Dual camera smartphones are in vogue this season, with Apple sporting a new design in its new iPhone 7 Plus, LG unveiling a similar look with its new V20, and not forgetting that Huawei made its own dual camera debut with the P9 not long ago. Mobile chip giant Qualcomm wants to help put more dual-camera smartphones on the market, having just announced its latest camera innovation known as Clear Sight.
Qualcomm’s Snapdragon processors have supported multiple camera sensors for a couple of generations now. However, the company’s new Clear Sight technology is only available for devices that use its Snapdragon 820 and 821 processors, as it relies on Qualcomm’s advanced Spectra Image Signal Processor built into these chips.
Clear Sight consists of a single, fully integrated hardware module that contains two cameras, plus computational low light imaging algorithms that enable Qualcomm Spectra ISPs, designed to take photos at the exact same time and merge the two photos together, instantaneously, with outstanding image quality even in low lighting.
Clear Sight is designed with a very specific camera configuration in mind. It doesn’t opt for a telephoto lens like the new iPhone or a separate wide-angle lens like LG. Instead, it works using one color and one monochrome sensor, much like the Huawei P9. Although that phone uses the company’s own Kirin 955 SoC. The filter over the black and white sensor allows for up to three times more light capture, which can then be processed in software alongside the regular color image to improve dynamic range, sharpness, and reduce noise. It has the added benefit of being able to focus on a subject faster as well and improving low light performance.
Qualcomm’s Spectral ISP allows for the merging and processing of data from two image sensors using the company’s dedicated algorithms, without having to load down the main processor cores. This should be beneficial not only for performance, but also for battery life.
Qualcomm hasn’t announced any other details about the Clear Sight module yet, such as camera specifications, nor has the company mentioned any smartphone hardware partners either. Still, Qualcomm is offering another fast-track route for smartphone manufacturers looking to implement cutting edge camera technologies that I’m sure someone will take up, given the popularity of the Snapdragon 820.