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Qualcomm could just make dual-lens cameras common on smartphones

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We’ve already seen it on the Huawei P9 and also on the iPhone 7, and now it seems like a dual-lens setup for the rear camera on smartphones is here to stay. Qualcomm announced today a new innovation called Clear Sight that offers a dual camera system for future Android phones.

Explaining how Clear Sight works is quite simple– 10th-grade biology. The technology works based on the same principle our eyes function to capture images. Instead of having a single type of photoreceptor, the eyes contain two– rods and cones. Rods are excellent at capturing light in low-light conditions, but don’t capture as much color, while cones are better off working with color but need good lighting conditions.

In a similar fashion, Qualcomm’s Clear Sight will employ two different lenses– one color and the other black-and-white. The color lens will function as the cones, capturing rich color. And the monochromatic lens will work as the rods, taking in great detail even in low-light. The result is that we get an astounding image with optimal contrast and brightness.

Explaining the technology, PJ Jacobowitz Senior Manager, Marketing at Qualcomm writes in a blog post:

“Clear Sight features two cameras, each with its own lens and image sensor. Like your eyes, the lenses have identical focal length (meaning they see the same distance). But each camera has a different image sensor: one color image sensor (to mimic cones), and a separate black and white image sensor (which can absorb more light, to mimic rods).”

Apparently, both the lenses used are completely identical, except for the fact that the black-and-white one has an extra filter to remove color. This, according to Qualcomm, increases its light sensitivity by three times. Essentially, this could be greatly useful when working with low-light environments and for pictures which require high contrast.

The Qualcomm Clear Sight hardware comes in as a single, fully integrated module. This means that manufacturers just need to buy the stuff and put it on their phones, no need to assemble it yourself. Along with the two cameras, the setup also comes with specially designed computational low light imaging algorithms that enable Qualcomm Spectra ISPs. These are designed to take photos at the exact same time and merge the two photos together, instantaneously, with outstanding image quality even in low lighting.

Unfortunately, for now, this whole tech requires the premium Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 and 821 processors. This means that we will only be able to enjoy the perks of Clear Sight on high-end smartphones. But maybe, as tech evolves, brands may find a way to mix up similar approaches on more affordable handsets.

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