The single most important aspect of a phone these days appears to be its camera. Manufacturers are falling over themselves to stuff in dual-cameras, larger sensors and myriad other features.
So far, LG has been trying to push its own implementation of a dual-camera setup, one featuring a regular lens and a wide-angle one. With the V30, however, LG is changing things up as it gears up to introduce a smartphone camera with the largest aperture to date.
To put it simply, an aperture is the opening through which light enters a lens. As Wikipedia so aptly puts it, a smaller opening means light rays are collimated (travel parallel to the plane of the lens axis) and wider openings are uncollimated.
When using a narrow aperture, more of a scene can be in focus. When using a wider aperture, only a certain plane of the scene will be in focus. The wider aperture is what results in the background blurring effect – bokeh – that photographers love so much. This is the same effect that dual-camera smartphones like the iPhone 7 Plus attempt to emulate in their portrait modes.
Aperture also determines the amount of light entering the lens. A wider aperture will let in more light; a smaller one will let in less light.
In photography, aperture size is defined by the f-number, which is the ratio of the focal length of the lens to the diameter of the aperture. Numbers like f/1.4, f/2.8, etc. are examples of this. The larger the number, the smaller the aperture. As the number increases, bokeh decreases and less light enters the lens.
When it comes to smartphones, the flagship phones of today offer apertures like f/1.7 (Samsung Galaxy S8) or f/1.8 (Apple iPhone 7 Plus). Cheaper phones usually offer an aperture of around f/2.0 or f/2.2.
On the LG V30, LG is promising to deliver an aperture of f/1.6. It might not seem like much. How much difference could there be between f/1.8 on an iPhone and f/1.6 on a V30, right? However, the scaling isn’t linear, so f/1.6 will be letting in around 25 percent more light than the f/1.8. This directly translates to a 25 percent faster shutter speed or a 25 percent lower ISO (which will help reduce noise).
LG also claims that it will a using a new, clearer lens to improve the camera’s low-light performance.
“LG boasts an unrivalled heritage in smartphone photography and our decision to adopt glass in the V30 camera is specifically because this has traditionally been the realm of DSLRs,” said Juno Cho, president of LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company in a statement to the press.
If LG keeps its promise, the lens is sure to be impressive, but the sensor and image processing capabilities of the smartphone need to be up to scratch as well. In the end, it's the quality of the images that will define that smartphone, not its lens aperture.
And if you’re wondering, f/1.6 still doesn’t mean you’ll get awesome bokeh from a smartphone camera. The subject is too complicated to get into here; suffice it to say that only a smartphone lens with an f/0.2 lens can match the bokeh from a full-frame DSLR with an f/1.8 lens.
The LG V30 will be unveiled at IFA Berlin, which will run from 1 September to 6 September this year.