When smartphone enthusiasts and reviewers can’t find a reasonable fault on a smartphone, you hear them nitpicking, baselessly complaining about things like the camera bump. Anyone who knows the basics of what make up a camera should understand why that bump is there and what purpose it serves. But then, how is that tiny bump really a problem? How exactly does it affect the phone?
Ever since users started complaining about the thickness of their smartphones, manufacturers kept pushing things beyond the limit, trying to create the ultimate, ultra-thin mobile machine. The internals have been reasonably shrunk compared to how it was some years ago, and it doesn’t look like we’re there yet considering the noise about camera bumps. From carrying thick phones as heavy as bricks to thin phones that feel lighter than credit cards, manufacturers might have satisfied customers in this regard. Smartphones are no longer as thick as the good old Nokia N95, they can now fit into the pocket without looking as if one is walking around with a poorly concealed pistol.
However, the camera bump is still a ‘problem’ they’re yet to eliminate despite being able to shrink the board, the battery and everything else.
The lens remains an integral part of the camera
Take a look at a regular camera; the lens is just as important as the camera body itself.
Why then is the protruding lens on a camera acceptable while that tiny bump on the smartphone an issue? Does it even make sense? One complaint you hear is that when there’s a camera bump at the back of the smartphone, it rocks when placed on a flat surface. Again, I believe this is just bullshit (excuse my language).
Smartphone enthusiasts want devices to take great shots like DSLRs, but they still want OEMs to get rid of the camera lens. This is talking crazy more or less. I think the level manufacturers have taken mobile photography while keeping the camera tiny should be commended. The iPhone X shoots 1080p slow-mo videos at 240 frames per second, a feature hard to find on regular DSLR cameras in the market right now; Sony Xperia XZ shoots 960fps at 720p. Optical Image Stabilization, DSLR-like blur, and several other standard camera features have been achieved on smartphones whilst keeping the lens as tiny as possible, yet we complain about the camera bump.
The lens is an important part of the camera and unless Physics can be fooled, we all have to shut up and live with it. It shouldn’t be a problem if you want a great lens that captures great images on your phone.
The future is interesting though
For those who still hope to have paper-thin smartphones with absolutely no camera bump at the back, it’s only a matter of time before this is achieved. While the camera sensor, lens and other parts of the camera remain the thickest components of the smartphone, researchers at the California Institue of Technology have developed a tiny image capturing sensor that takes photos without lenses. Optical Phase Array (OPA) digitally replicates what a glass lens does to capture images.
The tiny chip computationally does what lenses in the camera do. It this becomes commercially available, the camera bump may be gone once and for all.
Until then, we need to understand the physics behind camera lenses and stop making a big deal out of nothing.