OnQ Blog

Mastering low light photography with Snapdragon

Nov 23, 2015

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Shooting photos at night with your smartphone camera can be a challenge. You might think you should just turn on the flash, but flash has limited range and can overexpose objects in the foreground. And shooting without a flash comes with its own obstacles. Finding the little light that’s available, keeping the phone absolutely still, and snapping as many pics as you can might still not yield ideal results.

Smartphones have improved a lot in this area, though—even within last six months. The LG G4 and OnePlus 2 have wider apertures, while the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X from Google increased the size of its pixels (1.55um)—all in the name of absorbing more light and making low-light photos rock. Not coincidentally, Qualcomm Snapdragon processors power all these devices.

But all too often, there’s just not enough available light. When that’s the case, those pixels will try to amp up their sensitivity to light—but there’s a cost to this. On an audio amplifier, for example, the more you crank the volume beyond its limits, the more the audio will degrade. Similarly, when pixel sensitivity is increased to attempt to collect more light, noise—the specks that make photos look grainy—is introduced into your shots.

These Snapdragon processors come with noise-reduction technologies built in. They do a lot of heavy lifting on the processing side, so that your low-light images and videos are grain-free and beautifully crisp. The above video illustrates just how this works.

First, a fast image signal processor (ISP) is key to making sure noise reduction is performed as quickly as possible. We’ve also introduced technologies such as wavelet noise reduction (WNR) and temporal noise reduction (TNR) to identify and clean up noisy areas in photos, using our state-of-the-art algorithms and fast ISP. And Snapdragon processors use a technique called local tone mapping (LTM) to brighten areas where they need it, without compromising the exposure and detail of the photos.

Qualcomm Snapdragon is a product of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc.