Feb 1, 2017
Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.
With traditional digital cameras, your photos and videos are only ever as good as the camera’s image sensor and lens, and whether the environment is just right. Often, what you get are shaky clips and blurry images due to low light, grainy zoom, and slow autofocus, among other factors.
The way to overcome these limitations is through a technique called computational photography — clever computing algorithms and technologies designed to enhance image quality, ensure speedy performance, and add new imaging capabilities that previously weren’t possible.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor is packed with technologies engineered to turn your smartphone’s camera into a brilliant computational camera that delivers gorgeous photos and video. The Snapdragon 835 integrates more than just a CPU and GPU; there are many technologies working together. Here are some of the camera enhancements you’ll experience when your device is powered by a Snapdragon 835.
One of the biggest complaints about smartphone cameras is the ineffectiveness of the zoom. That’s because most phones use a digital zoom, which electronically crops and interpolates images. This is effective up to a certain point, but zoom too far and you’ll get too much digital noise (grainy or blurry images as a result of the loss in resolution and color). An optical zoom enhances details as you get closer, which means you have a better shot at capturing hi-res photos from far away.
The Snapdragon 835 processor is designed to address the graininess problem by intelligently combining optical and digital zooms, so photos can be smooth, seamless, and lossless. The integrated Qualcomm Spectra 180 ISP (Image Signal Processor) is made to support up to a 32MP resolution at 30 fps with zero shutter lag on a single camera. In order to support dual cameras, one ISP per camera is required. In the case of optical zoom, Snapdragon 835 is engineered to support one for a wide angle lens and a second for a telephoto lens. And the processor’s heterogeneous computing capabilities are engineered to effortlessly bridge the different lenses to deliver both digital and optical zoom — a radical upgrade from the digital-only zoom.
As with still photography, there are frustrations associated with capturing video on a smartphone. Shaky video can be literally sickening. Qualcomm Technologies is a leader in Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS) technology, which is integrated in earlier generations of Snapdragon processors, to counteract this unwanted motion. Version 3.0 takes it to the next level, with support for 4K resolution as well as gyro-based pitch, yaw, and roll correction to help stabilize zoom while shooting video.
EIS 3.0 also introduces trajectory smoothing algorithms to further assist in stabilization. The algorithms are tuned for peak heterogeneous computing efficiency between the Snapdragon 835’s integrated components (the Spectra 180 ISP, Qualcomm Adreno 540, and Hexagon DSP, for example).
Fast and accurate autofocus
Who among us hasn’t missed that all-important shot because autofocus didn’t work fast enough or wasn’t capable enough? This was a priority for engineers as they developed the Snapdragon 835. The goal: Build a truly effective autofocus and help shutterbugs capture even the fastest moving moments.
The result is the groundbreaking Dual Photodiode (2PD), an autofocus mechanism designed to use paired photodiodes on every pixel. While most modern camera phones use photodiode autofocus, Qualcomm Technologies supports granularity at the pixel level rather than at only having them at a fraction of the total diodes. This means that every single pixel is now capable of phase detection and image capture, making autofocus lightning fast and effective.
Many of us have used a filter or two when posting our photos to social media, but sometimes we just want a picture that captures the moment as we remember it, with vibrant colors and natural lighting.
Similar to the way the human eye has photoreceptors (rods and cones) to help us perceive color and light, the Snapdragon 835 processor has Qualcomm Clear Sight — two cameras, each with its own image sensor (one color and one mono). The color filter is removed from the mono (black-and-white) sensor, allowing it to record maximum RGB spectrum light instead of just one specific color. Once the mono image is fused with the color image, the result is a significantly enhanced photograph, even in extreme low-light conditions.
True-to-life video is also a priority for the Snapdragon 835. This is where HDR 4K with EIS, HDR10 playback, and especially Perceptual Quantization come in. The latter is a daunting word that basically means final video quality is improved through smarter encoding based on scene analysis. More bits are allocated to regions where visual perception is higher, such as flat regions like the sky, and fewer bits are allotted to regions where visual perception is low, such as fast-moving objects and highly textured regions like trees.
The Snapdragon 835 represents a big step forward in the evolution of the smartphone camera, with all of its cutting-edge technology collectively focused on one thing: allowing power users to capture the world as they see it.
Check back on our Snapdragon blog for in-depth tech explainers on each of the processor’s other key components — connectivity, security, and machine learning — and read up on our previous deep dives into battery and immersive AR and VR experiences, all of which combine with these camera enhancements to make the groundbreaking Snapdragon 835.
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