The Wrap – How many cameras does my phone need?

One camera, two cameras, three cameras, more: how many cameras does a phone need? We’ll check out the new Google Pixel, Samsung Galaxy A, Nokia 9 PureView, and more, all in five minutes.


For the week ending May 10, this is The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup, and if you’re thinking of upgrading your phone this year, or did so last year, you probably noticed an emphasis on the camera.

That emphasis has been an ongoing theme for the past couple of years, as smartphone makers look to well and truly kill off any need you have for a camera outside of maybe the specialist or zoom, though they’re beginning to make headway into those cameras, as well.

These days, the cameras you get in a smartphone are capable of some really amazing shots, and the technology inside your phone can get you sharing the photos just as soon as you’ve captured them.

But there’s usually more than one camera in a phone these days, with many delivering two or more cameras to use.

This week, we’ve seen more or less the entire list, as Google, Samsung, and Nokia all showed off phones that might have you asking: just how many cameras does your phone really need?

The answer to this question isn’t always an easy one, and depends on what you might use your phone camera for, but what’s clear is you definitely have options.

For instance, Google has at the moment taken a one camera approach, something you’ll find on last year’s solid Pixel 3, and this week’s entrant of the Pixel 3a, a more budget version of the Pixel 3 that gets a smaller body and chip that performs a little slower, but keeps the same camera from the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL.

Announced alongside the next version of Android, Android Q, the Pixel 3a and Pixel 3a XL get Google’s single-camera design into a $649 phone compared to the $1200 Pixel 3, making it practically half price for a camera that appears to be much the same.

And while Google might only have one camera, Google’s software smarts and machine learning makes the camera little more capable, much like it does for Apple’s iPhone XR, which follows the same design.

Quite a few phones have two cameras these days, and that’s either to that whole portrait thing Google and Apple can do with AI, or to get you closer or further away.

When you hit three cameras, you start to be able to do it all. The three cameras on the Samsung Galaxy A50 this week get a wide-angle and portraiture camera down to the $500 mark, giving Google something to play against.

You can also find three cameras in the standard Huawei P30, a phone we’ve been playing with this week that delivers decent low light and great images, even if they’re not quite as high up as its more expensive sibling, the Huawei P30 Pro.

That’s hardly a surprise given the P30 Pro has four cameras, because, well, why not. In fact, this week those four cameras are getting a bit of an upgrade, supporting a strange “dual view” video mode that lets you capture both close and far at the same time. It’s a little strange, and rather like tunnel vision for your phone’s camera, though we’re sure there could be some good uses, like sports, and probably more sports. Maybe your kids on stage, but probably sports.

And while four cameras is a lot for a phone, it’s also not the most.

This week, we saw more, as the Nokia 9 PureView arrived in Australia sporting a positively crazy five cameras on the back.

We’re not exaggerating, either. That’s five 12 megapixel cameras on the back of Nokia’s latest phone, which effectively takes a 60 megapixel image and brings the image down to a detailed 12 megapixel photo.

You’ll find that in the Nokia 9 PureView, which hits stores this week for $1099, and it has the most cameras of any phone in Australia at the moment. It certainly adds to the complexity of working out how many cameras you need, especially when most of us will have one or two.

This year when the new iPhone launches, we expect three will become the standard for Apple, as it has for Samsung and others.

It’s not just about camera, either. There’s also the sensor.

In fact as the week ended, Samsung announced a new 64 megapixel sensor set for production in the back half of the year. That could mean the Galaxy Note 10 could see a different camera than the S10, or it could be a different phone altogether that gets this big sensor.

As to the question of how many cameras you need, the answer is as many as you think. You can take great pictures with a phone with one camera like the Pixel 3, 3a, or the iPhone XR, and you can take great pictures on phones with more.

Outside of getting as close as you can with a telephoto lens or as wide as needed with an ultra-wide, you don’t necessarily need three, four, or five cameras, though it can make it nice.

Really, you should go for the phone you think will work for you. If it has one camera or three or five, that’s the amount you need. And read the reviews, because that’s what we do them for: to help you pick the best option in the end.

But that’s it for this week of The Wrap, Australia’s fastest technology roundup. You can find out about anything you’ve heard on this show at the Pickr website, with plenty more, too. The Wrap appears every Friday at Podcast One and Apple Podcasts, and will be back next week for more technology in five. Until then have a great week. We’ll see you next time on The Wrap. Take care.