend for 48-megapixel sensors, Sony has opted for three 12-megapixel cameras on the rear of its new models: a 16mm super wide-angle, a 26mm, 52mm, and a 26mm and 52mm with 2x optical zoom.

Added to this are DSLR-like features such as Eye AF (Auto Focus) and 10FPS AF/AE, for precise focus and high-speed shooting.

Oppo – 10x optical zoom

Another Chinese brand, Oppo, came to MWC 2019 not with a phone, but with a prototype – and a promise.

Through a new triple-lens camera phone system, Oppo promises a lossless 10x optical zoom, which comes the closest to achieving real zoom in the tight confines of a smartphone.

Oppo does this through a periscope setup inside the phone: light comes in through one lens, gets reflected by a mirror into an array of additional lenses, and then arrives at an image sensor.

The three lenses that sit on the rear of the phone are made up of telephoto lens, which has a 35mm equivalence of a 160mm, a regular wide-angle lens, and a 16mm-equivalent super wide-angle lens.

Oppo says a retail device featuring the 10x lossless zoom system will be available in the second quarter of 2019.

Xiaomi Mi 9

Xiaomi kicked off MWC 2019 with its global launch of its new Mi 9 smartphone, the first time the Chinese brand has ever launched a phone at the annual tech conference.

In a bid to capture worldwide audiences, the new phone has a huge 48-megapixel Sony sensor, similar to the one on the Honor View 20, launched in January this year.  There are also two other rear sensors – a 16-megapixel ultra-wide lens and a 12-megapixel telephoto with 2x zoom – and a 20-megapixel selfie camera on the front.

The Xiaomi Mi9 is now available in Spain, Italy and France for between €449-499, but it’s still unknown when it will reach the UK.